During the transition of newly elected US president Donald Trump, ‘landing teams’ reviewed each major agency. Substantial changes and cuts were quick to materialise in a so-called ‘skinny budget’. While those amounts are being refined, presidential executive orders have come rapidly, and these orders have generated substantial controversy in an increasingly partisan environment.
Dysfunction was especially noticeable when a temporary seven-nation travel ban and refugee pause was unfortunately branded as a Muslim travel ban. Well-funded and enabled by social media, lawyers and activists quickly tapped into a reservoir of anti-Trump sentiment to defend inclusiveness. The volume of this criticism was amplified by conflicting media reports, perhaps based on comments from second and third tier sources – political, international and other opinion leaders – as well implementing officials. Democrat politicians rushed to catch up and get in front of the protesting parade.
Normally, a White House message management task is to get some number of second- and third-tier sources on board early. In this case, that did not seem to happen. There was no apparent effort to reach out to a business community whose leadership is best described as committed to diversity and globalisation. There is also an undercurrent of uncertainty; does calling for 'America first' run contrary to either of these tenets?
Nevertheless, many business leaders are likely to remain comforted that one of the president’s overarching goals is to make the US increasingly business-friendly. Mr Trump knows that to add jobs, to create employees, you need healthy employers – hence, his executive order to reduce regulations and a promise of tax reduction later this year.
In the interim, when confronted with controversy, a Washington tactic is to change the subject; the Supreme Court announcement was accelerated by several days to push the travel ban story off page one.
Daniel Malachuk works with business and government leaders on global direct investment strategies. He has advised many of the world’s leading companies and served in the public sector as director of White House operations. Email: email@example.com