Bad News is Good News on Planet Trump

Love Island may have finished, as has the drama of the British Parliament, but just when we were all looking forward to the uneventful dog days of summer, it’s all kicking off on the other side of the Atlantic…

It’s almost as if Donald Trump and his strategists (although in reality, this could just mean The Donald himself) flagged up the fact that the summer holiday season is traditionally a slow news period, and that this translated as one whopping great opportunity to grab a few easy headlines.

In the past week, President Trump has been on top form – if of course by top form we are talking about the kind of barnstorming antics and motor mouth banter that turned him into a household name during his tenure as head honcho on The Apprentice.

In the UK, Alan Sugar is caustic and occasionally dictatorial, but also has that air of avuncularity that has us thinking he’s ‘hard but fair.’ By contrast, there is nothing avuncular about Donald Trump, unless we are comparing him to an uncle such as Richard lll who had his nephews locked up in the Tower of London.

As if we were in fact in a series of The Apprentice, last week’s firing of Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, was followed by this week’s letting go of  Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci – superbly cast in the mould of any Apprentice series’ arrogant loud mouth.  He capped this off by hailing it as “a great day at the White House”. *Cue Apprentice signature tune and teaser for next week’s show*

The Donald’s penchant for firing from the hip without actually thinking (or caring) about how he comes across was further in evidence in the leaked Washington Post interview transcript. While we should be wary of picking through a transcripted conversation for juicy colour to paint a picture with, his musings do nevertheless conjure up the image of a man – nay president – for whom the big stuff of politics is a bit of a bind when there are more important questions to be considered such as the impact of Scottish independence on the marketing of the British Open golf tournament.

The thing about President Trump is that what you see is what you get, and actually we have seen it all before. We just haven’t seen it in the context of the most powerful man in the world, running the world’s biggest super power. And of course to his fans (and let us not forget that inside the USA there are still many) that is wonderful, and to his critics (everyone else in America + the rest of the world, give or take a couple of despots) that is scary.

Perhaps more illuminating than any of the above events is the speech The Donald gave recently to the (huge) crowd assembled for the national Boy Scouts of America jamboree. He has been widely pilloried in the press for this, with accusations that it was more befitting of a campaign rally or address to business people.

Let’s compare a typical Trump speech with those his predecessor made. As president, Barack Obama had an oratory knack for the occasion, an ability to choose the right words and the right tone for the crowd in front of him. In that moment he could convince his audience that he was right there with them, regardless of whether it was a small room or large sports stadium. Had Mr Obama been addressing the boy scouts, his speech would have been warm, considered and laced with pearls of wisdom (albeit bordering on platitude).

But that is not President Trump’s style. Never mind targeting the teenage audience, he has found the winning formula that brought him the presidency and is sticking to it because he isn’t actually addressing the crowd, he is addressing his followers at large. Sure enough his arch nemesis, “fake news” CNN, was quick to pounce. They led the media chorus of derision by detailing 29 most cringeworthy lines from the speech.

But the horse had already bolted. By that time President Trump had already hogged all the headlines he needed and media criticism only further served to shore up his support amongst the diehard. In the Apprentice, that’s the sort of performance that keeps you in the board room for another week…

Luan de Burgh

August 2017

Luan de Burgh is a speaker, writer and founder of de Burgh Training – a specialist business communication training provider dedicated to helping people perform at their highest potential.