“Chaos” And “Disaster”: Media Contextualize Lewandowski’s Firing Amid Larger Trump Campaign Disarray
Research ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY
Media figures noted that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s decision to fire his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, is “not normal” “at this stage in campaigns” and “speaks to the chaos that has been unfolding inside the campaign.”
Trump Fires Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski
NY Times: Lewandowski Fired As Trump “Faces Challenges” Heading Into The General Election. The New York Times reported that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump fired his campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, amid “increasing concerns from allies and donors, as well as [Trump’s] children, about the next phase of the campaign.” The Times noted that Lewandowski was a “contentious campaign manager” who had a “hostile relationship” with the press and “strained relationships” with officials at the Republican National Committee. He also butted heads with other advisors on Trump’s campaign. From the June 20 New York Times report:
Donald J. Trump has fired his divisive campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, a move that comes as the presumptive Republican nominee faces challenges as he heads into the general election.
Mr. Lewandowski could not immediately be reached for comment about his departure, which was announced by the campaign.
“The Donald J. Trump Campaign for President, which has set a historic record in the Republican primary having received almost 14 million votes, has today announced that Corey Lewandowski will no longer be working with the campaign,” the campaign spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said in a statement. “The campaign is grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”
With the Republican National Convention looming next month, Mr. Trump is facing the task of broadening his team to include people with previous presidential campaign experience. Mr. Trump also has been turning his attention to fund-raising for the first time, a task that Mr. Lewandowski had assumed oversight of and one that has gone slowly for the campaign. The campaign has aired no ads in the general election and there has been no “super PAC” that received a clear public blessing from Mr. Trump and his top advisers.
The loss of Mr. Lewandowski was intended as part of a larger shift toward the final sprint of the race, according to those briefed on the matter.
Mr. Trump had faced increasing concerns from allies and donors, as well as his children, about the next phase of the campaign. It is a move that could reassure donors and Republicans more broadly that he can adjust toward a November election strategy.
Two people briefed on the move, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that Mr. Lewandowski was fired.
The campaign manager was seen as having a hostile relationship with many members of the national press corps who cover Mr. Trump, and many officials at the Republican National Committee had strained relationships with him.
And Mr. Lewandowski was often at odds with Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Paul Manafort, who was brought on in March when the candidate seemed poised for a lengthy fight over delegates. [New York Times, 6/20/16]
Media Figures Say Lewandowski’s Firing Shows The Trump Campaign “Is An Organized Circus Of Chaos”
Fox Regular Larry Sabato: “Another Disaster For The Trump Campaign.” Fox News regular Larry Sabato, a professor at the University of Virginia, said Lewandowski’s firing was “another disaster” for Trump’s “deeply troubled” campaign, which he said is struggling with “so much more than” just Lewandowski’s leadership. He called the campaign “under-funded” and not “properly organized,” and said it lacks advertising efforts. From the June 20 edition of CNN’s CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello:
LARRY SABATO: This is another disaster for the Trump campaign. That campaign is deeply troubled. It goes well beyond Corey Lewandowski and whether he is campaign manager. Campaigns simply don't work well with a two-headed or three-headed hydra. He was kind of co-campaign manager with Paul Manafort, but, Carol, it's so much more than that. This is a campaign that is under-funded, that isn't properly organized. The convention itself is questionable in terms of what it's going to produce and how it's going to produce it, and the Clinton campaign is simply light years ahead of the Trump campaign. Clinton is on air right now with a 20-plus-million-dollar advertising campaign in virtually every swing state, and Trump, exactly zero is being spent on television, which is the easy part and the right thing to do right now. [CNN, CNN Newsroom with Carol Costello, 6/20/16]
MSNBC’s Hallie Jackson: Lewandowski’s Firing “Speaks To The Chaos That Has Been Unfolding Inside The Campaign.” MSNBC correspondent Hallie Jackson said Lewandowski’s firing is “a significant move, and it speaks to the chaos that has been unfolding inside the Trump campaign.” Jackson predicted that the move will “will raise questions ... within the Republican Party and elsewhere about what is happening inside the campaigns.” From the June 20 edition of MSNBC Live:
JOSE DIAZ-BALART (HOST): And Hallie Jackson, remembering that Donald Trump said that he was loyal to his people, and loyal to the end to them. Apparently the end came for the campaign manager. What is going forward going to be the structure of that campaign?
HALLIE JACKSON: Well, here is what I think would happen, Jose, just based on the moves that we've seen inside the campaign so far, and you know that our NBC News team is working on trying to report this out throughout the day. But I would imagine that Paul Manafort would now take on a top role in the campaign. He had been de facto doing a lot of that anyway. He had been named that chief strategist position. He is somebody who is close with Trump. He is somebody who has worked to install people in the campaign to try to work on things like getting out to vote, to try to work on key battleground state staffing, et cetera. So I imagine that he would be the one now to be at Donald Trump's side, as he had been already. Remember, Manafort said right after his hiring that he reports directly to the candidate himself. He did not even at the time report to Lewandowski, so I imagine that you will see Manafort take on an even more visible role.
Hope Hicks remains with the campaign. She is the one who provided that statement to NBC News, confirmed it, as first reported by the Times. Hicks of course is another of the originalists, you could say, somebody who had been with Trump since the beginning inside that Lewandowski camp, but again, what you are even seeing publicly, Jose, even in these last couple of minutes, are advisers, or people close with the campaign, sort of tweeting out their reactions, Either surprise or, in one case at least, some relief that you could read into that, that Lewandowski has now left the campaign.
At this point it will raise questions, I predict, here on Capitol Hill within the Republican Party and elsewhere about what is happening inside the campaigns. What must be happening that now here we are, mid-June, less than a month from the Cleveland convention, and you are -- if you're Donald Trump -- now re-organizing fully your entire campaign. So it is significant, it is a significant move, and it speaks to the chaos that has been unfolding inside the Trump campaign. That is not to say that Paul Manafort, if he in fact comes in, could try not try to re-organize, could not try to make sure that the pieces are in place for Trump moving forward, but it's just a contrast now to what is happening on the Democratic side and for Trump, something that his campaign is certainly going to be dealing with today in New York at Trump Tower moving forward. [MSNBC, MSNBC Live, 6/20/16]
National Review’s Jim Geraghty: “This Is Not A Campaign. This Is An Organized Circus Of Chaos.” National Review contributing editor Jim Geraghty said that “we’re now seeing people practically shooting at each other in rivalries” in Trump’s campaign, which he said “is not a campaign. This is an organized circus of chaos.” From the June 20 edition of CNN’s At This Hour With Berman and Bolduan:
JIM GERAGHTY: You have me at drinking blood from skulls about the mood in this campaign and what a well-oiled machine. You've seen Lincoln's team of rivals. We’re now seeing people practically shooting at each other in rivalries over this. This is not a campaign. This is an organized circus of chaos. [CNN, At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan, 6/20/16]
CNN’s John Berman: “This Does Not Happen At This Stage In Campaigns. … This Is Not Normal.” CNN host John Berman said of the “campaign bombshell” that Lewandowski was fired, “Lest anyone think differently, this does not happen at this stage in campaigns. … This is not normal.” Correspondent Jason Carroll said, “You say this is not normal, but let's be honest, this hasn't been a normal campaign from the very beginning.” From the June 20 edition of CNN’s At This Hour With Berman and Bolduan:
JOHN BERMAN (CO-HOST): Lest anyone think differently, this does not happen at this stage in campaigns.
KATE BOLDUAN (CO-HOST): He's the nominee.
BERMAN: This is not normal. Want to go to CNN’s Jason Carroll live outside Trump Tower here in Manhattan. Campaign bombshell this morning, Jason. What are you learning?
JASON CARROLL: Yeah John, and you say this is not normal, but let's be honest this hasn't been a normal campaign from the very beginning. And in terms of what you're saying, in terms of this being an unusual move, a significant step, just because this is a man who has been involved from the beginning, very loyal to Trump. Trump loyal to him, even as you remember during that whole Breitbart incident with that reporter where he allegedly manhandled that reporter. [CNN, At This Hour with Berman and Bolduan, 6/20/16]
Wash. Post’s Chris Cillizza: Trump Firing Lewandowski Is “Totally Meaningless” Because The Problems In Trump Campaign Stem From The Candidate. Washington Post reporter Chris Cillizza wrote that Lewandowski’s firing “won’t change anything” because “Trump is the campaign manager, chief strategist, lead organizer and every other senior role within the campaign.” Cillizza noted that Lewandowski’s firing is “totally meaningless” because the problems in Trump’s campaign won’t be remedied unless Trump “changes in how he behaves — both toward those in his own party and on the issues facing the country.” From the June 20 Washington Post article:
[T]his move will likely buy Trump a bit of goodwill among Republicans who had been asking for changes — and threatening that if those changes weren't made they might have to publicly walk away from his campaign.
And, it will — Trump hopes — serve as a sort of reset with the broader general electorate, which has increasingly soured on his candidacy as they have become more familiar with it.
Here's the problem as I see it: Trump is the campaign manager, chief strategist, lead organizer and every other senior role within the campaign. (Yes, Lewandowski "managed" the campaign but only in the sense that he executed things that Trump asked him to do. "Campaign implementer" is a more accurate title for what Lewandowski did.)
The only way Trump's campaign changes in any meaningful way then is if Trump himself changes. He's rhetorically flicked at the idea of becoming "more presidential" and insisted that if he is elected president he will act with much more gravitas. But, Trump keeps making that promise — remember how he said he was going to be more presidential once he won the primary? — and not keeping it.
Why? Because people don't change. Especially very successful people who are 70 years old.
Firing Lewandowski is totally meaningless unless, in getting rid of his alter ego, Trump finally makes those long promised changes in how he behaves — both toward those in his own party and on the issues facing the country. It's hard to imagine. [The Washington Post, 6/20/16]
Time Magazine’s Zeke Miller: “Multiple Trump Sources Caution Against Reading Any Large Strategy Changes Into Lewandowski Firing. Was Operational [Dysfunctional]/Personality [Differences].”
Multiple Trump sources caution against reading any large strategy changes into Lewandowski firing. Was operational dysfcn/personality diffs
— Zeke Miller (@ZekeJMiller) June 20, 2016
NY Times’ Nick Confessore: “Who Was The Last Candidate To Win The Presidency After Changing Campaign Manager Post-Primary?”
Who was the last candidate to win the presidency after changing campaign manager post-primary?
— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) June 20, 2016
MSNBC Producer Kyle Griffin: “Trump Staffer Described It As ‘Bedlam In The Trump Campaign. No One Knows What Is Happening.’”
NBC News: Trump staffer described it as "bedlam in the Trump campaign. No one knows what is happening."
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) June 20, 2016
US News’s Peter Roff: “The Candidate Is Ultimately Responsible For Everything That Goes On In His Or Her Campaign. It’s Easy To Blame Subordinates.” U.S. News & World Report contributing editor Peter Roff wrote, “It’s easy to blame subordinates” for a campaign’s troubles, but “the candidate is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in his or her campaign.” Roff concluded that the Trump campaign “will require more than just a change in his campaign’s upper staff” and that the success of a campaign “all depends on the man who wants to be president" showing "the people he’s fit for the job.” From U.S. News & World Report’s June 20 op-ed:
Whether Lewandowski is the scapegoat for the Trump campaign’s recent run of bad numbers or he ended up losing too many internal arguments with the seasoned veterans with whom the candidate has over time surrounded himself will be the subject of much speculation. Only the principals truly know what went on and – in the style of the Akira Kurosawa masterpiece "Rashomon" – each will have a largely self-serving version of the events leading up to his dismissal.
The truism here is the candidate is ultimately responsible for everything that goes on in his or her campaign. It’s easy to blame subordinates. Who did what to whom and why is a parlor game at which those of us who write about politics must become experts. The fact is that just as the man or woman at the top gets the credit when things go well, so too must they shoulder the burden when things go off track. In this case, Trump was doing rather well, exceeding the expectations of many in the GOP establishment, until he started talking about the judge presiding over the Trump University case. His attack on the judge’s heritage – he's born of Mexican parents who immigrated to the United States – was seen by many, including Trump supporters, as unseemly and unfair.
There is still time for Trump to set things right, but it will require more than just a change in his campaign’s upper staff. There’s a lot to be said for bringing on a cadre of political professionals for whom this won’t be their first rodeo. They know how campaigns work, what moves voters, how to go after the opposition, how to build a national network to get the vote out on Election Day, and all the other essentials that make up a successful run for public office. What they don’t know – what no campaign manager or consultant really knows – is how to make a candidate listen to advice and take it. That’s always something of a crap shoot in which no adviser, no matter how experienced and no matter how senior, can be certain of rolling a seven.
The burden is now on Trump to show he can be disciplined and can win back those he’s alienated by making the campaign, even for just one brief moment, about him instead of about America. Changing campaign managers may help. Bringing on a seasoned professional to manage the surrogates (the people who speak on a candidate’s behalf before groups and on television) may also be a boost. Ultimately though, it all depends on the man who wants to be president to show the people he’s fit for the job and is not in it for himself. [U.S. News & World Report, 6/21/16]
Wash. Post’s Paul Waldman: “No Aide Or Lackey Is Going To Tell Trump What To Do. And That’s Trump’s Biggest Problem.” In an op-ed titled “Unable to fire the man responsible for his campaign’s problems, Trump boots ineffectual underling instead,” The Washington Post’s Paul Waldman wrote that “the utter futility of” Lewandowski’s firing “only highlights how different [Trump’s] campaign is from that of everyone else who has run for president in modern times.” Waldman added that the Trump campaign’s “missteps” have stemmed from “Donald Trump himself, opening his mouth and saying what he really thought, to the horror of almost everyone.” From The Washington Post’s June 20 op-ed:
This morning, Donald Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski amid growing Republican panic over his flailing campaign. While Lewandowski was not particularly popular or admired, the utter futility of this move on Trump’s part only highlights how different his campaign is from that of everyone else who has run for president in modern times. And while that’s part of what makes it so fascinating, it’s also what creates so many problems for him.
To put it simply, Trump is the master of his own destiny and the author of his own failures in a way that no other candidate is.
What do all these missteps have in common? None of them was Corey Lewandowski’s fault. They weren’t poor strategic decisions or failures of execution. They were Donald Trump himself, opening his mouth and saying what he really thought, to the horror of almost everyone.
And keep in mind, this latest string of failures happened after Trump brought on Paul Manafort as his chief strategist, the veteran lobbyist who was supposed to bring the strategic vision and long-term planning that Lewandowski either wasn’t capable of or Trump wouldn’t let him handle.
There’s no telling whom Trump will hire to replace Lewandowski, but if the past is any indication, he might not bother to hire anyone. No aide or lackey is going to tell Trump what to do. And that’s Trump’s biggest problem. [The Washington Post, 6/20/16]
The New Yorker’s John Cassidy: “The Problem With The Trump Campaign Isn’t Corey Lewandowski; It’s Trump Himself.” In an article titled “Donald Trump’s Problem Isn’t Corey Lewandowski. It’s Donald Trump,” The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote, “With Trump’s poll numbers plummeting … somebody had to be held accountable” and that Lewandowski was fired because Trump is “too mentally fragile to admit he’s goofed up.” From the June 20 article:
The news on Monday, that Trump had fired his controversial campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, was hardly surprising. With Trump’s poll numbers plummeting, and with an organized effort under way to dump him off the G.O.P. ticket at the Party’s Convention, in Cleveland at the end of July, somebody had to be held accountable. Trump being Trump, it wasn’t going to be him. He’s too mentally fragile to admit he’s goofed up. And, in any case, he has long lived by Lord Beaverbrook’s maxim: Never apologize, never explain.
Step forward Lewandowski, a brusque, buzz-cut-sporting native of Massachusetts, who is perhaps best known for manhandling a young female reporter, Michelle Fields, at a campaign event in March. Lewandowki’s motto was “Let Trump be Trump,” and he never got along with the highly paid mercenaries Trump hired late in the primary season to oversee the delegate process. On Monday morning, the Trump campaign issued a statement saying that it was “grateful to Corey for his hard work and dedication and we wish him the best in the future.”
The problem with the Trump campaign isn’t Corey Lewandowski; it’s Trump himself. [The New Yorker, 6/20/16]
WSJ Editorial Board: “The Problems With The Trump Campaign Aren’t Mr. Lewandowski’s Fault. They Are Donald J. Trump’s.” The Wall Street Journal editorial board dismissed Trump’s decision to fire Lewandowski, pointing out that “the shake-up will only make a difference if Mr. Trump recognizes how badly he is harming his own prospects.” The board argued that “the problems with the Trump campaign aren’t Mr. Lewandowski’s fault. They are Donald J. Trump’s,” and added that if Trump doesn’t start accepting advice from political professionals, “don’t be surprised if unbinding the GOP delegates to choose another nominee at the July convention starts to seem like an urgent and attractive option to a growing number of Republicans.” From the June 20 editorial:
Donald Trump seems to be trying to pack as many self-created crises as he can into the 20 weeks until Election Day, and a new installment arrived Monday as he suddenly fired his campaign manager. Campaigns ultimately reflect the candidate and his leadership, or lack thereof, and the shake-up will only make a difference if Mr. Trump recognizes how badly he is harming his own prospects.
Perhaps the termination of Corey Lewandowski, heretofore Mr. Trump’s most loyal aide who was present at the campaign’s creation, is his concession that his operation is dysfunctional. He allowed competing power centers to emerge, with Mr. Lewandowski anchoring one camp and the veteran Beltway operative Paul Manafort the other.
Mr. Manafort reportedly has been trying to professionalize the campaign. But it isn’t an optimistic signal that Mr. Trump fired Mr. Lewandowski only after a family intervention that included Mr. Trump’s son, his daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Mr. Trump still has time to reverse his fortunes, even if the hour is late. If he wants to run a national campaign, he’ll allow Mr. Manafort to fill out his shoestring apparatus and put together a coherent hierarchy with delegated responsibilities and clear lines of accountability.
But the hard reality is that the problems with the Trump campaign aren’t Mr. Lewandowski’s fault. They are Donald J. Trump’s. If he wants to avoid a historic loss like 1984 or 1972 that costs the GOP its House and Senate majorities, he’ll take more instruction from political professionals.
If he doesn’t, don’t be surprised if unbinding the GOP delegates to choose another nominee at the July convention starts to seem like an urgent and attractive option to a growing number of Republicans. [The Wall Street Journal, 6/21/16]
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- CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine, Twitter, U.S. News & World Report
- Donald Trump, Corey Lewandowski, Larry Sabato, Hallie Jackson, Jose Diaz-Balart, Jim Geraghty, John Berman, Kate Bolduan, Jason Carroll, Chris Cillizza, Zeke Miller, Kyle Griffin, Nick Confessore, Paul Waldman
- The Washington Post, The New York Times, Time Magazine, At This Hour With Berman And Bolduan, MSNBC Live, CNN Newsroom, The Wall Street Journal, New Yorker
- 2016 Elections