Somebody close to President Donald Trump could, in a burst of candor, tell him that he does not know everything to be known about the history of the filibuster in the United States Senate — or even the origin of the infield fly rule in Major League Baseball.
But nobody, absolutely nobody, should ever dare to suggest that this president has not completely mastered everything there is to know about American popular television. Lest we forget, only one American president, before he came to office, was the host/star/dominant personality for 14 years of a network prime-time TV show, which, in its debut season, actually averaged 20 million viewers a show. That was Donald Trump's The Apprentice.
So, how to explain, in the midst of this once-in-a-century pandemic that has paralyzed the world, why Trump, who leads two-hour televised briefings on what our — make that his, when there's good news to deliver — federal government is doing to save lives and find a cure, has watched his own poll ratings drop.
Trump is the lone elected executive who's using daily television briefings to inform her or his constituents whose job-rating numbers are dropping. When asked how "your state's governor" was leading in the midst of the coronavirus terror, 74 percent of Americans — both Republicans and Democrats — gave their state's leader a positive rating, while Trump's numbers, after an initial blip up, have fallen to 46 percent favorable and 51 percent unfavorable.
This is not a partisan matter. In the swing state of New Hampshire, where just 41 percent of voters approve of the president's leadership on the virus, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu wins high marks from 73 percent of his constituents (including 61% of Democrats), and in Ohio, Republican Gov. Mike Dewine, who does a daily TV briefing in his signature low-key manner, has won 80% approval for his leadership in the most recent state poll. New York's Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, does a daily televised briefing — brimming with facts, encouragement, empathy and good grammar — and, in one recent poll, won the approval of 81 percent of New Yorkers.
What these governors do not include in their reports to the citizens are attacks on political opponents, large dollops of self-pity about how they are not appreciated, personal smears of reporters who dare to ask an unflattering question or deliberately inaccurate misinformation. These governors are more concerned about how the families and communities in their states are coping, and how the public sector can be more helpful, than they are about censuring anyone who failed to appreciate their flawless leadership.
Sorry, Mr. President, I know it's painful to confront, but you are not "good" on television in the spring of 2020. Your daily exposure on the tube is not helping the situation. Politically, you're hurting yourself and only helping Joe Biden and the Democrats.
To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.
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