Political Strategy or Political Insanity? We’ll Know On November 3, Maybe


(Author’s Note: This is the eight in a series of political articles for CommPRO.biz that I’ll be writing leading up to Election Day. FYI – My first public relations job was with a political firm, where I worked on local, statewide and presidential campaigns. In this column, I question the president’s most recent political actions.)

Arthur Solomon

Many years ago, when I was toiling at a political PR agency, where I worked on local statewide and presidential campaigns, a telephone call was transferred to me. The caller said, “I’m planning to run as an independent and your boss said he wouldn’t take me on because he thought what I wanted o do was crazy. But he said, “If you want to work with me to pick up some freelance money, it would be okay with him.”

The request was not unusual. What was unusual for our business is that the owner of the firm always believed that he couldn’t pay me enough of a salary to compensate for my 14 hours, seven days-a-week working schedule, sometime longer, during the political season. Instead he would direct a few low level candidates to me and tell me that whatever financial payments I could work out would be entirely mine and, importantly, that I could spend a few hours each day working for my clients on his dime, always adding, “Make sure at least 75 percent of the time is working on the office clients. And don’t give your clients all the good ideas.” Unfortunately, the owner of the firm, Earl Foreman, the nicest, caring and most creative agency executive I’ve ever worked with, died too young or my career might have taken a different trajectory. (That accurate scenario took place at a Republican agency, years before the GOP became dominated by wild-eyed radical extremists)

Which brings us to a most uncaring, selfish political figure, President Trump, whose actions resemble Nero, the Roman emperor accused of playing the fiddle while Rome burned in 64 A.D. Historically, Nero did not play the fiddle while the city burned. The fiddle wasn’t even invented then. But like the president blaming blue states and China for the spread of the coronavirus, Nero used the fire as a political excuse to torture and execute hundreds of Christians blaming them for the fire. 

There also is no confirmed historical evidence that Nero was crazy, as some books claim. But there is a recently released scientific study that has some people wondering if President Trump might be acting, shall we say, strange since being treated for Covid-19.

The study in Annals of Clinical and Translational  Neurology (I never miss an issue; it’s a must read for me) said that almost one-third of Covid-19 patients experienced encephalopathy, or some change in mental function, including confusion and delirium.

Certainly, the way the president has been acting the past several days makes one wonder if the meds to treat him are having both a good and bad affect on his judgment – good because, if you believe the doctors, he’s almost Covid free (strange that the doctors haven’t made a verbal statement and answered questions from the press for several days) and bad because the president is acting irrational in his response to the coronavirius (Although acting irrational is not new for him, so maybe the meds aren’t affecting his judgment.) 

(The president is “no longer considered a transmission risk to others,” said a letter released by his physician, Dr. Sean Conley, who has resorted to making public written statements, instead of answering media questions, after admitting that he distorted the president’s condition during a press briefing to reflect the “upbeat attitude” of the White House. That admission was criticized by many medical scientists, with Dr. Carlos del Rio, an infectious disease expert at Emory University in Atlanta saying, “Yesterday’s briefing was a spin doctor, not a medical doctor.” After the release of the letter, which the president’s doctor said was issued with the consent of the president, Mr. Trump then said that he would resume his political rallies. One of the problems of having a military physician as any president’s doctor is that they are in the military and have to follow the orders of their superior, who is the president of the United States. Civilian doctors also would have to withhold information that a president doesn’t want released, but a civilian MD wouldn’t have had to salute and sanction a photo op, like having Trump take a car ride while still in the hospital or put a positive spin on a medical situation as did Dr. Conley, a Commander in the U.S. Navy. Civilian doctors would have the ability of saying, “My way or the highway,” without fear of being court-martialled or having their military careers derailed because of insubordination. U.S. history is full of instances when a military doctor was part of the cover-up of a president’s illness, and there must be legislation saying that the public has the right to know the true facts about a president’s illness.

An exception to keeping secret about a president’s illness was when President Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in 1955, and gave instructions to tell the public everything, according to a story in the New York Times.  Since then news about president’s illnesses has been frequently released, but as the secrecy in President Trump’s situation showed it’s never been the whole truth and nothing but the truth. History Lesson: When I was a young reporter, the word “indigestion” was the code word for a VIP having a heart attack and some reporter’s would downplay the seriousness of an illness, as many sports reporter in those days covered up the anti-social behavior of athletes.)

As I write this on October 11, almost 215,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 and the CDC is estimating that another 20,000 will die by Election Day. While the president might not be a victim of what I call “Covid Craze,” his statement that people have nothing to fear from the disease is certainly crazy.

Surely, his political strategy has changed. For months the president has been trying to get the subject of the coronavirus off the front pages and TV news shows. Without success. But he is keeping it on the front burners because of his actions and telling people that the coronavirus will soon disappear and his insisting that a vaccine will be available before Election Day, which neither the vaccine manufacturers nor independent medical scientists agree with. Add to that, his saying that he will again hold rallies, and his ignoring the coronavirus hot spot in the White House that has sidelined many of his top advisers, his ludicrous statement that that he is young and healthy, and then saying that he is a senior who loves seniors and that Gold Star families want to hug and kiss him, it’s no wonder that medical scientists are talking about how his meds might have affected his judgment.

Are the president’s actions of keeping the Covid-19 situation being the leading news story deliberate? Does he have a secret plan to make the death of more than 200,000 Americans become a positive for him? It’s as if he is his own worst enemy (which many politicians say he is) by assuring that the media will lead with the Covid stories.

Political Strategy or Political Insanity? I vote for the latter.

And so do almost every Republican senator running for re-election. Don’t believe me. Check out their statements as they try to distance themselves politically from the president and stay more than six feet from him – much more. 

Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, still a staunch Trump supporter, is literally distancing himself from Trump. Last week he said, “I actually haven’t been to the White House since August the 6th because my impression was their approach to how to handle this was different than mine and what I insisted that we do in the Senate, which is to wear a mask and practice social distancing,” he said during an event in Kentucky.

You’ve heard about other places that have had a different view, and they are paying a price for it,” he said.

Could he have had the White House in mind?

The Unspoken PR Tenet: Bad News Is Good News for Our Business By Arthur SolomonAbout the Author: Arthur Solomon, a former journalist, was a senior VP/senior counselor at Burson-Marsteller, and was responsible for restructuring, managing and playing key roles in some of the most significant national and international sports and non-sports programs. He also traveled internationally as a media adviser to high-ranking government officials. He now is a frequent contributor to public relations publications, consults on public relations projects and is on the Seoul Peace Prize nominating committee. He can be reached at arthursolomon4pr (at) juno.com or artsolomon4pr@optimum.net.

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