Column originally published in the Tampa Bay Times.
As Washington carnivores line up for front row seats to the sequel of “The Russians are Coming, The Russians are Coming” and the media camp outside congressional hearing rooms excitedly waits to cover the coming out party of fired FBI Director James Comey, White House advisors are considering retreat and retrenchment.
Against a gathering storm of media fire and partisan ire, their counsel is to take shelter in the Rose Garden, tighten their already tight-knit circle, utilize war rooms for quick response, thump every Donald Trump-aimed punch or affront hurled their way, then anesthetize themselves against all doubters with groupthink chants of “it’s us versus them.”
Have they put the last campaign so far in the rearview mirror that they’ve lost sight of the fact “us” represents more than 62-million Americans who voted for a Trump-led challenge to Washington’s feudal system of protected elites and empowered bureaucrats?
Granted, we recognize the enormity of your challenge, that the battlefield before you is full of combatants consumed by past slights, present anger and future hubris. Yet it’s time to replace petulance with tenacity, scaring with derring-do, and ad hoc planning with a sound, purposeful strategy.
My advice, Mr. President? Expand the battleground so it stretches from sea to shining sea. Rally your believers and reassure your doubters behind a shared insistence we start doing things now.
Embrace those tens of millions of Americans “rebelliously” rooting for you to succeed, even when you do or say things that drive many, well, a little nuts.
Change your pronoun of choice from “me” to “us.”
Then go big by directing and leading the most televised, talked about, and tweeted reality show in history: “Live!…from America.”
Leave Washington now, where well-paid merchants of maliciousness trade in selling you and the nation short.
Leave behind the political posturers, lizardly leakers and nattering naysayers still upset about voters’ preference for change over Clinton.
Engage Americans where they live, and show Washington the only real power it respects: Strength in numbers.
In rallies big and small, “Live!…from America” would become a daily expression of popular will manifest against those who measure progress in promises not achievements, in political races won versus fundamental principles championed.
Starring “us,” the American people, and driven by a daily feed of broadcast and social media, the president as moderator and motivator would eschew reveling in the last campaign while urging all to join the new campaign for America.
From rust belt union halls to farm belt grange halls, small Rockwellian towns to major American cities, the shared focus of complaint would be the same: a broken Washington.
Want to rebuild our infrastructure, have health care that heals, regulatory reform that deregulates, tax reform that relieves and “made in America” synonymous with jobs for America?
Let Washington elites know it’s on them, that promises without action will be dismissed, declarations without deadlines dissed, that failure will no longer be the president’s sole burden, but theirs.
Years ago Americans suffered through a 444-day Iranian hostage crisis where the nation felt paralyzed and powerless. Every night the evening news bellowed the demoralizing headline “America Held Hostage – Day Number x.”
Well, imagine these headlines now:
Day 145, and no health care reform.
Day 187, and still no tax or regulatory relief.
Day 208, and not one shovel in the ground for an all-American, jobs-producing, infrastructure initiative.
Then, short of a national emergency, Trump proffers this kicker: “And I’m not coming back to Washington until you get your act together and get something done.”
The Pew Research Institute’s recent grading of our degrading confidence in American institutions was chilling. Beyond the military, police, and small business, no other institution from the Supreme Court and criminal justice, to public schools and organized religion, passed the 50 percent mark in high public approval/confidence.
Given Congress scored 3 percent in this survey, last on the list, hitting Congress/Washington would be a therapeutic gem shared across the land.
Deservedly and not, while the president faces Democrats on his left, a splintered GOP on his right, and media torqued by his dismissiveness up the middle, he’s defended by a White House communications team seen as inept.
It’s time, Mr. President, to go live to America, throughout America, in the highest-rated show of your life.
Do that, and the hottest tickets in town will no longer be concert seats wielded by lobbyists at Washington’s Kennedy Center, but standing-room-only passes prized by Americans on Main Streets and town squares everywhere.