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Tags: trump | communication | twitter | ukraine | syria

Trump Messaging Needs More Than Tweets

Trump Messaging Needs More Than Tweets
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks on stage during a campaign rally at the Target Center on October 10, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

Tom Basile By Friday, 11 October 2019 12:49 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The sun was barely peaking over the horizon as we set out along a dusty road in Northern Iraq. We drove through villages where children in brightly colored clothes, marked a stark contrast with the browns and tans of a sun-baked landscape. They waved and smiled as we drove by.

At the base of telephone polls along the route to our destination stood young men in uniform at the ready. Without fail, every half mile, they stood watch. I hadn’t felt this safe in months. I was in Kurdistan.

The Iraqi Kurds’ close, cooperative relationship with the United States for decades had made this place seem a world away from the disarray of Baghdad.

That was 2003. Since then, Kurds in Iraq and Syria have continued their close working relationship with the United States, especially the U.S. military. They have fought and died alongside our brave men and women in uniform against Islamic terrorists that seek to destroy both our cultures.

This week, President Trump justified abandoning them to the brutal assault from Turkey in Northern Syria by saying, “They didn't help us in the Second World War, they didn't help us with Normandy as an example.”

As a supporter of the president, I was not only appalled by the policy shift, but by the flailing defense of it that included admitting that thousands of ISIS fighters captured and held by the Kurds could return to the battlefield in Europe and elsewhere.

The president then threatened Turkey’s Prime Minister Erdogan with something along the lines of economic ruin if he attacked our Kurdish allies. It’s a hollow threat against a country and leader more aligned ideologically with Iran and Russia than the United States.

At a time when President Trump is struggling with a domestic political crisis that threatens the very existence of his presidency, it is inexplicable that he chose now to execute a massive foreign policy shift that callously abandons a key regional ally and prompt criticism from political allies like Senator Lindsay Graham, veterans, and even his former ISIS envoy Brett McGurk.

The Pentagon has thus far offered no defense and no strategy. Internal Pentagon and military sources have used words like “shame” and “aghast” to describe their reaction to the president’s decision.

The Pentagon’s official response to criticism over the move made it look like the U.S. military abandoned the area to prevent engaging Turkish forces.

"Unfortunately, Turkey has chosen to act unilaterally. As a result, we have moved the U.S. forces in northern Syria out of the path of potential Turkish incursion to ensure their safety," tweeted the Pentagon spokesperson.

Did we really just run away from Turkey? It’s laughable to assume that the Turkish government would have green-lighted an incursion into Norther Syria at all if we were there. The power vacuum the U.S. created by leaving made the invasion possible, not the other way around.

The White House’s response to the impeachment inquiry has been equally rudderless. No briefings to counter misinformation. No rapid response operation. No all-star legal team updating the public on the facts as we know them in a clear and concise manner to develop a line of defense.

While there may very well be internal discussions about a broader strategy, the messages driving the national conversation are largely the president’s tweets, which have come across defensive, angry, bitter, and do not effectively deliver facts that likely ensure a Senate trial will fail.

The communications playbook used by this White House for three years must go out the window in favor of a more disciplined approach. All presidents face scandals and challenges. All presidents make unpopular decisions because they think they are right. That is their prerogative.

What ensures the success of any administration, however, is its ability to defend its policies in a cogent, saleable way. It is the ability to plan effectively and roll-out policies that build coalitions at home and abroad, not alienate allies.

Right now, the White House is failing to do any of those things and the poll numbers are demonstrating the results. In these tough days, we would do well to remember that there’s more at stake here than one man or one presidency. It’s how America is viewed around the world, our anti-terrorism strategy, our ability to build support for foreign policy objectives, our ability to recruit for our own military, and our ability to fight those controlled by the left who remake this country — and threaten American freedom.

Tom Basile has been part of the American political landscape from Presidential campaigns to local politics. He served in the Bush Administration from 2001-2004, as Executive Director of the NYS Republican Party and has held a range of senior-level communications roles in and out of government. Basile's critically-acclaimed book, "Tough Sell: Fighting the Media War in Iraq" (Foreword by Amb. John R. Bolton), chronicles his time in Baghdad fighting media bias and driving fairer coverage of the Iraq war. In 2011, he was featured in Time Magazine's Person of the Year spread about political activism around the world. Basile is an adjunct professor at Fordham University, a local elected official and runs a New York-based strategic communications firm. He is a member of the New York Bar and sits on a number of academic and philanthropic advisory boards. Learn more about him at TomBasile.com or follow him on Twitter @Tom_Basile. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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The communications playbook used by this White House for three years must go out the window in favor of a more disciplined approach.
trump, communication, twitter, ukraine, syria
Friday, 11 October 2019 12:49 PM
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