In a development that comes as a surprise to nobody, White House communications director, Bill Shine, has decided to spend more time with his family and less time being humiliated by Donald Trump. Trump’s first communications director, Sean Spicer, blew up his credibility on day one by following Trump’s orders to tell the national press corps that Trump pulled the largest inaugural crowd in history. In February 2017, Spicer gave the communications director job to William Dubke, who gave it back to Spicer when he resigned in May. On July 21, Spicer was replaced by Anthony Scaramucci, who left after ten days, and was replaced in August by Hope Hicks, who resigned last February, in favor of Shine last July.
Throughout these five or six (depending on how you count Spicer’s two nonconsecutive terms) press chiefs, Trump has had consistently abysmal coverage in the non-party-controlled media. Trump has analyzed the pattern and identified the one constant: His many communications directors keep somehow failing to get the media to show what an honest, well-informed, compassionate president he truly is.
Trump reportedly hired Shine at the recommendation of their mutual buddy, Sean Hannity. But, as he always does, Trump began to blame Shine for failing to turn Trump’s horrible decisions into glowing press coverage. In December, Trump spurned the pleas of party leaders and impulsively announced he was shutting down the government and would accept all the blame for doing so. Shine’s effort to rescue the situation consisted of arranging a trip to the border. Trump “spun” the trip to news broadcasters in a private meeting by telling them “these people behind you” (pointing at Shine) had arranged the photo op that was “not going to change a damn thing.”
Trump has spent months complaining about Shine’s work, even grousing “he was sold a bill of goods by Hannity.”
It’s maybe just possible that the best place to get advice on how to win over skeptical journalists is not the man who is so comically obsequious that he introduces Trump at rallies he is supposedly covering and who was privately assessed by Trump as rating a 10 out of 10 for loyalty.
It’s also possible that Trump’s communications directors aren’t the problem. It’s presumably difficult to generate a lot of positive press attention when you’re the subject of so many different criminal and ethical investigations that your best single communications asset is the media’s inability to keep track of them all. Eliminating all the crimes would be a big ask, but maybe Trump should consider doing fewer?