NBC News released a report heavily critical of Donald Trump’s campaign. | Getty
You can’t read every email that drops into your inbox. There are just too many. So publicists have learned how to attract attention.
Monday morning, the following news release appeared in my inbox with a ping. It was not made up. It was not spam. It was from MSNBC, and it announced the results of a major investigation by NBC News.
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It had this headline: NBC News Report: ‘Donald Trump Does Not Have a Campaign.’
Which was kind of a surprise. Trump has a campaign plane and campaign rallies and a campaign press corps, so why doesn’t he have a campaign?
It’s like owning a Rolls-Royce and never driving it.
The news release began: “According to a new Decision 2016 NBC News report headlined ‘Donald Trump does not have a campaign,’ Donald Trump is a candidate without a campaign — and it’s becoming a serious problem.”
(The news release could just as easily have begun by stating: “NBC does not have a person who knows how to write press releases,” but I don’t want to be snarky.)
The report went on:
“Republicans working to elect Trump describe a bare-bones effort debilitated by infighting, a lack of staff to carry out basic functions, minimal coordination with allies and a message that’s prisoner to Trump’s momentary whims.
“‘Bottom line, you can hire all the top people in the world, but to what end? Trump does what he wants,’” a source close to the campaign said.
I know it is shocking to have a candidate who “does what he wants,” but the alternative is to have dimwit staff members doing what they want.
True, Trump presents serious problems as a candidate. He’s a bigot. He does not understand world affairs. And he does not understand domestic affairs.
But that is not the problem, according to his staff. The problem is that Trump has “a message that’s prisoner to Trump’s momentary whims” instead of being prisoner to his staff’s momentary whims.
Which raises the question: If Trump is such a bad campaigner and “Does Not Have a Campaign,” how has he done so well?
Trump locked up the Republican nomination in late May, while Hillary Clinton — who has a staff the size of Sacramento — had to go into June seeking a final victory.
The NBC report also severely criticized Trump’s handling of the Trump University scandal.
The report said: “Aides appeared unprepared for the Trump University story last week, despite knowing in advance that unsealed court documents would reveal explosive allegations of fraud. Beyond a short video of former students praising the program that was posted online, the campaign offered scant pushback.
“The absence of a response to the Trump U story left the candidate to fill the vacuum with a torrent of demagoguery against the federal judge overseeing the case, Gonzalo Curiel, who Trump said was biased by his ‘Mexican heritage,’ despite his Indiana birthplace.”
But if Trump had a huge staff, could that staff have prevented him from unleashing “a torrent of demagoguery”? Yes. If it wrapped him in a torrent of duct tape.
The report does throw Trump a few bones. “Despite the campaign’s sluggish start, Trump supporters stressed that his unique gifts, especially his ability to command media attention via Twitter and cable news, give him some leeway to bypass ordinary campaign methods. They also are encouraged by polls that show Trump competitive with likely Democratic rival Hillary Clinton and Republican voters largely united, despite the bruising primary.”
Which is another way of saying: “Hey, this guy is a complete tool, but he’s awfully good at it.”
And, in fact, Trump sent out a tweet that shows how deft he is at social media (despite the usual typos): “I am getting bad marks from certain pundits because. I have a small campaign staff. But small is good, flexible, save money and number one! Donald J. Trump.”
NBC thinks Trump should seek other sources of wisdom, including aides from other past campaigns. Remember that terrific Mitt Romney campaign of 2012, for instance?
The NBC report said: “The Romney campaign, for example, helped push coverage of Obama’s ‘You didn’t build that’ quote by organizing events with supporters in the business community in swing states around the country.”
I see one problem with that analysis, however. The “You didn’t build that” attack was exceptionally stupid and ineffective even by Romney campaign standards.
But do not despair. “The good news for Trump is that it can only get better from here,” NBC concludes.
Which is true. All the Trump campaign needs to do is hire a top adviser to answer criticism with erudite, eloquent, articulate and convincing responses.
Anybody know what Sarah Palin is doing these days?
Roger Simon is POLITICO’s chief political columnist.