Written by Steven Spear, Jr.
Edited by Morgan DeLisle
Editor’s Note: Steven Spear, Jr. is not a member of the Trump Administration
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for the appointment as your Senior Advisor. I look forward to explaining situations from my perspective and presenting my recommendations to you. My thoughts on your presidency’s perception are below.
Tumultuous. That is how I would describe your presidency so far. The public has seen the internal workings of policy fights, and we have seen how personally offended you seem to be when the media attacks you. Everything that I have recommended in this memo will not only increase your popularity but also help your presidency run more smoothly.
I know you wish that the attacks were just baseless noise from the Democrats and the “Liberal Left” to undermine your presidency, but I am afraid that you have caused much of the outrage that has dominated news coverage week after week.
The latest Gallup poll places your approval rating at 41% (well below the average of 63% for the last nine Presidents). I understand that you want to be a popular President, and you want your presidency to be taken seriously. To see that happen, you need to make a concerted effort to compromise with those who disagree with you and recognize how the public may see your actions. Let’s look at some of your actions:
Reminiscing about the 2016 Election
Everyone already knows that you won in 2016. You have to stop talking about Hillary Clinton, and, unless you have real evidence, you have to stop talking about the millions of illegal votes that cost you the popular vote. The Electoral College is what matters, and you won by nearly fifteen percent (more than Bush in 2000 and 2004). Every time you mention Clinton and the popular vote, it seems that you are more interested in winning campaigns than governing the country.
Making Appointments in the White House and the Federal Government
Placing Steve Bannon, a political advisor, on the National Security Council was a mistake. Doing this looks like you will allow politics to play a role in national security decisions. I am glad you have removed him from this group.
Hiring your son-in-law Jared Kushner as a Senior Advisor, giving your daughter Ivanka an office in the White House, and firing Sally Yates because she disagreed with you make it seem like you want to surround yourself only with people who take your side on issues. You must show greater tolerance and acceptance for disagreement if you are to successfully govern with Democrats in Congress.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President, is famous for appointing people to his Cabinet that held different opinions than himself. Lincoln, of course, had the last say, but by hearing diverse opinions, he could make sure the best decision was made.
Making Baseless Allegations on Twitter
On February 17th, you tweeted, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, but it is the enemy of the American People!” Noticeably absent from this list is the Trump-friendly Fox News. There was even a time when your Press Secretary, Sean Spicer, barred journalists (working for some of the networks mentioned in your tweet) from attending a White House Press Briefing. I urge you to be careful when criticizing the networks that disagree with you. A free press keeps its government accountable and is a safeguard to democracy.
On March 4th, you tweeted that Obama wiretapped your campaign without any evidence. Because wiretaps can only be approved by a federal judge if there is probable cause that a crime was committed, suggesting that were wiretapped also suggests that your campaign may have committed a crime. Until you have clear evidence supporting your claims, I suggest not voicing allegations of this level on Twitter.
Excluding Others in Decision-Making
If you want to give your communications team a chance to explain your actions, you have to give them advanced notice of your decision, and you cannot contradict them. It was leaked that no notice was given to anyone at the FBI and only thirty minutes was given to the White House Communications staff on James Comey’s firing. Your communications team was saying that you fired Comey for his handling of Hillary’s email investigation at the recommendation of the Deputy Attorney General. Two days later, in an interview with Lester Holt, you said that you had been thinking about firing Comey for weeks (before the Deputy Attorney General had even been confirmed) and said that “Russia was on my mind when I fired Comey.” You must tell the truth and consistently stick to it. In the future, give the Communications team at least 24-48 hours before publicly announcing your decisions so that a proper strategy can be formed.
There are new leaks from the White House nearly every week. From who was being considered for Cabinet positions and the power-struggle between Steve Bannon and Jared Kushner to your conversations with the Russian Foreign Minister and Ambassador, you have been the victim of leaks since you were first elected. I can’t help but wonder if this is the result of the low- and mid-level advisors and career civil servants not being able to inform you. There have been rumors that you give a lot of attention to Fox News, do not like to hear bad news, and do not spend enough time looking over the reports that are sent to you. Mr. President, if you want your advisors to feel like the work that they do matters (and not leak), then you need make them feel appreciated by taking their work more seriously.
Up until this point, your administration has had to deal with damaging leaks that have caused your approval rating to plummet while your presidency is still in its infancy. Going forward, you must create a space for a discussion of ideas to occur. This will likely lower the amount of leaks, and improve the perception of your presidency with the American people.
In Seminole Spirit,
Steven Spear, Jr.
Senior Advisor to the President of the United States
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