I like to think I am (or strive, to be anyway) an equal opportunity critic and equal opportunity praise-er. After all, as Denzel Washington put forth in his role in the movie, “Fences”: You got to take the crookeds with the straights. It takes all types, in other words, and no one is perfect. Donald Trump did the right thing today and he and the administration should be commended for it.
Now, before you say ‘he should have said those things earlier’ or ‘he only did it under pressure and duress’ let me say I get that. And I don’t disagree. Yet, either way, it was vital that he condemned – by group and by name – neo-Nazis and the KKK and anyone associated with their doctrine of hatred and racism. And he did. It is perhaps the most important and meaningful presidential gesture he has made to date. But will he continue to turn that corner and follow a road best travelled by the leader we need him to be?
During his initial public statements on Charlottesville, the president followed a script, nearly word for word. His one stumble was the ad-lib: “On many sides” (stated twice evidently for effect). Today, once again he worked largely off of a prepared statement and, largely, his rhetoric worked. Add reading from statements to the fact that Trump is now utilizing mainstream media to put forth those statements on a regular basis are major moves in the right direction. All of this also suggests that the president is finally listening to some degree to the counsel of others; maybe and most probably new Chief of Staff John Kelly (Trump likes those generals) as approval ratings continue to dip.
It is what we counsel our clients and work toward every day: Making sure communications always has at least a seat and a say in the “C-Suite” where messages should be crafted carefully and thoughtfully and then put forth with aplomb. Maybe the scripting will continue in the Oval Office. Maybe it will transfer into less off-the-cuff, divisive remarks outside of it. Only time will tell whether you can teach an old dog. In Washington and the world stage such changes are essential lest our commander-in-chief continues to get bitten and our nation continues to divide.