Trump Playing Rope-a-Dope with the Media
Rope-a-dope is a boxing strategy originally used by Muhammad Ali and his famous Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman. Ali purposely put himself into a seemingly disadvantageous position, letting Foreman tire himself out and eventually lose the match.
Ali would lean against the ropes, allowing their elastic stretch to absorb most of Foreman’s punches. Ali’s energy was preserved while Foreman became exhausted throwing endless punches. When the moment was right, Ali, still fresh and energetic, came off the ropes swinging, punching, winning the match.
How does this strategy apply to politics? Just watch President Trump since his election and now in his first week in office.
Immediately post-election, the Clinton camp and their media allies cried foul on Trump’s victory — James Comey’s announcements regarding Mrs. Clinton’s emails, the popular vote favoring Mrs. Clinton, Russian meddling, and so on. Trump fueled media allegations by incessantly Tweeting and blasting the media over their “fake news”.
Trump used Twitter much like a matador uses a red cape to engage and enrage the bull. The media took the bait and obsessed over what Putin and the Russians might have done to influence the election. Republican #NeverTrumpers like John McCain and Lindsey Graham chased the red cape too, adding fuel to the media stampede.
Meanwhile the president-elect was busy assembling his cabinet and other key advisors. Sure, this was covered by the media but given scant scrutiny compared to stories of election hacking and Russian chicanery. The media and their accomplices in both parties pounded away at the hacking story while Trump leaned against the ropes, absorbing the blows, conserving his energy, biding his time Waiting for the next round.
The media was flailing. Their punches were not connecting with Trump. Americans, consumers of the media, were not impressed. Only 6 percent of the public “have a lot of confidence in the media.” The dopey media was getting roped.
Then came inauguration day and a NY Times story, right on schedule, comparing inauguration audience sizes in an effort to show how unpopular Trump is compared to their revered Barack Obama. Trump immediately took to Twitter, denouncing the story and reiterating his mantra about fake news and dishonest media.
The media took the bait and ran with the story all inauguration weekend, into this week. To the point that even Snopes got involved in the controversy. Press secretary Sean Spicer spoke of the crowd size as well, further antagonizing the media, waving the red cape in front of the bulls from AP and the NY Times.
Trump also made comments about the intelligence agencies and leaks of his preinauguration intel briefing over Russian influence. Another delicious kerfuffle for the media to run with, speculate over, and predict the extent of damage to the incoming administration over their feud with the intelligence community.
Notice how each story knocks the preceding story off the front pages and the evening news? Once the inauguration attendance became a story, no one was talking about Russian hacking.
All the while, Trump is taking body shots from the media. Letting them believe they are effective fighters, standing up for truth, social justice, and their favorite left-wing causes. They think they have Trump on the ropes. Yet behind the scenes his agenda marches along. Rope-a-dope.
Look at what Trump has accomplished in his first week. Withdrawal from TPP. No money to foreign nonprofits promoting abortion. A halt in federal hiring. Executive actions chipping away at Obamacare ahead of repeal and replacement. Oil pipelines moving forward. A freeze on new regulations. Limits on government agency social media use. And yes, a reiteration of his promise to build a wall on our southern border and a temporary ban on refugees.
Every day is Christmas. Presents under the tree each morning begrudgingly reported by a media still fussing over whether Trump or Obama had the larger inauguration crowd. A question that will never be answered for certain and doesn’t even matter. Except to a gaggle of reporters insistent on proving to the world that their guy Obama was more popular and more liked than the current Neanderthal in the White House.
Just don’t let those reporters see this poll. Their favorite president, Barack Obama, had a lower average job approval rating than Clinton, Reagan, both Bushes, and even Richard Nixon.
Trump is using his Twitter account and his surrogates masterfully, letting his opponents punch away at shadows while the real stories play out behind the scenes. The result is the media getting caught flatfooted as Trump implements his agenda, quickly yet methodically, just as he promised for the past 19 months since he came down the escalator at Trump Tower announcing he would “build a wall”.
The added benefit is that, by covering nonsensical stories, the media is rapidly using up the little credibility capital they still have. Much like George Foreman throwing punches like a madman, tiring himself out. When Trump actually does something controversial, which he certainly will, the media will be beyond exhausted, having nothing to throw at Trump.
Anything they say in the future will be labeled as “fake news”, a term the media coined, now in a delicious irony being used against them. Like the boy who cried wolf, their outrage over non-stories to