Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Davos and Worldwide Opinion of U.S.

State of the Union speeches are important events in presidential careers. It was even a greater opportunity and threat for this president. Donald Trump’s joint session speech in February 2017 was one of the highpoints in the chaos of the first month. But as Trump begins his second year, his approval number remains low and a sense of foreboding has crept into Republican calculations that, regardless of policy successes like tax reform, his style will be a drag on the party in November.

To maximize the value of a State of the Union speeches, presidents and their staff design both before and after public relations strategies to shore up some weaknesses, highlight strengths and present new initiatives. Davos was an opportunity, for example, because it commanded the attention of people who value the worldwide economic surge, but have reservations of Trump’s policies and personality.

Davos Repositioning
Trump’s public relations effort began as he walked out the door of the White House to jet to Switzerland. It offered a well-timed forum to claim he wanted to testify under oath with the Mueller investigation (major conditions) and had a plan for DACA immigrants (major attachments). While in Davos, the repositioning continued as he said international treaties, like TPP and climate change, were agreements the U.S. was still amendable to join under the right conditions. Further, he said nice things to Theresa May to repair his ham-handed damage to the British relationship and possibly wheedle an invitation to the royal wedding. And, of course, he gave a toned down speech written more by Gary Cohn and H.R. McMaster than Steve Miller or remnants of the Steve Bannon crowd.

Decline in U.S. Approval, America First and President Trump
Davos was a success, which Trump will use to counter the broad international criticism he has engendered in his first year. It would be difficult to drive down worldwide public opinion more effectively than Trump did. The latest worldwide Gallup Poll shows an 18 percentage point drop in the credibility of the U.S. worldwide, from 48 percent in 2016 to 30 percent now (a reader pointed out it's a 37.5% drop). America’s credibility is 4 points lower than in President Bush’s last year (2008). The U.S. joins Russia in low approval.

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