The White House on Monday will embark on a three-week messaging campaign aimed at refocusing attention on President Donald Trump’s agenda and framing a debate later this summer over rewriting the U.S. tax code.
The “Made In America” campaign, which starts with the president highlighting locally made products from around the country, is the latest attempt by Mr. Trump’s communications team to control a narrative that has consistently spun out of their grasp during the six months since the inauguration.
The challenge controlling the message is partly due to turmoil within the West Wing over strategy and tactics. Disagreements continue over how the communications shop should be organized and on what policies the team should concentrate, White House officials said. These conflicts have impaired the president’s ability to hire experienced Republican communicators, with even some of Mr. Trump’s supporters declining White House posts.
Scott Jennings, a consistent defender of the president on television and an ally of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, refused White House inquiries about taking a senior-level position in the communications department, two White House officials said.
But the team’s biggest hurdle may be inside the Oval Office. Mr. Trump, who often says he is his own best adviser on politics and communications, frequently strays from the White House’s script and has fought attempts to tone down his Twitter persona, of which many top aides—and a majority of the American public—say they disapprove. Several senior administration officials privately complain that the White House’s main problem is decision-making, not public relations.
The current health-care debate has underscored the White House’s conundrum, said Newt Gingrich, who remains a political adviser to Mr. Trump. He cautioned that the White House team is “still learning” about its own power but said it was unclear what the Trump White House wanted to accomplish in the health-care debate.
“Coke believes that after 130 years, consumers still need to hear about Coke seven days a week to be reminded to buy it,” Mr. Gingrich said. “Brute repetition is the only way to break through, and it’s hard to know right now what [the White House is] supposed to be selling.”
Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, said the White House is pushing to expand access to health care and lower costs for U.S. workers.
“We have utilized all of the resources of the administration to advance the president’s goal of repealing and replacing Obamacare with a patient-centered health-care system, he said.
The Senate plans to vote on an overhaul of health-insurance laws soon, the Republican-controlled chamber’s second attempt to do so. The outcome remains uncertain, yet the White House’s marketing effort this week is “Made in America,” not health-care reform.
SOURCE: Michael C. Bender
The Wall Street Journal