Reset to What?
The changes in the Trump campaign last week led inevitably to the chorus of “reset.”
Fox News, MSNBC, NBC, Politico were just some of the usual suspects pushing this narrative following the addition of former Brietbart News media head honcho Stephen Bannon as campaign CEO, promotion of Kellyanne Conway to campaign manager, and subsequent resignation of former campaign manager Paul Manafort.
What qualifies as a reset?
Is it two new hires? I’d imagine most Fortune 500 companies go through a huge reset numerous times a month if that is the bar set.
Or perhaps it is the candidate himself? After all, he successful strung together three days worth of speeches using a teleprompter without managing to offend anyone too much. Surely that’s a call for a reset? Lackluster and forced reading from a script in which he asks African American voters to vote for him because, hey, what do they have to lose?
Oh, and he apologised! And Trump never apologises so that’s a sign of a new candidate right? More presidential and with a temperament better suited for the world stag — well, wait. He apologised…sort of?
“Sometimes, in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and believe it or not I regret it. I do regret it particularly where it may have caused personal pain. Too much is at stake for us to be consumed with these issues.”
…what? Identify the apology in that statement.
Because he was caught up in the moment and had so many different issues he needed to talk about, he had some whoopsie-dasies and uh-ohs? Some potty mouth words that don’t really merit a time-out in the corner?
Beyond not even having the words “sorry” or “I apologise” in this heartfelt jumble of words, it is hard to really understand what he’s trying to say.
He regrets people took his words so personally because half the time he does not even know what he’s saying?
Or he’s annoyed people take it so seriously as to actually be bothered by it?
And aren’t you supposed to apology for some specific act to make it legitimate? So, was he apologising to the disabled journalist he mocked? The sitting senator and POW who was tortured that he said wasn’t a hero? The Gold Star family he criticised? Mexicans? Muslims? Journalists? Anyone or anything specifically on the growing list of things he has insulted? Or is this a typical politician’s non-apology apology?
If only all these people just got over it and stopped by consumed with these issues.
I’m sorry if I don’t see this as a forgive-and-forget moment in the campaign.
Lost in the narrative of a reset, and the counter-narrative of whether a reset will work (Is it too late? Will it last?) are two concepts which point to a simple reality that there is no reset when it comes to Trump:
First, the candidate himself adamantly rejects any notion of wanting to change:
Trump has repeatedly bucked calls to rein in the kind of brash, aggressive rhetoric that has made even Republicans uncomfortable, though he has delivered several scripted policy speeches in recent weeks. “I am who I am. It’s me,” he told a Wisconsin TV station on Tuesday. “I don’t wanna change. Everybody talks about, ‘Oh well, you’re gonna pivot, you’re gonna’ — I don’t wanna pivot. I mean, you have to be you. If you start pivoting, you’re not being honest with people.”
It’s hard to get a reset when the main source of needing a reset in the first place refuses to change.
And, more than that, what merits a reset? Reading some lines off a screen for a few days in a tone that seems forced, half-hearted, and inauthentic? The irony in his comments is that by doing so, he loses his whole argument of being an anti-establishment and non-traditional candidate and starts sounding like a conventional politician.
Secondly, while past performance is no indicator of the future, the fact that the “reset” story has been raised before in this campaign with no long-term changes is telling.
Resets, if they occur at all, should happen rarely and with significant momentum and commitment to actually change something. They should not become a monthly story line, as NBC News so accurately captures.
From March through August there has been at least one reset narrative each month promising a pivot, a change, a restart, a new Trump.
In March, following Trump’s first teleprompter speech focusing on foreign policy, surrogates rushed to paint him as a serious policy candidate. Until he pivoted the next day to insulting Ted Cruz’s wife.
In late April, the RNC chair declared Trump the presumptive nominee of the party following yet another somber foreign policy speech. Trump launched into conspiracy theory claims of Ted Cruz’s father being involved in the JFK assassination after that.
In June, after stating that he “understand[s] the responsibility of carrying the mantle” of being the GOP nominee, he showcased that understanding by calling Mitt Romney a “stone cold loser,” and saying “The Republican Party should really get their act together.” Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.
And of course, after the Republican convention, the greatest pivot was promised. After all, he was now the nominee. The standard bearer. Taking on the torch of the party of Lincoln and Reagan. And what better way to demonstrate this than inviting Russia to hack his opponent’s emails, questioning why the mother of a deceased soldier wasn’t talking in public, and revisiting the alleged link between Ted Cruz’s father and the JFK assassination.
My point is this: a reset requires a committed effort and the realisation that there is a problem in the first place needing a change. This applies not just in politics, but in everyday life as well. It requires introspection, a reality check, and accepting that something can and must be changed. Using a teleprompter for a few speeches, removing a top political operative in your campaign (more because of the brewing scandal to his pro-Russian campaigning than anything else) and giving a half-assed stew of words about regretting personal pain are fleeting at best.
These are the equivalent of ordering a Diet Coke with your McDonald’s super-sized meal because you’re on a diet.
Is it possible, with around 75 days to the election, there will be some changes that take place? Of course. The race will only heat up as most of the American public tunes in following the Labor Day weekend and the Trump campaign starts using its now sizeable war chest to fund commercials.
But predicting to get “95% of the African American vote in his re-election” in front of a predominantly white audience is not a way to start a reset effort. Nor is tweeting accusations about your opponent’s health on a Friday night.
But, if it’s pivoting you want, just help Ross move a couch.