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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press President Donald Trump applauds during his State of the Union speech before Congress on Jan. 30.

  • Walton

Friday, February 09, 2018 1:00 am

On Trump's terms

President's political foes are repeatedly falling for his trap

Jennifer Walton

A native of Starke County, Indiana, Jennifer Walton is chair of Communication and Media Studies at Ohio Northern University.

In the current, peculiar world of presidential politics, it is difficult to determine who is on which side. President Donald Trump continues to be his own worst enemy as he continually trips over his own tongue. His critics, meanwhile, are often the best thing he has going for him.

Trump has actually achieved some significant successes. He implemented tax cuts, the stock market is generally soaring, there is increased support of the military, ISIS is retreating and the U.S. embassy in Israel is relocating to Jerusalem. He even looked quite presidential during the recent State of the Union speech.

However, instead of discussing his accomplishments, Trump has us constantly talking about Trump, and often not in the most positive way. It seems that, for every good thing he does, the president tweets or says something equally unwise.

The president's own role as his personal adversary was on full display with events surrounding Michael Wolff's book “Fire and Fury,” an unflattering take on the Trump White House.

Although many journalists are treating it as gospel, there is actually much doubt whether the book is even accurate. Had Trump not dignified it with a response, the book would have largely been out of the news cycle after 24 hours. Instead, Trump, as usual, felt a need to pounce and made it a big deal. Consequently, instead of fading into the shadows, the book's release was actually pushed up to the preceding Friday instead of the usual Tuesday release date.

By following his instincts, Trump inadvertently became the book's biggest booster. This is typical Trump. While most leaders have a disdain for chaos, the president is always looking to stir the pot. In fact, he seems almost to have a compulsion to cause trouble.

Presidents are human, and many have faltered with personal scandals. Some have even had mistresses (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy are examples). However, Trump almost seems to flaunt his foibles, such as the “Access Hollywood” tape with Billy Bush, in which Trump made vulgar comments about women. In a strange turn of events, Bush was fired and Trump was elected.

While politics have always been dirty, they have never been as explicitly offensive as with our current White House resident.

Ironically, his detractors often seem determined to make the president seem less distasteful by their own actions. The dismissive attitudes by many Democrats at the State of the Union were bad optics that do not sit well with most Americans.

Further, many mainstream journalists appear to be openly rooting against Trump and seem too anxious to see him fail. Instead of rising above the fray, some journalists are so caught up in their anti-Trump venom they are losing their credibility. In short, they are stooping to the same unseemly levels they claim to find so repugnant with Trump.

A prime example is veteran ABC News journalist Brian Ross being suspended over erroneous reports regarding Trump's alleged collusion with Russia.

Trump can get by with his version of lowball behavior because he never claimed to be anything else, and he is a master at succeeding in the type of incendiary environment he creates. To turn a phrase, you cannot trump the president at his own game.

In fact, when journalists and politicians attack Trump, he is adept at turning the table and casting himself as an underdog under siege by the elitist establishment and fake news.

The president still has his fan club, and his supporters like his blunt approach. While many find Trump's manner boorish, his followers see his bulldozing style as straight talk paving its own path in a landscape that has been overrun with political correctness and double-talk.

The key to Trump's success may be found in an electorate that is smarter than they are usually given credit for being.

When confronted with so many loud voices and venomous claims, numerous voters have tuned out the political rhetoric as white noise. Instead, Trump's heartland supporters are focused on the issues and not the politics of personality. Many Americans are concerned about the issues that affect their daily lives, such as putting food on the table and keeping their families safe. Tax cuts, a strong economy, consumer confidence and homeland security matter to them.

Perhaps there is a method to Trump's madness, and his foes are falling into a trap he has set by engaging the president in his own brash terms. As long as his opponents play the political game on his terms, Trump will win.

With enemies like that, who needs political friends?