Editor’s note: Before Hope Hicks was formally named as the White House’s next communications director, we asked in this month’s Critical Thinking column:
If you could choose President Trump’s next communications director, who would it be and why?
Hagerty is an opinion columnist for the student-run newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Her column focuses on politics and pop culture.
Trump’s disastrous response in August to the violence in Charlottesville made writing this column particularly difficult. It became clear that Trump is a one man communications team and if possible, someone needs to rein him in. Trump needs a communications director who will confront him, someone who isn’t afraid of him, someone who Trump understands, and someone who will execute an innovative communications plan with the precision of a general.
When you have a former entertainer as president, perhaps it would be prudent to tap someone from the entertainment industry—more specifically the reality television industry. No, I’m not suggesting that the White House should re-assign Omarosa Manigault, I think they should tap Kardashian “momager” Kris Jenner for the job.
Jenner runs her own production company, has authored several books, and is involved in the management of all her children. But Jenner’s most important qualification is her show “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The program doesn’t really have a plot, aside from following the life and times of the Kardashian family. Yet it’s dramatic and risqué, it has high entertainment value and high ratings. It’s all smoke and mirrors with very little substance. Although people roll their eyes at the Kardashian’s antics, I would argue that very few people are offended by the content on the show, even when it gets raunchy. Trump would benefit from a communications director who could craft brash White House content with “high ratings” while saying virtually nothing and maintaining an appropriate level of discourse. Jenner would be able to explain this to Trump in a way he would understand, relating to him as a fellow entertainment executive. Trump would likely respect Jenner’s entrepreneurial spirit and abilities as a business woman. Jenner could relate to Trump’s nepotistic tendencies and eccentricity. This mutual understanding could lead to a level of much needed candor and collaboration between Trump and his communications director.
Jenner has shaped reality television as we know it and her expertise in crafting media narratives is nearly unparalleled. The position would be far beneath her talents, but this White House is in need of a master communicator. I doubt if offered Jenner would take the position; she’s overqualified, and I can surmise that her politics don’t align with this administration as her daughter, Kim, has been openly critical of the Trump. But would she do an excellent job as communications director? Without a doubt.
Johnson has edited the Capital-Journal’s opinion page since April 2016.
The next White House communications director will have an impossible job.
No one can spend every day masking Trump’s dishonesty and rationalizing his outbursts without suffering a fatal loss of credibility. No one can formally speak for a president who doesn’t even pretend like he’s adhering to a coherent communication strategy. No one can prevent Trump’s impetuous ravings about the “very fine people” who attended a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville…or the “millions” of people who voted illegally in 2016…or President Obama’s nefarious wiretapping scheme.
Trump mainlines the chaotic contents of his brain to the public whenever he wants, and this leaves his communications team in a permanent, frenzied mode of damage control. But there’s one man who would thrive in this environment—one man who has proven that he enjoys defending the indefensible. That man is Scott Adams, the eccentric creator of Dilbert, “Master Wizard” of persuasion, and practiced Trump apologist.
Adams’s unwavering equanimity is just what Trump needs—after all, the economy is growing, the Islamic State is losing, and the U.S. hasn’t turned into Airstrip One, right? And despite Trump’s dismal approval rating, collapsing base of support, and total inability to get significant legislation through the GOP-controlled Congress, Adams says his incomparable “talent stack” makes him “the most persuasive human I have ever observed.”
To glimpse Trump’s tactical brilliance, let Adams guide you on a tour of epic rationalizations.
It may seem like Trump is an obsequious admirer of Vladimir Putin, but this veneer of respect and deference is all subterfuge. In reality, he’s secretly doing everything he can to punish Russia for its cyberattacks against the homeland.
Whenever Trump says something outrageously ignorant or dangerous (like the time he asked why we couldn’t just steal Iraq’s oil…or the time he suggested a ban on all Muslim immigration), Adams insists that he’s just “pacing and leading.” This is just a deodorized way to say he’s cynically exploiting the electorate’s worst impulses by making emotionally satisfying promises he has no intention of keeping.
No matter how flagrant Trump’s lies are, Adams will tell you that they’re often “emotionally” or “directionally” true—just the sort of servile, euphemistic nonsense that the next White House communications director will have to spout every day.
If everyone in the country subscribed to Adams’s view of Trump, they’d no longer see an incompetent, narcissistic bully in the Oval Office. They’d see a “genius.” And yes, Adams has actually used that word to describe him.
Editor’s note: Matt Johnson’s response has been updated online.