Lessons my father could teach President Trump

Published 10:53 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Dear Mr. President, let me take you back to 1979.

I don’t know what you were building or doing then, but my father was running for president and the political left and their loyal snipers in the dominant media were shooting at him daily.

“Ronald Reagan was an empty suit … a B-grade actor … a dangerous warmonger.”

They said if he got his hands on the nuclear codes he was going to start World War III.

And if the mullahs in Teheran didn’t release the American hostages, he was going to turn Iran into a parking lot or a glass factory.

Mr. President, you have it even tougher with the liberal media today, but at least you can fight back with Twitter and you’ve got friends in talk radio, on Fox and all over the Internet. Not to mention a Republican House and Senate.

In 1979, and during my father’s time in office, he was outnumbered and outgunned by liberals in the media and in Congress.

The mainstream media still had enormous power in the 1980s and could make or break a politician.

It was concentrated in the three liberal broadcast networks and large national liberal papers like the New York Times, Washington Post and the L.A. Times.

My father was constantly under attack by liberal pundits and Democrats, Mr. President, but I dare you to try to find a single time when he responded to any of them in the media.

Throughout his administration he laughed at his detractors and didn’t take their bait.

He knew that if Walter Mondale said something about him and he said something back Mondale would say something else and pretty soon he and his campaign would have been off message.

And in politics if  you’re off message you’re not accomplishing anything.

Mr. President, if you want to learn anything from my father, it’s to learn when to shut up.

Being president is not like a tennis match – you don’t always have to return serve.

You don’t always need to respond to what a John McCain says or quickly decry every piece of  “fake news” on Twitter or anywhere else. 

It does you no good, gives your enemies in the media more ammo to fire at you and keeps the ball in the air.

If you say nothing, it’s over. If your staff members say nothing, it’s over.

Meanwhile, you can get on with the business of being the president.

Another thing my father knew was that instead of always trying to pat yourself on your back for a job well done, sometimes it’s better to allow others to pat you on the back.

He also knew when to say nothing and quietly do the right thing.

For example, right after he took office in 1981 he gave Air Force One to Jimmy Carter and allowed Carter to go to West Germany to welcome the Iranian hostages to freedom.

My father didn’t hold a press conference to say, “Look at what I’m doing for Jimmy Carter.” He just did it.

Another example of something nice he did happened after he left office and traveled to Japan to give some speeches.

He was criticized heavily by the dominant media because he was paid between $50,000 and $150,000 per speech, but he didn’t respond or defend himself.

He also didn’t point out that the coach seats of the 747 he flew on to Japan were completely filled with the families of service men and women who were stationed in Japan.

At no charge my father flew those families to Japan in his plane and flew them home. He didn’t hold a press conference to announce it or pat himself on the back, he just quietly did it.

Mr. President, my father’s personality was completely different from yours.

But if you want to know more about how he dealt with his enemies, we should spend half a day together — preferably on one of your golf courses.

I can’t help you hit your long irons straighter or putt any better, but I know I can tell you some other things that made him such a great president.

MICHAEL REAGAN is the son of President Ronald Reagan, a political consultant, and the author of “The New Reagan Revolution” (St. Martin’s Press). He is the founder of the email service reagan.com and president of The Reagan Legacy Foundation. Visit his websites at www.reagan.com and www.michaelereagan.com. Send comments to Reagan@caglecartoons.com. Follow @reaganworld on Twitter.