This is not a political post… although it references politics. It is not a referendum on Mr. Trump. It is a commentary on how to handle a crisis.
Advice to any business leader when you’re under attack, when the walls are crashing in around you, when you are feeling great heat… don’t act alone. Don’t act rashly. And don’t, whatever you do don’t help your enemy.
Napoleon (Bonaparte, not Dynamite) famously said,
“Never interupt your enemy when he’s making mistakes.”
A particularly Machavillian boss I once had said,
“When your enemy is burning, hand him gasoline to put out the fire.”
Rightly or wrongly, Mr. Trump is under attack. Until last week, that attack was dominantly partisan. Then last week, in the midst of the Ukraine Scandal, the president announced he was going to remove our forces working with our allies, the Kurds from Syria. A story that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters like Lindsey Graham, Mitch McConnell, and conservative media Rupert Murdoch’s, Wall Street Journal and The Washington Examiner condemned.
If President Trump withdraws all our forces from Syria he will pave the way for ISIS reemergence, abandon a valuable ally in the Kurds, and make Iran the biggest winner. https://t.co/vnexfCAu0h
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) October 15, 2019
It would appear that this action created a rare moment of bipartisan cooperation creating a rare moment where a propensity of House Republican’s Agreed with House Democrats in a motion to condemn Trump’s withdrawal from Syria. The vote was 354 Yea and 60 Nay. 129 Republicans voted to condemn the action with only 60 voting against.
A month ago, a whistle-blower reported that Mr. Trump was negotiating a quid-pro-quo agreement with the President of Ukraine. The whistleblower was said to have second-hand, hearsay knowledge of the act.
While questioning the veracity of the whistleblower, and to defend himself against the allegations, Mr. Trump released a partial transcript of the call that corroborated the allegations of the whistleblower. After Ukrainian President Zelensky asked Mr. Trump to stop holding the defense aid that Congress had voted to send to Ukraine the President reported he said,
“I would like you to do us a favor though because our country has been through a lot and Ukraine knows a lot about it. I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike … I guess you have one of your wealthy people … The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation. I think you’re surrounding yourself with some of the same people. I would like to have the Attorney General call you or your people and I would like you to get to the bottom of it. As you said yesterday, that whole nonsense ended with a very poor performance by a man named Robert Mueller, an incompetent performance, but they say a lot of it started with Ukraine. Whatever you can do, it’s very important that you do it if that’s possible.”
Those words, “I would like you to do us a favor though,” made it appear that Mr. Trump would release the appropriated aid, in exchange for a favor that would help Trump attack his political rivals.
Who advised him to do that? Instead of bolstering Trump’s position, this move appeared to give credence to Trump’s adversaries and appears to validate the accusations of a second-hand whistle-blower who was said to have hearsay knowledge. Hearsay is not allowed in court.
Just a couple of weeks later, after a phone conversation with President Erdoğan of Turkey. Mr. Trump announced he would remove our troops from Syria, in effect removing Erdoğan’s sole impediment to attacking our allies… the Kurds. Virtually paving the way for Turkey to enter Kurdish held Syrian territories. Mr. Trump vehemently denies that he gave Turkey the green light. In his defense, and to validate himself as a strong and thoughtful leader, Trump released the following letter to the President of Turkey.
Dear Mr. President:
Let’s work out a good deal! You don’t want to be responsible for slaughtering thousands of people and I don’t want to be responsible for destroying the Turkish economy–and I will. I’ve already given you a little sample with respect to Pastor Brunson.
I have worked hard to solve some of your problems. Don’t let the world down. You can make a great deal. General Mazloum is willing to negotiate with you, and he is willing to make concessions that they would never have made in the past. I am confidentially enclosing a copy of his letter to me, just received.
History will look upon you favorably if you get this done the right and humane way. It will look upon you forever as the devil if good things don’t happen. Don’t be a tough guy. Don’t be a fool!
I will call you later.
The president of Turkey reportedly read the letter, threw it in the trash and promptly launched an attack against the Kurds. What PR aid advised the President that this letter would bolster his case as a thoughtful and strong leader?
In response, Hillary Clinton mocked Mr. Trump with a tweet that included a mock letter to Nikita Kruschev from JFK that read:
Dear Premier Khrushchev,
.Don’t be a dick, ok? Get your missiles out of Cuba. Everybody will say “Yay! Khrushchev! You’re the best” But if you don’t everybody will be like “what an asshole” and call your garbage country “The Soviet Bunion.”
You’re really busting my nuts here.
Give you a jingle later.
Found in the archives… pic.twitter.com/iFFeqloYHM
— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) October 20, 2019
Finally, in a meeting with congressional leaders, there was an incident in a recent meeting between congressional leaders, the President and members of the President’s cabinet. Things quickly went off the rails. One story is Nancy Pelosi had a meltdown and the other story was Trump had a meltdown.
To defend his position, Mr. Trump tweeted, “Nervous Nancy” had an unhinged meltdown. As proof, he included a picture (seen below).
Speaker Pelosi promptly and proudly took that picture and made it the header of her twitter handle (see below). She viewed that photo as the demonstration of a strong leader lecturing a school child.
I am uncharacteristically not going to take sides in this fight and yet, I’d ask you to look at that room… there were men in that room that seemed ashamed to be there.
Donald Trump is awash with issues. And if he is getting advice and following that advice, whoever is advising him… is advising him to pour gasoline on that fire.
Here’s the thing… when all around you is going wrong, acting quickly is the wrong thing. Acting out of panic or emotion is unwise Acting alone without good counsel is folly. (see how to handle a pr crisis here). In the case of the latest issues for Mr. Trump… he seems to be engulfed in flames and drinking gasoline to put it out is not the answer. If I was he, I’d sue whoever is advising me on PR crisis management for malpractice. Even if I had to sue myself.