John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Tips for Trump

Posted on March 6, 2018
I like golf teachers who give you small tips with the swing you have rather than make you learn a whole new approach to the game. President Trump is a golfer (as we all know) and if I were to give him advice on communications strategy, I would take the approach of the more subtle golf professional, working with what we have as opposed to trying to start from scratch.

If asked, here are five tips I would give Mr. Trump:

  1. Hide your vices better: None of us is perfect. We all have our downsides, times when we act stupidly or childishly or selfishly. A practiced politician knows that to be successful, you have to minimize broadcasting that lesser version of yourself to the outside world. Losing your temper sometimes works in the furtherance of a goal, but those times are rare. Usually, when you lose your cool, you don’t look very cool.  So, Mr. President, if you are going to yell, yell at the television, by yourself, where nobody can hear you.

  2. Don’t hide your virtues: From all that I hear, Donald Trump does small meetings very well. He listens, he asks good questions, he is gregarious and usually a pretty warm person. I thought he did an exceptional job with the families of those directly impacted by gun violence, listening to their stories and showing real respect to their grief. Trump also does a lot of little things, outside of the eyes of the camera, that belie the image of greedy capitalist. He takes care of people who need help. He shakes hands and expresses his appreciation for the cops and wait-staff who protect and take care of him.

  3. Tell people when you are joking: I think this president is hilarious. But most of his jokes are taken seriously by the mainstream media and written as straight news.  For example, the president joked that maybe we should copy the new Chinese model of appointing our leader to a lifetime appointment. Clearly, he meant it as a joke.  But as usual, the left wing didn’t take it that way. So, Mr. President, just get in the practice of saying, “hey, it’s a joke.” Sometimes, you just have to point out the obvious.

  4. Be confident about the future: We live in an anxious age. Everybody is worried about everything. Despite all signs of increased worldwide prosperity, there is no shortage of stories about the coming apocalypse. Global warming, bees dying, North Korea bombing, cyber-crashing, kids shooting, we are all doomed. At least, that’s the impression. But the reality is things are going pretty good these days. We need the president to let us know that everything is going to be all right. He doesn’t need to be pollyannaish about it. But he also doesn’t need to join in with the doom and gloomers. We have some problems as a nation, but we have the ability to fix them.  And we should be both thankful and grateful that we live here, now.

  5. Pragmatism sells: The president is, in heart of hearts, a pragmatist. Ideologues find that deeply disconcerting, but in fact, it is his greatest strength. The president is a realist on foreign policy and he is a deal-maker when it comes to domestic policy. As such, he stands with the vast bulk of the American people who don’t necessarily want to use our tax dollars to export democracy to the rest of the world, nor want ideologues on either side shutting the government down in pursuit of narrow goals.  Mr. Trump needs to sell the hell out of his pragmatic approach to governing. Yes, we should enforce our immigration laws. Yes, we should make our businesses more competitive. Yes, we should get rid of government programs that waste money and do nothing for the average American. All of this makes sense to most people.

The president knows, as a golfer, that the key to shooting a good round is to get into a good tempo, avoid making stupid mistakes and to play within yourself. That’s easier said than done, both on the golf course and in the White House.

(Published in The Hill)