For all the whiplash-inducing pivots and flip-flops that have come to define Trumpiness during Donald J. Trump's first 100 days as president of the United States, the idea that he's unpredictable is beginning to wear thin in some ways. You've actually got to give the man credit for one big streak of pre- and postelection consistency: His brand, more than ever, is about disparagement.
Just four days after Trump was elected president, Dave Chappelle hosted "Saturday Night Live" and nailed it in his opening monologue: "America's done it -- we've actually elected an internet troll as our president."
Pre-politics, the Trump brand was synonymous with a certain sort of gaudy, gilded luxury; it was arriviste, but it had swagger. From mid-2015 on, it became a gaudy, gilded brand that seeks self-aggrandizement through the systematic trash-talking of any and all competition.
On the campaign trail, Trump vanquished his political opponents with schoolyard taunts (Lyin' Ted, Little Marco). As president, he's mostly focused his attacks on the "enemy of the people" media -- the "failing @nytimes," "fake news CNN," "Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd."
It's about branding as anti-branding: You build your own brand by tearing down, by undermining, others.' If Donald Trump was an adman, he'd advise Volvo to do a campaign deriding competitors' cars as deathtraps and urge McDonald's to call the Whopper a soggy pile of horsemeat.
Brand Trump has also, paradoxically, become about self-pity. Yes, the first billionaire president, living rent-free in our nation's most lavish public housing complex and dining and traveling on our tab, constantly feels sorry for himself -- because of all the meanies. "Just had a very open and successful presidential election," he tweeted in January. "Now professional protesters, incited by the media, are protesting. Very unfair!" And in April: "I did what was an almost an impossible thing to do for a Republican -- easily won the Electoral College! Now Tax Returns are brought up again?"
He's perpetually under siege, forever the victim of wrongdoing. "How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process," he tweeted March 4. "This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!"
He scowls, he pouts, he acts put-upon. "I loved my previous life," Trump told Reuters on Thursday. "I had so many things going. This is more work than in my previous life. I thought it would be easier."
I do and I do and I do for you kids, and this is the thanks that I get?
As a candidate, Trump was America's most prominent, certainly most quoted, bully; ascending to the highest office in the land has done absolutely nothing to temper his worst impulses. If anything, he's doubled down and surrounded himself with similarly pugilistic loyalists (Sean Spicer, Kellyanne Conway, Steve Bannon) who are likewise engaged in their own branding-as-anti-branding projects.
And as far as Trump's concerned, he's a winner -- a winner of historic proportions -- who is still winning day in and day out, because any negative polls must be fake, any protests against him contrived, any failures of his agenda merely momentary delays ("Eventually, but at a later date so we can get started early," he tweeted a week ago, "Mexico will be paying, in some form, for the badly needed border wall").
If Trump's first 100 days have amounted to a doubling down of his Trumpiness -- an utterly unapologetic reassertion of Trump brand values -- what can he do during his second 100 days? Easy: Triple down. Or quadruple down.
He'll do whatever the hell he wants. So will his team. And they'll do it bigly. They've already rebranded/repositioned the very notion of reality, so why not keep going?
Read on for some defining PR/branding moments from the Trump administration's first 100 days plus some predictions about the next 100 days.
My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!