White House Comms Job Goes to GOP Establishment
Operative from Karl Rove orbit will take helm of Trump's communications shop
The pool of original Trump loyalists appears to be shrinking in the White House as more figures from the traditional Republican Establishment move in.
On Friday, it was reported President Donald Trump was expected to name Republican operative Mike Dubke as his communications director. The role is a key position in the West Wing, overseeing vital messaging, optics, and presidential appearances.
“Trump has a painting of Andrew Jackson hanging in his office, but you can’t be the iconoclastic Andrew Jackson without a lever-pulling, opinion-creating Martin Van Buren showing you the way.”
The choice of Dubke — who comes from outside the original Trump orbit — has caused dyspepsia and griping among some Trump supporters.
“[Original supporters] interpreted the move as a power play by chief of staff Reince Priebus, who is seen as stocking the White House with members of the mainstream establishment wing of the Republican party,” Politico reported Friday morning. “A former campaign aide interpreted the hire of a Rove-connected Washington insider like Dubke as a sign that the White House, under Priebus, is moving in a direction away from the base of people who elected him.”
“Where was this guy three months ago? Where was he a year ago?” one longtime Trump loyalist told Politico. “Why would you bring someone in that wasn’t loyal?”
But one longtime pro-Trump pundit didn’t think too much of the split.
“There’s always some concern when people come from PACs to join the administration,” said Eddie Zipperer, an assistant professor of political science at Georgia Military College. “Particularly when the admin is dedicated to ‘draining the swamp.’ But these are smart guys. They are guys who know how to get things done. They are guys who understand how the media works and the rules of the Washington game.”
The communications role went unfilled for a surprising amount of time after the Jan. 20 inauguration. And, of course, the Beltway’s chattering class wondered if anyone wanted the job after the Trump administration’s rocky first four weeks.
Sean Spicer, White House press secretary, has been doubling as communications director.
Spicer began giving daily briefings on Jan. 23. The briefings instantly became a standing-room-only event, with Spicer fighting off reporters asking about Trump’s policies as well as some bogus stories floated by once reputable outlets.
With uproars over new policies, the need for a long-term communications plan became evident with each passing day. Trump himself apparently grew flustered with the demands of the press, as he called his first solo news conference on Thursday, answering to 17 reporters over 77 minutes.
Trump had been accused the day before, by CNN, of avoiding tough questions.
The desire for a Establishment-connected communications director is not too surprising.
Dubke founded Crossroads Media, a spinoff of Republican strategist Karl Rove’s American Crossroads operation. Dubke is also the co-founder of Black Rock Group, a conservative public affairs shop he started with Carl Forti, another longtime GOP operative, according to the Buffalo News.
Forti is more directly tied to Rove. He assisted Rove with running American Crossroads and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies (or Crossroads GPS, for short), which Rove and veteran operative Ed Gillespie helped create in 2010, according to Politico. Forti is often referred to as “the Karl Rove’s Karl Rove.”
Zipperer sees value in Dubke.
“Trump has a painting of Andrew Jackson hanging in his office, but you can’t be the iconoclastic Andrew Jackson without a lever-pulling, opinion-creating Martin Van Buren showing you the way,” said Zipperer.
Spicer did not reply to a request for comment. Trump and Spicer were traveling to South Carolina for an event on Friday.
The communications role in the past has been held by such notable figures as Pat Buchanan, under President Ronald Reagan, and David Gergen, under President Gerald Ford.