Full disclosure: I am not a Donald Trump supporter. My personal favorite is [mc_name name=’Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’C001098′ ]. In fact, I find myself 100% with Leon’s last two posts on Trump (here | here). Having said that, I am a distinct minority here that sees Trump as being a net positive in this campaign. I fully expect Trump to flame out. I have doubts that his polled supporters are actually voters. All of that will become more obvious when we hit the first primaries. But what is obvious is that Trump is showing a mastery of both the media and of campaigning that no one else in the race is coming close to.
I won’t say he’s raised the standard of the discourse but I think he’s talking about a subject that needs to be talked about — illegal immigration, which is a subject that the US Chamber of Commerce runs from like a scalded dog — and he’s giving GOP candidates a valuable lesson in how to break the media stranglehold that we conservatives have complained about forever.
If you are following my blog series on Donald Trump’s persuasive genius, you have to see this master stroke from today.
The set-up is a press conference in which a reporter for Univision asks Trump a potentially damaging question about his immigration plan. Here’s what you have to know to understand the scene:
1. Univision cancelled Trump’s Miss America Pageant over his comments about illegal immigrants. Univision and Trump are enemies.
2. The reporter is famous in Mexico and perhaps among Spanish-speakers but would be somewhat unknown to most American viewers.
3. The reporter is on record for being deeply critical of Trump.
4. Trump had not called on the reporter, and that starts the video off.
Given what I have taught you in past posts, view the video and separate out the impact of the visuals versus the “story” the media is putting on it. And remember that the visuals are about a 10-to-1 impact compared to text. Trump plays the visuals. Always. That’s part of his wizardry.
It seems the press will be reporting the “story” as Trump being inappropriate at a press conference in some generic ways that will not register as particularly important to anyone.
Now consider the visuals. Trump remained calm, put the reporter in his place, and eventually nodded to security to lead the protesting reporter out while cameras followed the entire episode.
Trump, that magnificent bastard, made his enemy do the perp walk on International TV while appearing 100% in charge of the situation.
Yeah. You can’t beat that. No accidents are happening here.
And do you know what his core supporters saw? They saw Trump deport that Mexican reporter right out of the room, metaphorically. Those other candidates are talking about immigration but Trump has already started. Remember we are not talking about anyone’s rational thinking. These sorts of images sneak through your rational defenses.
And Trump sent a message to the rest of the press, which helps to keep them nervous during future interviews. That’s how a world-class negotiator does it. He makes the other person less confident. Throws them off their game. And apparently he decided some collateral damage in the press would delight the viewers. I know I appreciated it.
And on some level every person watching that episode was happy they did not have to endure another round of gotcha outragism as one “news” outlet after another rushes to take Trump’s words out of context. Trump’s show was far more entertaining.
And he did all of that spontaneously. (As far as you know.)
Does the boring candidate EVER win?
I remind you I am not endorsing Trump. Most of the candidates seem qualified to me. I am only a fan of Trump’s persuasion methods.
Someone else had a talent for doing this. Ronald Reagan. (heads up, if you accuse me of saying Trump is another Reagan I swear by the Great Jehovah and the Continental Congress that I will ban you)
From Hedrick Smith’s epic and under-appreciated 1987 book The Power Game: How Washington Works. This is the set up. CBS News’ Lesley Stahl was convinced that Ronald Reagan is an empty suit. A nincompoop. Someone who was skating along on imagery and who was pretty shallow and inconsequential. So during the 1984 campaign they took advantage of Reagan’s visit to a flag factory to use that as a metaphor for just how bad Reagan was. This is some of the text from the television report (what follows are jpgs via Google Books because I don’t have access to my library right now).
Hedrick Smith describes the video that accompanied the report thusly:
Then Stahl sat back and waited for the White House to go utterly berserk at her evisceration of the Clown in Chief
The reason Stahl had to rely on those visuals for her hit piece was because Reagan and his staff carefully stage managed the visual aspect of all of his appearances. They knew, as Scott Adams says up top, that the visual is about 10 : 1 in impact when compared to the verbal. No matter what Reagan said, the imagery was going to be what the television viewer remembered.
This is what people are failing to understand about Trump. The political class thinks he is a buffoon (a buffoon who could buy and sell his critics by the truckload, mind you) because he refuses to play by the traditional rules. As Leon pointed out, he is operating so far outside the political experience of the rest of the field that no one is even sure how to attack or criticize him. The media can criticize Trump for tossing this Ramos character but to do it they have to show the video. Once they show the video, no one hears what they say because Trump dominates the imagery and the conversation.
The way Trump handled Ramos should be the way all of our candidates handle the mindless gotcha questions like those that characterized the first GOP debate.