“Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride” New Book from Major Garrett
The Implications for Communicators of the Current Partisan Discord
Major Garrett, Chief White House Correspondent CBS News and author of “Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride: The Thrills, Chills, Screams, and Occasional Blackouts of an Extraordinary Presidency spoke to Doug Simon about his new book and implications for communicators at the Truth on Trial event. He spoke about how the larger than life brand of President Trump is impacting the media and communicators representing brands navigating the current environment.
DOUG: Hi I’m Doug Simon CEO of Simon media and I’ve got a special guest Major Garrett. He’s White House correspondent for CBS News. Thanks so much for being with us. Great. Now we’re appearing today at our Truth On Trial Implications For Communicators event. And clearly one of the major implications for communicators is the current environment that is really being set by President Trump. Major Garrett you’ve just come out with a new book Mr. Trump’s Wild Ride. Can you tell us how you address some of those issues and what might be implications for communicators as a whole?
MAJOR: Well the whole book is about the first 18 months of the Trump presidency, and how it is felt both exhilarating for Trump supporters, and exhausting/traumatizing for those who oppose the Trump administration. And one of the things I think communicators are dealing with is reality that politics feels, as I write in the book, primal-it feels deeper more psychological to political conversation is more intense more divided and more fraught with sort of emotion, because of the way Trump talks about politics the way his administration pursues certain policies, the blowback in reaction to those policies all of politics feels not just ever present but ever emotional.
DOUG: Right now, given that rising emotion is that making it harder for brands corporations organizations to this day outside this discussion because it’s happening everywhere, every day?
MAJOR: Right. Political brands and their identity is wrapped up now in politics at least in part, what you do, don’t do who you align with. Do you provide memberships or discounts or associations with either politicians or those who operate in the public sphere and have been aligned with certain political parties? All of that now becomes part of this conversation. It’s not more difficult. I think it’s always, in the last 20 or 30 years, been an area you have to navigate carefully if you’re a corporate identity and a corporate brand. The one other thing that’s true about Trump, it follows on President Obama, both were brands larger than their underlying political party both ran against their party both toppled somebody-at least in Hillary Clinton’s case in 2002 of 2007 2008-was the inside frontrunner, Donald Trump toppled a lot of Republicans as brands as something that was identified bigger than politics bigger than party. That branding is now a big part of politics as it’s long been a part of corporate communications.
DOUG: And controlling the narrative is so important, and it seems so difficult that something that President Trump uniquely has been able to manage. What’s your take on that?
MAJOR: So controlling the narrative is something that politicians have always attempted to do, at least in the modern era. Trump does it by not only being ever present, but being ever unpredictable, it’s not as if his brand only has one or two identifiable characteristics. It has a few. He pounds them a lot. Then he also moves here and there, keeps the conversation going as long as it’s relentlessly about him. That’s not just about branding it’s about his own psychology. Some might call it a psychosis but it’s his own approach to communication, his own approach to the churn. And I would say one thing communicators have to understand about President Trump, is probably the most media savvy president. Media savvy meaning understanding all of the instincts, vulnerabilities, soft underbelly, and core, mechanisms of the modern media structure better than anyone else in politics. And that’s one of the reasons he became president.
DOUG: A couple quick questions, as we have limited time left. Opinion journalism versus journalism. You’re in a unique position as you seem to be one of the few, having worked at Fox and at CBS, that sort of regarded as less opinionated than others. Who knows how long you can keep that positioning in this current environment because it’s a challenge for most journalists.
MAJOR: It is a challenge, but it’s worked for me. It’s what I was taught. It’s what I believe most viewers want and expect and that the industry to a certain degree has moved away from that, hasn’t moved me at all. It’s actually given me. More open space so I’m staying right where I am.
DOUG: That makes a lot of sense, and final question about the book. One of your interesting insights, since midterms are a week away, is what might happen depending on different outcomes of the midterms. Why don’t you leave the viewers with an understanding of what your take is and then they can go buy the book and figure out more.
MAJOR: So, writing this in June I said look if by some amazing effort of politics on the president’s side Republicans don’t lose control the House, his re-nomination is guaranteed and his re-election is far more likely than ever would have been imagined on Inauguration Day 2017. The sense of internal disappointment among Democrats will create a “burn the house down” mentality within the Democratic Party. But if Democrats win back the House, exceed expectations in governor’s races, and there is this enormous answer back to the first two years of the Trump presidency expressed through the midterm elections then the Trump agenda is stalled. Democrats look ascendant and politics are scrambled yet again. That’s a pretty heavy stuff. That’s why this midterm election feels much bigger than other midterm elections. It almost feels like a second presidential election. A huge referendum on the last two years of American politics, that’s pretty big and that’s a direct reflection of this particular president’s unique approach to talking and acting as a political figure.
DOUG: Well we’ll see what happens and we know that you’ll be reporting on to say we’ll see what happens. Now I’m quoting him. Thanks so much for being with us.