The Rise and 'Absolutely Terrible' Fall of Donald Trump, Master Propagandist

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Ad Age "Media Guy" columnist Simon Dumenco's media roundup for the morning of Wednesday, August 2:

Today's accidental theme, dear reader, is spin -- as in deft spin (No. 6), inept spin (Nos. 3 and 4), spin about "transformation" (No. 1) and counterspin (No. 7). Feeling dizzy and nauseous? That's normal. (Take two aspirin and read me in the morning.) Anyway, let's get started ...

1. "Time Inc. is about to name a new C-suite executive -- a chief transformation officer," Keith Kelly reports in his "Media Ink" column in this morning's New York Post. "The move is expected to be made by next week's earnings report, according to well-placed sources. ... The CTO will be charged with implementing many of the recommendations made by consulting giant McKinsey & Co., sources said, including shaving $300 million in costs."

2. Speaking of Time Inc., a story in the Aug. 7 issue of its Sports Illustrated (and hosted on the website of SI's Time Inc. sibling Golf magazine) is making noise thanks to one particular detail (bolded below) that comes in the 24th paragraph. In his piece politely headlined "First Golfer: Donald Trump's relationship with golf has never been more complicated," Alan Shipnuck writes of Trump's golf club in Bedminster, N.J.:

During election season, Bedminster morphed into a kind of permanent campaign rally site. Trump posters and bumper stickers were plastered across the property, and an anti-Hillary shrine was built in a bar in the men's locker room. ... As President, Trump has already made four visits to the club. He has his own cottage adjacent to the pool; it was recently given a secure perimeter by the Secret Service, leading to the inevitable joke that it's the only wall Trump has successfully built. Chatting with some members before a recent round of golf, he explained his frequent appearances: "That White House is a real dump." (A White House spokesperson denies this occurred.)

3. In a column published this morning at titled "Trump has lost his gift for propaganda," Paul Waldman writes that "you can't deny that when he ran for president, Trump displayed a kind of mad genius for propaganda," citing the way he branded opponents with belittling nicknames ("childish and stupid, but they worked") and his "extraordinarily powerful" campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again." But that was then, this is now. Waldman continues,

Yet in office, Trump has turned out to be an absolutely terrible propagandist. He can't convince the public to get behind his policy agenda -- his party's health-care bill scored as low as 12 percent approval in polls -- while his personal popularity languishes in the 30s. Every time he's interviewed he blurts out something damaging, like the time he admitted on national television that he fired FBI Director James Comey because he wanted the Russia investigation to disappear. These days it seems that half the speeches he gives are followed by public apologies from the people who invited him, whether it's the Boy Scouts or the police.

Waldman also cites the president's "ham-handed attempt at deception" in dictating the spin on Trump Jr.'s notorious Russia meeting (see The Washington Post item in yesterday's media roundup). Speaking of which ...

4. "Ex-Watergate prosecutor: Trump Jr. statement like a fake sick note," via The Hill.

5. In media-about-media-about Trump news, "Politico embarrasses WSJ by publishing Trump transcript," per the Columbia Jounalism Review. Pete Vernon writes that The Wall Street Journal's July 25 interview with the president ...

... was a golden opportunity to reestablish the Journal's political reporting bonafides and catch up on a story where it has fallen behind its competitors, and indeed the Journal broke standalone stories on several newsy details from the interview. But the Journal published only excerpts of the interview, deciding not [to] follow the precedent set by other news outlets in releasing a full or lightly edited transcript of its own Oval Office interview. It took the work of reporters from a different outlet -- Politico's Hadas Gold and Josh Dawsey, who on Tuesday published a full transcript of the Journal's interview with Trump -- for the public to find out everything that was said. There was still meat on the proverbial carcass of the interview, including banter that provides new fodder to the newspaper's critics. In fact, the very leak of the transcript suggests internal turmoil over the coverage.

6. Well done, Mr. Cook! "Tim Cook offered a master class in avoiding a Trump-related question," per Quartz.

7. And finally ... "I am now going to go dark. Then I will reemerge. As me." --shortlived White House comms director Anthony Scaramucci in an interview with HuffPost's Vicky Ward.

+ this 2012 Scaramucci tweet, which has been rediscovered by the Twitterati and has been a getting a fresh surge of retweets and hearts:

Thanks to Ann-Christine Diaz, Laurel Wentz, Jessica Wohl and Chen Wu for their roundup suggestions.

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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