The chances of President Trump listening to or acting upon any re-election advice that I offer is slim to none. However, a course of action I’m about to suggest is actually more about presidential leadership and less about 2020 politics. But, since everything is about 2020 politics, let’s first dive into a Politico piece from Tuesday that chronicled Trump’s reaction to the Mueller report during a private Capitol Hill luncheon with Senate Republicans. The piece was headlined, “‘He’s doing a victory lap’: Rejuvenated Trump pushes aggressive agenda post-Mueller.”
The “victory lap” quote was from Sen. Johnny Isakson of Georgia, but here is what I consider most significant:
“I look at this as sort of a new election. A fresh start,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close Trump ally. He said Trump put it this way: “I’ve got this behind me now. It’s a fresh start. So let’s see what we can do — starting with health care.”
Whether the president has been offered a “fresh start” on his road to re-election is still legally and politically debatable, given that the entire Mueller report has yet to be released and other investigations continue. But, if Trump thinks and acts like he has been granted a fresh start, then, by golly, it is a fresh start.
Proof of his new attitude was seen Wednesday in the Drudge Report headline “Unshackled Trump May Attend White House Correspondents Dinner.” If true, that is tantamount to the action of a conquering king.
And, one can only imagine the exuberant sound bites that will emanate from his mouth during the first post-Mueller report rally in Grand Rapids, Mich., on Thursday night.
Hence, Trump’s perception of triumphing over his enemies is the foundational basis for the advice that I now offer him and his re-election campaign:
Give an Oval Office prime-time speech expressing his willingness to help heal a divided nation. Trump should ask all Americans to move beyond the Mueller report, leave the 2016 election in the rear-view mirror, and have a new attitude of working together to solve our nation’s most pressing problems.
This is a golden opportunity to show presidential leadership. Just imagine the benefits of a speech that was at once contrite, humble and authentic in tone. The president has everything to gain by asking the American people for a new opportunity to be president of all Americans, not just his base.
The speech should be billed as “State of the Union 2.0” with a message that Trump is willing to mend fences with the media, the intelligence community, Democrats, and his enemies at large, for the good of the nation.
Furthermore, he could offer to “smoke the peace pipe” with his “enemies” in the press by proposing a White House meeting with media leaders to reset their relationship, again, for the good of the nation. I would bet that media outlets whose credibility was damaged by Mueller’s findings would be receptive to the offer.
Imagine if a new “unshackled” Trump gave such a speech, showing that he was capable of more even-tempered traditional presidential leadership? The ratings would be record-breaking and Trump would love that.
Perhaps it would even increase his job approval rating. It currently stands at a static sub-44 percent with 51.9 disapproving, according to the RealClearPolitics polling average — even after Trump tweeted on Sunday, “No Collusion, No Obstruction, Complete and Total EXONERATION. KEEP AMERICA GREAT!”
Unfortunately, less than 24 hours later, that elation translated into troubling overreach when Tim Murtaugh — the communications director for Trump’s 2020 campaign — sent a memo asking networks to ban well-known guests from the airwaves. Among the names listed were House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
With memos like that, the president risks turning his new-found victory into defeat. After all, haven’t the American people had enough White House drama?
Therefore, a “fresh start” backed with a “healing” speech — while standing on a strong economy and his record of accomplishment — offers the president the opportunity to begin a new phase in his relationship with the American people, Congress, and the media.
Hey, Tim Murtaugh — please consider my suggestion (a “wild” rally speech does not begin to qualify). But most important, and under no circumstances, should you use Trump’s “victory lap” as a justification for revenge. Such behavior is beneath the office of the president.