'His standard playbook': How Trump spent the week of the DNC on counterprogramming

As leaders on both sides of the political aisle criticized Donald Trump while praising Joe Biden at this week’s virtual Democratic National Convention, the president did his best to steal the spotlight with a range of calculated counterprogramming events and statements.

“Trump is going back to his standard playbook, which is, rattle the cage,” Tobe Berkovitz, a Boston University professor who specializes in political communications, told Yahoo News. “Try to be disruptive, try to force attention on himself, his message and to try to attack whoever his target happens to be. So what he’s doing is very typical of his type of strategy.”

On its first two nights, the DNC featured speeches from former first lady Michelle Obama, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, Sen. Bernie Sanders and many others. While the speeches focused primarily on promoting Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, they also warned of the threat of another Trump presidency.

Long known to hit back at any and all criticism, Trump made sure to respond to the slights made against him at the convention. While speaking to reporters on Monday, Trump called Kasich a “major loser” ahead of Kasich’s DNC speech.

“He was a loser as a Republican and he’ll be a loser as a Democrat,” Trump said. “Major loser as a Republican. I guess you can quote me on that. John was a loser as a Republican. Never even came close. And as a Democrat, he’ll be an even greater loser.” Kasich, who is not a Democrat, was among several former Republican leaders to speak at the convention.

At a rally in Oshkosh, Wis., on Monday, Trump seemed intent on making headlines of his own, suggesting he should he should get eight more years in office because, he claimed, Democrats spied on his 2016 presidential campaign. He made a similar assertion at an event Tuesday in Arizona, adding that he was “entitled” to a third term.

On Monday, Trump teased a pardon for a “very, very important” person. A day later, at a White House event commemorating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, he pardoned Susan B. Anthony — a move that, according to ABC News, some historians say goes against Anthony’s legacy. At that event, Trump also said Michelle Obama, who spoke on Monday, was in “over her head” and said her speech was “divisive,” according to Politico.

Donald Trump
Trump addressing a crowd of supporters in Arizona on Tuesday. (Matt York/AP)

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted his displeasure that there will be a congressional hearing next Monday — during which Postmaster General Louis DeJoy will appear before the House — on the same day that the Republican National Convention is scheduled to begin.

“Why are Republicans allowing the Democrats to have ridiculous Post Office hearings on Saturday & Monday, just before and during our Convention,” Trump tweeted. (The Senate hearing is scheduled for Friday) “Let them hold them NOW (during their Convention) or after our Convention is over. Always playing right into their hands!”

He also picked a fight with the Goodyear corporation on Wednesday, suggesting on Twitter that the tire maker was preventing employees from using his trademark “Make America Great Again” slogan on the job. The tweet prompted a statement from the company.

With the third night of the DNC getting underway, Trump pushed back the start of a last-minute press briefing Wednesday so that the two events bled into one another. At the briefing, Trump spoke of his efforts to curtail the Iranian regime, announcing that his administration intends to “restore virtually all of the previously suspended United Nations sanctions on Iran.”

He took his time and answered questions from the press, including a few about Goodyear. When asked about his tweets, Trump said Goodyear is “playing politics” and said he would stop using the company’s tires, if given the opportunity.

But, on Goodyear, Trump’s counterprogramming gave Biden’s campaign another opening to attack him. Biden’s campaign released a statement during the briefing slamming Trump for the remarks.

“Goodyear employs thousands of American workers, including in Ohio where it is headquartered,” the statement said. “To President Trump, those workers and their jobs aren't a source of pride, just collateral damage in yet another one of his political attacks.”

Although typical for Trump, his counterattacks this week are somewhat remarkable for a sitting president. Compared to earlier party conventions, it’s unusual for the presidents themselves to respond to what’s being said and occurring at the other party’s events, said Todd Belt, a professor at the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University .

“Generally, the president governs and the campaign responds,” Belt told Yahoo News. “That’s usually how it is. But all is one in the world of Trump. He’s going to respond and the campaign is going to respond. He’s not going to just let things go on unchallenged.”

Former President Barack Obama and Sen. Kamala Harris are expected to speak on Wednesday, when Harris is also scheduled to accept the nomination for vice president. Next week, the Republican National Convention will occur virtually, with speeches expected from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and others.


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