Moments ago, the President’s private legal team walked off the stage from their press conference and opening statement.
Many readers of LFFC will agree that it was a long-overdue statement of a legal reality that seems plausible to many of us, but clearly needs to be spelled out for our fellow countrymen.
A few observations on the significance of this event:
(1) The assertive, combative tone with a recalcitrant and adolescent press corps is clearly the only way to manage these events. Sean Spicer showed the way in early 2017 and the President’s current Press Secretary is doing a fine job. But I think we can see that a tone of dismissive contempt is not only warranted, but ought to be the standard.
(2) As Jenna Ellis pointed out, there is a legal process ahead. This was an opening statement. The White House clearly has the talent to make this legal case as well as it can be made.
(3) But there is a political battle that is being waged, hour by hour and this was the first solid salvo in that battle over two weeks. This is a battle of perception and persuasion that has nothing to do with the legal process, and should not be encumbered with it. Republicans are sometimes weak at this part of the process.
(4) The political and rhetorical victory today was accomplished when Jenna Ellis delivered a series of fact-based propositions about the crimes conducted, the deliberate negligence of the press, and the cost to our system of government. She hammered the press for outlandish misrepresentations and bad faith. This is not the now-humdrum #fakenews mantra. We are talking about complicity in known crimes, a breach of professional ethics, and a blindness to the consequences of such deliberate mendacity. The pall over the room was palpable—as if a child were realizing that the punishment being meted out was proper. There needs to be far more moral contempt for actors who exhibit bad faith.
(5) Sidney Powell did a fine job of drawing a thumbnail sketch of the depth and extent of the crimes: these crimes range from the vote counters and ward bosses who committed fraud, all the way up to the elected officials who knowingly acquired a catastrophically bad system, to the engineers of the hardware and software, to the owners of the company, to the outsourced platforms, and beyond. She showed, to the apparent shock of many in the room, that this is a fractal crime—criminal intent and behavior is present at every level of the process, up to and including the design of the products and the political commitment of the founder.
What she said about the absence of activity by the FBI should make every American’s skin crawl. The intellectual, ideological, and moral rot is so pervasive that our nation’s federal law enforcement agency is unwilling to step up to the plate. This is galling. And her tone in delivering this message should echo in every American’s ears: if this isn’t fixed now, no election will matter henceforth.
(6) Rudy Giuliani is a fine man with a splendid public record, but he is no longer “ready for prime time.” He should be the central exchange in the creation of the strategy and operations for the lawsuits ahead, but he needs to step away from the cameras. A man declaiming the need for “TRUTH!” while hair dye is dripping off his chin is a bit of an existential self-parody. That unfortunate image cuts against his ability to persuade. President Trump is lucky to have Rudy. But Rudy does not belong in front of a camera anymore.
(7) Jenna Ellis needs to become the point person for the political and rhetorical battles ahead. She can manage and control the attention of the audience of “journalists;” she can deliver and score jaw-crushing verbal punches with 80% consistency; and she knows when to quit when she’s ahead.
Optics matter, emotion matters, and image matters.
Proceed with the legal case but punches need to be landed several times a day by people like Ellis who can stun on impact. Social media will not win this. The President is actually his own worst enemy in this instance. Serious professionals in the prime of life with the presence, the energy, and the urgency of Jenna Ellis are who we need to make the political persuasion on a regular basis.
Ellis presents as a pleasant, competent, and highly motivated attorney. She needs to be placed in a more appropriate setting. The harsh lights, the dreadful stagecraft, all of these are non-conscious variables that have been ignored by Republicans since Reagan’s reelection in 1984. It would be too charitable to say that the GOP is a generation behind in grasping and leveraging the power of imagery; the last Republican president who had even a slight feeling for these matters was Teddy Roosevelt.
Henceforth, the mise-en-scène needs to be more “J. P. Morgan conference table” and less “Holiday Inn ball room.”
Again, every pixel on the screen carries emotion and the power to persuade. The President knows this, and it is high time to bear down and drill this home. If not now, when will the persuasion be used?
To sum up—more Jenna; save Sidney for the simple declarations of fact; make sure we get the benefit of Rudy’s strategic acumen off-stage in mapping the battle plan what is apparently a massive, global racketeering operation.
This has to be the posture of the administration henceforth: teeth-clenching restraint in dealing with manifestly ignorant and malicious interlocutors, all expressions delivered with anger-free contempt, and kept to a tightly scripted, brief minimum.
No more promising of future bombs dropping; let them instead guess when they’ll be hit.