To say that Trump “exudes positive energy” is to ignore the whole premise of his campaign. He would not need to “Make America Great Again” if America were currently great — and Trump made very clear that he believes it is not.
“When was the last time America was great?” NBC's Chuck Todd asked early in the campaign. “I would say that during the administration of Ronald Reagan, you felt proud to be an American,” Trump replied. “You felt really proud. I don't think since then, to any great extent, people were proud.”
At the GOP convention last summer, Trump declared that “it is finally time for a straightforward assessment of the state of our nation.” His assessment was that the country is in “crisis” in virtually every way.
“Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” Trump said.
The message clearly resonated with many voters; that's why Trump is president. But he didn't win by being positive. He won by claiming everything is a mess.
And what's this nonsense about making people “feel special”? Trump doesn't care about hurting people's feelings — and his supporters love him for it.
When Megyn Kelly listed a few of the many barbs Trump had directed at women over the years, during the first debate of the Republican primary, this was the billionaire's response: “I think the big problem this country has is being politically correct. I've been challenged by so many people, and I don't frankly have time for total political correctness. And to be honest with you, this country doesn't have time either.”
The crowd of Republicans in Cleveland applauded Trump's answer.
Hicks's statement reflects a White House without a clear political identity or message — no surprise, given that communications director Mike Dubke just resigned. The statement seems purely reflexive. The media is saying one thing, so let's say the exact opposite.
That's not a viable strategy, and it's not what has worked for Trump in the past. A more Trump-like response would have been to spin his abrasiveness as a positive. The president and his staff are totally focused on Making America Great Again. They are not worried about their own feelings.
Instead, we got a statement that shows the White House press shop to be rudderless.