Feb 21, 2017

Trump's one big chance for a reset

Andrew Harnik / AP

For all the talk of resets for President Trump, there's just one that matters, at least on Capitol Hill — one big chance to steady a wobbly agenda. A week from tonight, Trump addresses Congress for the first time — the ceremonial joint session known as State of the Union except in a president's first year.

We're told Trump worked on the address at Mar-a-Lago this weekend. Four "musts" for Trump, based on conversations with advisers:

  1. Come across as someone who can get stuff done. You'll never be seen as a statesman or unifier — don't bother trying. But Republicans need their confidence bolstered that the GOP-controlled government can deliver Obamacare repeal-and-replace and tax reform. If you do that, plus win confirmation of your Supreme Court nominee, nothing else will matter -- your Hill game will be a hit with the party and GOP critics will forgive other sins.
  2. Get past campaign rhetoric and be specific. Lawmakers consider it insulting to be barraged with slogans instead of substance.
  3. Keep cool, in both rhetoric and body language. Command respect from fellow Rs — you don't want GOP or independent voters at home seeing expressions of disapproval from your own party. And be prepared for a "You lie" moment, like the startling rebuke yelled at Obama by House Republican Joe Wilson during a health care speech to a joint session in 2009. The moment you mention walls or travel bans or deportation, brace yourself and don't take the bait.
  4. Spotlight your Cabinet and stack the front row with your national security team. Nothing reassures Republican skeptics like seeing Defense Secretary Mattis or Homeland Security Secretary Kelly or SecState Tillerson or the national security adviser you named yesterday, Army Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, who won praise from Richard Haas, John McCain, Tom Ricks, etc.

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