Dear Mr. President.
I have some more friendly but important advice for you. It’s not about your itchy twitter finger or your golf game. I’ll take the great Ernie Els’ word for it that you don’t need any golf tips from me. After Els played a round with you at Trump National Golf Club in Florida earlier this year, he said you were “a proper golfer” who “swings the golf club properly and hits iron shots properly.”
My advice is purely political and it’s based on several decades of watching and working with my father.
If you want to achieve two of the most important goals of your new administration - genuine healthcare reform and real tax reform - you’ve got to understand and appreciate what my father knew instinctively: In presidential politics, perception is more important than reality.
I saw my father put that simple truth into practice back during an international crisis in 1985. He and Nancy were planning to leave the White House in June to spend a few days at Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara. But on June 14 a group of Lebanese terrorists with guns and grenades hijacked a TWA flight from Athens to Rome and forced it to land in Beirut. While the world watched the news reports, the plane flew around the Middle East for three days.
The terrorists beat passengers and threatened to kill them unless the Israeli government released about 700 Shiite prisoners. The hostages were released over the next two weeks, but an American, Navy diver Robert Stethem, was shot in the head and his body was dumped on the runway.
My father could have flown out to California as he planned. His ranch was the Western White House and it had the same set-up as his office in Washington. The reality was that he could go there, monitor the TWA hijacking situation and also relax by cutting brush or riding his horse.
But the perception to the world would have been that he had gone on vacation while an American plane was being hijacked and dozens of innocent people were at risk. He decided it’d be better for him politically to stay in the White House and monitor the situation from there. He understood reality vs. perception.
Mr. President, I offer this advice because of two things your administration has done wrong recently -- not making the White House visitor logs available to the media and not showing the public your income tax returns.
The reality is that the law backs you up on both cases, but the perception is you are hiding something.
What’s worse, you are allowing the news media to keep pushing that perception out to the public. The liberal media are going to be against everything you do from now until the end of your second term, but you don’t have to write their articles for them. If you keep allowing bad publicity on the issues of the White House logs and your tax returns to get in the way of your agenda, you’re going to be hard-pressed to get tax reform or anything else you want through Congress.
If I were your chief of staff, I’d have told you it was horrible politics to shut off the White House logs to the public. If you must do it, do it later - after you’ve passed health care reform or tax reform.
The reality is, you won’t get your tax policy through until people stop perceiving you are hiding something in your taxes. The only way that’ll happen is if you release them ASAP.
It’s not about the law, Mr. President. It’s not about reality. It’s all about perception. And that’s something you can learn from my father -- and from me.