On any given Friday, it seems, Donald Trump says or does something outlandish. He is instantly painted as unbefitting of the Office of the President of the United States. Come Sunday, the White House staff is furiously issuing statements in a vain attempt to clarify or rein in the president’s remarks or actions. CNN and MSNBC invite pundits to scream senselessly at each other in mock “discussion.” Meanwhile, President Trump has taken to Twitter to contradict his own staff and to attack the news media in an attempt to defend himself through deflection. To add some flavor to his Twitter page, the president shares posts by his supporters.
Thus begins Trump’s weekly roller coaster ride. Whether it’s someone losing in the latest episode of the White House’s own take on The Apprentice, or a policy move that will surely inflame a majority of Americans, dramatic Fridays are now a mainstay in the American news cycle. Trump is not only taking advantage of a time-honored tradition in American politics — dumping news at the end of a week to scramble observers and critics — he is also making a far more calculated and dangerous move. In President Trump’s world, Fridays are a targeted tool to distract his supporters from events that could harm his popularity and to draw their attention to policies that will only energize support.
This past Friday, an extraordinary series of both natural and political events shook the week’s end news cycle. Hurricane Harvey, a category 4 storm, was set to barrel into Texas, a state underprepared to deal with massive flooding. President Trump tweeted 24 times over the weekend alone to highlight his administration’s response to the hurricane — he wants his base to believe that his administration is capable.
At the same time, Trump ordered the Pentagon to bar transgender troops from enlisting in the military, following up on a promise he announced on Twitter weeks ago. He also pardoned former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the proudly racist Arizona law enforcement official who openly violated federal law. Trump wants his base to believe that he is not the “politically correct” president.
Trump, however, chooses to ignore key Friday events, which he cannot manipulate to attract praise from his base. Reports confirmed a new round of ballistic missile tests in North Korea on Friday, August 25. Trump attempted to ignore the tragic events in Charlottesville, Virginia by focusing on “all sides” of the protest. Trump’s administration cannot be seen as weak or ill-prepared.
Busy Fridays provide fuel for Trump’s fiery rhetoric, which invigorates the 30 percent of the American public that approves of the president and his policies.
On Monday, Trump had a new set of talking points that play to his base: he is strong, he is resolute, and his is capable.
This is not to say that dumping important news on a Friday is unique to the Trump administration. It’s a strategic move that provides politicians hope that particularly controversial decisions will be buried under the day’s events. Trump, however, is moving us to a new normal. By design, his roller coaster provides the president’s base with the belief that they did not vote for an incompetent businessman from Queens, but for a strong leader that is going to Make America Great Again. The coaster is designed to throw news media into constant loops while Mr. Trump’s opponents are busy fighting motion sickness.
President Trump tries not to focus on truly damaging actions that threaten to erode his base. He was weak on North Korea and his domestic policies are a mess. While the president may ignore these issues, those who want to sift through the rhetoric should not.
It’s time critics take advantage of Trump’s weekly roller coaster by focusing on what the coaster ignores, rather than where it throws us into loops.
Norman Rozenberg is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He can be reached at @_nprtweets.
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