I didn’t see President Trump’s entire speech last night. I’m catching up this morning. Looks to me as if it was a base-clearing home run. Even Democrats are having trouble criticizing it. Surveys are positive. Stock market is up. CNN’s most credible anti-Trumper, Van Jones, said Trump was presidential, in a good way. Don Lemon got triggered into cognitive dissonance, hypothesizing that Trump’s presidential words don’t match his off-stage personality. In other words, it was a speech.
Trump pulled a Khan maneuver. You remember when Clinton invited the Khan family to talk about their fallen hero son while criticizing Trump. Trump fell for that trap by responding to it, which allowed his critics to frame him as disrespectful to a Gold Star family.
Last night, President Trump returned the favor. He wrapped part of his message around honoring a fallen hero. You can’t criticize any part of that without seeming disrespectful. And persuasion-wise, saying Ryan Owen’s memory is “etched into eternity” is one of the great presidential lines of all time. Simple and perfect. And thanks to President Trump’s speech, Ryan Owen’s name is in fact etched into eternity. The President predicted it, then he literally made it happen, right in front of us, without taking the focus off of Ryan. That’s as good as it gets.
Trump did a High Ground Maneuver by referring to many of the criticisms of his administration as “trivial.” Now the people who keep making such criticisms are defining themselves to be in the unimportant part of the conversation. That is super-strong persuasion that I think most people missed. It’s a trap. Wait for more “trivial” criticisms, with the President’s supporters calling them out as they happen. It will make the critics look small and unimportant.
Trump apparently opened his speech (I missed that part) by speaking out against some recent hate crimes in the United States. By putting that topic first, he made it a top priority, if only in our minds. That was the not-Hitler moment the world was hoping to see. I told you in prior posts and tweets that by this summer Trump would move the national consciousness from the illusion that he is Hitler to the opinion that his administration is not competent. By the end of the year, the critics will be saying some version of this: “Okay, he gets a lot done, and he isn’t Hitler, but we still don’t like it.” That story arc looks as if it accelerated last night, but I expect lots more Hitler talk before summer. Last night was big for the President, but only a first step toward improving his brand.
Other fresh news tells us the Trump Administration is going to work more closely with black colleges to help them succeed. That isn’t quite the plan I blogged about, in which the country moves toward free college for all and puts African-Americans in the first wave because you get the most bang for the buck by helping first the communities that need it most. This was good pre-suasion from Trump ahead of the speech because it put observers in a non-Hitler frame of mind.
Persuasion-wise, if your opponents are hitting you with the professionally-engineered pre-suasion of “dark” as the label for everything you say, the best response is to do something positive for African-Americans. Then let your critics call your plans “dark.” How’s that sound to your ear?
if Trump maintains a constructive engagement with the black community, and continues to talk about unity, while his critics call him “dark,” who wins the persuasion? Trump’s critics might accidentally turn him into the third black president. (Counting Bill Clinton as first.) That’s obviously a big stretch, but you didn’t think he would get elected president either. Four years is a lot of time for a Master Persuader.
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