The Bully Pulpit

In Buzz by Adam GoodmanLeave a Comment

Bully for Donald.

These three words, if exercised faithfully, would shepherd President Donald Trump back from a desert of messy messaging to the communications oasis he so deftly mastered during an election that so clearly mattered.

Assuming the ides of Comey cometh no more, the still nascent Trump News Network has a bevy of opportunities ahead to do just that as events here and abroad create new storylines by the moment.

Kim Jong Krazy is at it again, firing not-so-toy missiles at Putin’s paradise.

Health care reform is heading into the imperial Senate for further reform.

Taxes still need cutting, and regulations still need regulating.

And the American people are thirsting for renewed evidence the leader they chose to rein in a system mired in mediocrity is moving from spring training to a championship season.

To do that, and soon, the president can revitalize the promise of America and the promises he made to America with one of the greatest powers on Earth: the bully pulpit.

Semantically minted by President Teddy Roosevelt more than a century ago, “bully” stood for admirable and “pulpit” the opportunity to speak out and be heard. For leaders this is pure gold, allowing them to advocate an agenda that inspires others to aspire and act for the greater good.

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” was a precursor to President Ronald Reagan’s “peace through strength,” which he used to replace an Iron Curtain with a nation’s iron will.

President Abraham Lincoln’s “four score and seven years ago” challenged the country to heal and reunite in pursuit of the greatest purpose of all — a nation’s survival.

President Franklin Roosevelt’s exhortation in his first inaugural address during the depths of the Great Depression — “the only thing to fear is fear itself” — urged us on through the toughest moments of doubt to some of the greatest moments of triumph.

President John Kennedy used the bully pulpit it to champion the cause of American morality during a time of Cold War and even chillier racial relations:

“We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the Scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution … an equal chance … we cannot say to 10 percent of the population you can’t have that right.”

By contrast, the tumultuous communications coming out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. these days are not overly reassuring for even the most optimistic or faithful. There is too much bully and too little pulpit.

It’s time for Trump to reunite those words, combining a “bully for us” attitude with the power of the pulpit. It was an approach he championed against the “nabobs of negativity” in a campaign where Hillary Clinton misread “bully” as a character trait.

Instead, it’s an attitude that Americans desire to be better than average, better than just okay, better tomorrow than they were today.

Mr. President, it’s Teddy Roosevelt time.

Instead of confining yourself within the Beltway, refocus on the communities of America not smitten by Potomac fever and all who feed off it.

Don’t worry about falling into traps of rhetorical imperfection that partisans and panderers parade as evidence of deceit. Rather, rejoin your parade of followers on Main Streets everywhere, in a declaration of independence sent from Bunker Hill to Capitol Hill.

Like Teddy Roosevelt, Trump summoned American business leaders to back “made-in-America,” leading to a surging stock market and palpable economic optimism.

Like Roosevelt, conventional powers who ruled America like their own private Monopoly board are now ceding control to the power of a one-person, one-voice democracy powered by every American with a smartphone.

And, like Roosevelt, Trump is doing all of this without the comfort of convention or solace of precedent, knowing that as an agent of change he will be pilloried until change becomes a unifying symbol of a newly confident America.

So stop agonizing about the ruling elites whose power you challenge, and pay no heed to TV commentators bent on mitigating and relitigating the 2016 campaign.

Instead, restore message discipline within your core communications team, then grow that team by adding communicators who are charismatic and consistent.

That alone would reassure a restive public while dulling the resistance of media still rent with rage after the 2016 apocalypse.

More importantly, Mr. President, remember what brought you here. Stand up, speak out, and reach out. Be authentic and in the moment.

Be that commander in chief who returns nuclear madmen to their playpens, remands politicians to duty, and compels every American to understand the only thing standing between us and greatness … is us.

Bully for that.

Adam Goodman is a national Republican media consultant based in St. Petersburg and the first Edward R. Murrow Fellow at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

Leave a Comment