They’re Coming To Take Me Away Ha Ha Ho Ho Hee Hee (The Trump/Nixon Tapes Part 5)

Trump Jackson Screwball[What follows is a transcript of President Donald Trump speaking into the Oval Office recording device originally used by President Richard Nixon. This series of recordings encompasses the president’s communication to his inner circle.]

To: The Trump Circle of Trust (TCT)

cc: Speaker Paul Ryan

I swear. You people are going to put me in the looney bin. Why is everyone talking like I’m crazy? Morning Joe? George Will? The Washington Post? CNBC? NPR? They’re all talking about how I’m losing it. Like I got a screw loose! Can you believe it? I mean, I expect that sort of thing from Keith Olberman, but Terry Gross? What did I ever do to her?

This is completely unfair. So I occasionally have trouble getting the words out. Or I confuse names. Or I repeat simple phrases over and over again. Or I talk about dead people as if they’re still alive. Or I forget how government works. Or I’m afraid of stairs. Or I compliment dictators and strongmen around the world.

Speaking of which, I heard Kim Jong-un’s dad has a hell of a golf swing. Maybe I should invite him out to Mar-a-Lago for 18 holes and we can work this whole nuclear thing out. Sheila? Get me Kim Jong-il on the phone. What? Dead? When? Does Kim-Jong-un know? He’s a smart cookie. I bet he does know. Any word on how his golf game is? If he’s anything like his old man, it’s tremendous.

Someone might have mentioned that Andrew Jackson died 16 years before the Civil War started. Or that the Civil War is one of the most researched questions historians have written about. Am I the only 70-year-old white man who hasn’t watched a thousand documentaries about the Civil War? To see my Twitter mentions, you’d think so. Don’t worry, though. I fixed it.

I genuinely believe Andrew Jackson saw the Civil War coming and was really mad about it. Look at a $20 bill. Doesn’t he seem angry? Someone ask Steve Mnuchin if we can put me on some money. I’m thinking we bring back the $20 gold coin and put my face on one side and me standing at the 14th hole at Trump National on the other. Just make sure it shows the plaque memorializing that “River of Blood” Civil War battle that the fake news people at the failing Golf Digest say never happened.

How about that health care bill, huh? Great job everybody. We twisted arms and prodded those squishy moderates then all of a sudden we got us an Obamacare replacement that does everything I promised it would do. It covers everybody. What was that, Shiela? 27 million? Really? Well, it protects people with pre-existing conditions. What? No? Are you sure? I’m pretty sure I saw Paul say it would protect pre-existing conditions. It will jack up their premiums? But I promised it would lower premiums. I said it would cost a tiny fraction of what Obamacare costs. I remember it clearly because that was a huge applause line. Ugh, am I going to have to read this bill? Shiela? Get someone in here to read this bill for me.

[tape pauses for 8 minutes]

Enough! Enough! Get out! Who knew health care could be so boring? Am I right? Shiela? Tell Paul, I’ll take his word for it. Man, I thought I was going to die listening to that. Good thing I’ve got great health insurance. Whew. I’ll tell ya, that was brutal. I did catch something about Medicaid in there. I assume we’re keeping my promise to not cut Medicaid, right? I really gave ole’ Huckabee the business on Twitter that time he copied me.

Wait, what was that, Shiela? You were mumbling something. Block grants to the states? What’s that? Oh. Well, that doesn’t sound too bad. I mean what’s $880 billion? It’s not like that’s serious money. It’s probably mostly fraud and waste, right? What? What’s a “special-needs kid?” Oh, come on. Really? What about vets? Them too? So who gets the $880 billion? Tax cuts for billionaires? And they voted for that? Wow. Unbelievable. I’m sure everyone else is okay with it, though. What? Well, yeah, I’ll sign it. I promised, didn’t I?

Man, I’m bushed. I hope I don’t say something to undercut our entire argument when I meet with the Australian prime minister tonight. You know how I get when I haven’t had my well-done steak with ketchup.

Okay. Now that we’re finished with repeal and replace can we move on to something else? I am so tired of pretending I care about health care. I need to get out of Washington for a few days. Maybe I’ll go visit Melania in New York. That’s the one place in the country where I know they love me. New York is my town. What’s that, Shiela? Mike Pence has another executive order for me to sign? I sure do sign a lot of these things for someone who used to really hate the idea of presidents signing executive orders.

What’s this one about? Religious Freedom? Is it the one where we let Christians discriminate against gay people or the one where we let churches fundraise for politicians? Both? Ask Mike if he can combine them into one, I don’t want to sign two of them. I’ve only got so much left in in the old tank today and I’m trying to make a tee time at Trump National. Oh, has Ivanka signed off on this? Well, at least no one can get mad about this one, right?

Shiela? Tell Steve Mnuchin that when he’s done with his weekly meeting with Ivanka that I need to see her. I want to give her a hug and tell her it’s going to be okay. Everybody puts fake quotes in their book nowadays. Nobody cares except a bunch of nerds that are going to find something to complain about no matter what you write. Shiela? Get the State Department on the phone. They’re not doing anything important. Maybe they can help goose her book sales a bit.

You know, I’m getting a little sick of the attitudes around here. Maybe some of you need a little refresher course in who is in charge. Shiela? What can I do to punish a bunch of federal employees that requires virtually no effort on my part?

Okay, I’m off the New York. Good job on the . . . uh . . . health care thing . . . and stuff. Just terrific. Really. I’m sure that’s going to be a huge, huge, part of my legacy.

 

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The Time For Nuance Is over

88160170_trump-promoWhen you ask a Trump supporter about Benghazi, they say “a disaster.” When you ask about Hillary they say “crooked.”  They aren’t worried about policy, nuanced analysis or details about what works and what doesn’t. They don’t respond to it.

They speak in code. They like short, pithy, branding-type language that cuts right to the quick. I’ve been called “snowflake” so often in the last three weeks that I thought I was the black guy in a Stanley Kubrick film about Vietnam.

You want to turn the discussion around? You have to talk like Trump. You have to put everything in terms of extremes. Hyperbole is your friend. There is no middle ground. Details are for small-picture guys.

Here’s an example. President Obama delayed action on a plan to land a SEAL team near an al Queda base in Yemen to capture intelligence useful for our counter-terrorism efforts. The Trump administration looked over the plans, declared they were good to go and sent in the team. But the lack of planning, intelligence, and support, meant the SEALs were dropped into a heavily fortified area with snipers and much more resistance than was anticipated. We lost a SEAL (Chief Petty Officer William Owens), an MV-22 transport ($75 million), and the lives of 20 civilians including an 8-year-old girl. Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security advisor, said he wants to speed up the decision-making process for raids like this. You know how you do that? By not worrying about civilian casualties.

The mission was compromised early on when a communications intercept showed that al Queda had been tipped off, probably by low-flying drones. But the Americans and UAE forces pushed on. Remember all those photos of President Obama in the situation room overseeing operations like this? President Trump hosted a dinner instead. Of course Team Trump wants to blame the Obama administation for planning this raid. But if you’ll recall, Trump believes Obama is a weak leader who has presided over the decimation of the military, so why would Trump not review the plans thoroughly and decide whether such a mission was even necessary?

Now you can argue about all the little things that went wrong, about whether it should have been undertaken, about the tweet from the leader of Yemen calling it “extrajudicial killings.” But none of that will cut any ice with someone in a red MAGA hat. Think about how Trump would have described the raid had it happened on Obama’s watch.

“Yemen was a disaster. Total failure. Al Queda is laughing at us. Lots of people are telling me it could have been avoided. Shame.” 

Just start with Yemen raid = “disaster” and go from there.

Yesterday, President Trump offered remarks at a breakfast held for his black friends for African-American History Month in which he, once again, brought up the MLK statue in the Oval Office.

“Last month, we celebrated the life of the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., whose incredible example is unique in American history. You read all about Dr. Martin Luther King a week ago when somebody said I took the statue out of my office, and it turned out that that was fake news. It was fake news. The statue is cherished. It’s one of the favorite things in the — and we have some good ones. We have Lincoln and we have Jefferson and we have Dr. Martin Luther King, and we have — but they said the statue, the bust of Dr. Martin Luther King was taken out of the office. And it was never even touched. So I think it was a disgrace, but that’s the way the press is. Very unfortunate.”

Rather than give any details that suggest he knows what he’s talking about in terms of the contributions African-Americans have made to this country and our culture, he aired his grievances with the press and name-dropped black history icons like he was in third grade.

Frederick Douglass is an example of somebody who’s done an amazing job and is being recognized more and more, I notice — Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and millions more black Americans who made America what it is today. Big impact.

What? No mention of George Washington Carver? I’m willing to bet you could hold up a photo of Waka Flocka Flame and tell the president it was Frederick Douglass and he wouldn’t even blink. So Trump took the opportunity to speak at “our little breakfast” for black history month to talk about his favorite subject, himself. He talked about his black friends (Ben Carson and Omarosa). He talked about how well he did in the election and how many African-Americans voted for him. He used an event to celebrate the cultural contribution of blacks to say black communities are “terrible.”

Forget pointing out how Trump may not be aware that Frederick Douglass died 125 years ago. Forget pointing out how Trump has a grade-school knowledge of African-American culture. Forget pointing out how Trump equates blacks with inner city turmoil at every opportunity.

“Trump’s Black History Month breakfast was a disaster. He’s so embarrassing. Sad.” And repeat it until it’s as natural as breathing.

This morning, the president spoke at the National Prayer Breakfast. In previous years, Obama was raked over the coals for pointing out an historical fact about the Crusades as a means of demonstrating that even his own religion had a violent past that should be addressed. It was seen as an attack on Christians. He was accused of not taking the event seriously.

President Trump took the opportunity to talk about his favorite subject again, then asked the audience to pray for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s ratings on “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

I also want to thank my great friends the Roma. Where’s Roma, beautiful Roma Downey, the voice of an angel. She’s got the voice — every time I hear that voice; it’s so beautiful. That — everything is so beautiful about Roma, including her husband because he’s a special, special friend. Mark Burnett for the wonderful introduction.

So true, so true. I said to the agent, I’m sorry, the only thing wrong — I actually got on the phone and fired him myself because he said, you don’t want to do it, it’ll never work, it’ll never, ever work, you don’t want to do it. I said, listen. When I really fired him after it became the number one show, it became so successful and he wanted a commission and he didn’t want to this.

That’s when I really said — but we had tremendous success on The Apprentice. And when I ran for president, I had to leave the show. That’s when I knew for sure that I was doing it. And they hired a big, big movie star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to take my place. And we know how that turned out.

The ratings went down the tubes. It’s been a total disaster and Mark will never, ever bet against Trump again. And I want to just pray for Arnold if we can, for those ratings, OK?

Are those the words of someone who takes the event seriously? He’s a narcissist. But calling him a narcissist doesn’t help your cause. It makes you sound like an suede elbow-patch-wearing elite intellectual. That isn’t the way to join in an argument with Trump supporters, much less win it.

“Trump is an embarrassment. Always talking about himself. No real ideas. No leadership. Can’t focus on the job.”

We have to simplify our rhetoric if we want it to stick. Use the words that moved the needle for Trump against Trump. “Trump is a disaster.” “He’s the worst president in our history.” “Trump isn’t a smart leader.” “Lots of people tell me Trump doesn’t believe America is great.” “Trump is unstable and dangerous and everybody says so.” “Trump doesn’t know anything.” “People are telling me Trump isn’t really in charge.” “Trump lets his aides run the country.” “Trump is a puppet president.” “Trump doesn’t read what he signs.” “Trump is afraid of Muslims.”

Keep your messages short, to the point, and as mean as you can make them. Avoid profanity, avoid attacking the supporters directly, and embrace the boring repetition they seem to favor over nuance. No talk about small hands, orange skin, or his dumb hair. Don’t rag on his looks. Attack his actions. Repeat his words. Show them who they put in charge.

The time for nuance is over. You win no points for knowing what you’re talking about because this isn’t high school forensics. It’s the future of our country. They’re willing to believe whatever is told to them provided it is served up in bite-size morsels they can chant at brown people. It’s time to speak their language. “Trump is unstable — a weak leader who will get us all killed. Impeach now!”

Things I was taught in J-School that turned out to be untrue (first in a series)

There is a “Chinese Wall” between editorial content and advertising.

We’re told that the ethics of journalism require that the editorial content of a paper should not be influenced by the advertising. There is supposed to be a barrier between the two halves of the business. This “Chinese Wall” prevents abuses such as advertisers using their influence to kill a negative story about their industry or company or newspapers running puff pieces in exchange for paying for advertising.

In practice, this is rarely the case. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve contacted an editor about a legitimate and newsworthy story about a client and was told that the paper wasn’t interested unless we bought some ad space. Sometimes it’s subtle. Sometimes it isn’t. I recently pitched a story about a client to a small community paper.  Their website listed a contact for pitching stories. That person responded:

Mike,

I would recommend The [client company] run some ads with our papers, and then we will consider getting their story out there. See attached for Rates, and Distribution.

What an easy job it must be for an editor at this paper. There is no need for editorial judgement, community engagement or civic-mindedness. You can just ask the advertising manager who gets coverage in the paper. What a disservice to the readers. Granted, some clients like this idea. I’ve seen newspapers that will sell editorial space by the column inch, letting people write whatever they want and put it out there as legitimate news. Clients with deep pockets can bypass the editorial staff altogether.

But Mike, you’re saying, where’s the harm? Newspapers are supported by advertising. Without it, there will be no newspaper. If my advertising dollars pay for the paper, shouldn’t I get a say about what the paper covers?

No, you shouldn’t. And at a legitimate media outlet you wouldn’t. Just to be clear, I’ve run into this “pay-for-play” policy in every medium. I just happened to be trained in print journalism. If you pay attention, you’ll see what I mean. For example, I saw that a company was advertising heavily on the local NBC affiliate’s web site, as well as running spots on-air. The next week, a representative from the company was interviewed on the morning news about the industry. A news anchor, whom we’re expected to trust to give us the truth, used an advertiser as a source without identifying him as such.

I’m not naive, I’ve worked for community newspapers. I understand that, often as not, the people making editorial decisions are also in charge of selling ads. But the longterm effect of compromising editorial standards means a loss of credibility and decreased readership. Then your ads aren’t worth anything.

In public relations, we’re taught that editorial content is worth more than advertising because it is seen as more legitimate. The media outlet is, in effect, vouching for the veracity of the news. Therefore, a 3-inch story is worth about 2.5 times what a 3-inch ad would be. So if you can buy editorial content at advertising rates, you’re getting a bargain and the only one who suffers is the poor reader who doesn’t realize he’s been sold a bill of goods passing as news.

Now. To be fair, there are still some shining examples of virtuous media out there. I spoke recently with the co-host of a nationally syndicated radio program about an interview with a client. He said he’d consider the interview, pitched me on the idea of buying ads on the show and then made a point to mention that the interview would happen whether we bought ads or not.

Years ago, I traded correspondence with the editor of dvice.com about running a story on a client’s new gadget. At the client’s request, I made a point to ask him if buying an ad would make a difference in whether or not we get coverage. He replied no. But for every one person who says no, there are hundreds who say yes.

As a media consumer, you need to be careful about how much credence you give to outlets that blur the line between advertising and editorial content. Make it clear through letters and emails, that you don’t appreciate being misled, because until there are real-world consequences for the compromises being made in editorial meetings across the country, nothing will change.