President Donald Trump has hit the 150-day mark of his administration. He has much to show for it – an acclaimed Supreme Court Justice, a record Dow Jones, a lower unemployment rate than was seen at any point of the Obama Administration. Still, many of his priorities are stalled – a budget and healthcare reform to just name two. So what does the president need to do to move the ball forward? What can he do to become truly successful? I offer a blueprint for success, proven to work by great presidents who preceded Mr. Trump. Mr. President, you should do seven things.
1. Stop tweeting.
Or at least, run your tweets past your communications team. Yes, your tweets connect you with the American people in an instant. But you have proven, Mr. President, that you cannot tweet without stepping on your own message. So far, you have been two presidents – the one who has taken decisive action to advance your agenda, and the one who tweets off-message on a daily basis. If you want your agenda to be heard, lose your Twitter account – now.
2. Put extreme vetting in place and move beyond the travel ban fiasco.
You said you wanted extreme vetting for a few designated countries. That made sense when you said it and it makes sense today. Unfortunately, your plan has been overturned by every court that has heard it. Now it is before the Supreme Court. But here’s the problem, Mr. President. You told us you needed 100 days to put procedures of extreme vetting in place. That was 150 days ago. Nothing has happened that kept you from doing this. If you had done in those 100 days what you said you needed 100 days to do, this would all go away. And every day extreme vetting and the travel ban are in the news is just another day your other initiatives will go nowhere.
3. Work with moderate Democrats.
Get to know Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia. He is the most right-leaning Democrat in the Senate. But he’s not alone. There are 12 Democratic senators from states you carried in 2016 who are up for re-election next year. Be their friend. Work with them. Many of them will support your budget ideas and much of your healthcare plan. After the last eight years, when President Obama did nothing to work with Republicans, any move toward unity you make will be magnified. And it makes for good politics.
4. Follow the Reagan blueprint.
In his article, Why Ronald Reagan’s Example Is Still Relevant for America Today, Ben T. Elliot reminds us that President Reagan did four things well. First, he united America. Second, he inspired America. Third, he emboldened America. And fourth, he protected America. What worked for President Reagan, Mr. Trump, will still work today.
5. Stay focused.
When you think of great presidents, you think of less, not more. Take Harry Truman, for example. One of the most unpopular presidents in American history – during his time in office – Truman did one thing really well. With laser focus, Truman was committed to ending – and winning – World War II. Similarly, Reagan won the Cold War, FDR ended the Depression, Lincoln reunified the nation, Jackson brought about major American expansion, and Wilson ended World War I and formed the League of Nations. Great presidents stay focused. They do a few things well.
6. Limit your personal attacks.
Mr. President, study Abe Lincoln on this one. He famously said, “The best way to beat your enemy is to make him your friend.” Following the heated election of 1860, Lincoln named his three top opponents to his cabinet. Consider JFK 100 years later. He named his bitter rival, Lyndon Johnson, as VP. Embrace your adversaries. If Ronald Reagan could work with Tip O’Neil and Bill Clinton could work with Newt Gingrich, you can work with Nancy Pelosi. Ok, that might be a stretch – but it’s worth the effort.
7. Own your administration’s mistakes and share your successes.
It’s a key principle of leadership. Own the mistake and share the credit. The classic example is that of President Reagan. He once followed the advice of Gen. Colin Powell, who served in his administration. That particular advice resulted in the loss of a dozen American soldiers. When asked why he took the action he took, the President glanced back at Gen. Powell, then said, “It was a horrible miscalculation, but it was my mistake alone. I take full responsibility for what happened.” Hearing the president own the blame, Powell turned to a man standing next to him and whispered, “I’ll die for that man,” pointing at Mr. Reagan.
Rarely have there been more trying times to be a president. And the Democrats and media certainly aren’t doing anything to help, Mr. Trump. But you still have the bully pulpit. You have nearly four more years to make a difference. And you have the power to make a wonderful, historic difference. So, with all the fake humility I can muster, Mr. President, I suggest my seven recommendations are right. Follow this blueprint and you will be successful.
More importantly, America will be successful. You can make America great again. But you need to hurry, because you have less time left in your presidency than ever. As Yogi Berra used to say, “It’s getting late early.”
You can do this, Mr. President. Ronald Reagan’s vision of America as the “shining city on a hill” can still come to fruition. America can be great again. But more than anyone else’s, it’s in your hands. We’re pulling for you.