Political operatives within President Trump's orbit are beaming that the president's approval ratings have climbed to 48% — the highest in his presidency. While it is good news that the president's numbers haven't dipped, given the disruption to our economy and the escalating fatalities due to the coronavirus, there has been a lost opportunity thus far for the president to have experienced the typical huge bounce that comes from a rallying around the chief in the time of war or crisis.
Both presidents Bush 41 and 43 saw their Gallup poll numbers skyrocket as wartime commanders in chief. Bush 41's swift and successful campaign in Desert Storm enhanced national pride and exhibited foreign policy competence. He peaked at a then unheard of 89% approval.
After taking the bull horn and uniting the nation with an inspiring speech atop the rubble of the fallen World Trade Center in 2001, Bush 43 saw his numbers elevate to an even higher 90%. (Gallup polls registered 87% for Harry Truman after Germany's surrender in 1945, while Franklin Roosevelt spiked to 84% post Pearl Harbor.)
In 2012, Superstorm Sandy didn't provide Barack Obama with Bush crisis level numbers, but it did grant him the opportunity to show statesmanship and a swift financial response. It culminated in the famous (or infamous) bearhug thrust upon him by then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, which many Republicans felt was over the top and helped put another nail in the coffin of Obama's Republican challenger.
The point is, it's the natural tendency of the populace to rally around the chief in times of trouble. It's the reason why foreign despots manufacture threats from afar so they can unite warring factions within the empire.
All President Trump has to do at this juncture is exhibit a non-partisan, calm demeanor that shows he is in command. While it is his natural instinct to counterpunch, this is one instance where he'd be better off letting the petty attacks from his antagonists roll off his shoulders.
Take, for example, the question posed to both the president and the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, as to whether the governor would be a formidable foe this election. Unfortunately, the president took the bait and waxed philosophical on the governor's electoral chances. Cuomo wisely deflected the question and used it as an opportunity to cultivate an image of himself as being above politics in a time of upheaval.
"Forget the politics, we have a national crisis," he deftly declared. "We are at war, there is no politics. There is no red and blue, it's red, white and blue."
It was the perfect, obvious answer to a softball question. That's why his approval rating within New York catapulted to an unearthly 87%.
Cuomo's press conferences have been laden with power points and impressive data that have indeed educated the viewer. Too often, the Trump press events have been forums in which he would boast about accomplishments, many of which were being contradicted by first responders on the front line.
There is nothing to gain by the president holding court with his media detractors for 60 to 90 minutes after the factual updates have concluded. It's almost inevitable that at some point a partisan media plant will bait the president, who will thereupon respond with his "fake news" retort.
The president is highly admired within his base as being the one guy who finally stood up to the biased media and called them out for their left-wing bias. There's a time for that. It's not in the middle of this deadly crisis.
Despite the president having presided over one of the best economies in generations, his approval numbers still never cracked the 50% mark. That's primarily because his abrupt style has hampered his ability to grow support amongst persuadable independents. If Trump exhibited the temperament of Obama or Bush, his polls would have been exceeding 60% on a regular basis.
Yet, despite whatever happened in the past, the president still has the opportunity to have this crisis elevate him into an unbeatable force come November. If he reverses direction, and lets the actions of his administration speak for him, he will see his numbers rise dramatically, as we revert to a sense of normalcy.
If he is remembered less for his press conference battles with reporters and more for being the one leader who overruled the bureaucrats and early on closed travel from China, his legacy will be intact.
For all the eloquence and skills Cuomo exhibited at his daily pressers, there is no way he, or any other Democrat, would have had the backbone to stand up to the identity politics monitors within his party or the mainstream media who arrogantly classified such a commonsense life-saving measure as being "xenophobic."
So, Mr. President, here's my unsolicited advice: Just chill. Read a factual statement each day, and then hand the microphone off to the vice president, the medical professionals and your department heads. Doing so can almost assure you reelection.
Steve Levy, former New York state assemblyman, Suffolk County executive, and candidate for governor, is now a distinguished political pundit. Levy's commentary has been published in such media outlets as Washington Times, Washington Examiner, New York Post, Albany Times, Long Island Business News, and City & State Magazine. He hosted "The Steve Levy Radio Show" on Long Island News Radio, and is a frequent guest on high profile television and radio outlets. Few on the political scene possess Levy's diverse background. He's been both a legislator and executive, and served on both the state and local levels — as both a Democrat and Republican. Levy published Bias in the Media, an analysis of his own experience, after switching parties, with the media's leftward slant. Levy is currently Executive Director of the Center for Cost Effective Government, a fiscally conservative think tank. He is also President of Common Sense Strategies, a political consulting firm. To learn more about his past work and upcoming appearances, visit www.stevelevy.info. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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