WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump on Monday released a 2 1/2-minute infomercial-style video, turning to social media to deliver a direct-to-camera message in which he vowed to create jobs, renegotiate trade agreements, end restrictions on energy production and impose bans on lobbying.
Trump offered what he called an update on his transition, which he said is working “very smoothly, efficiently and effectively.”
Reading from a script and looking into the camera, Trump steered clear of his most inflammatory campaign promises to deport immigrants, track Muslims and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Whether it’s producing steel, building cars or curing disease, I want the next generation of production and innovation to happen right here, in our great homeland: America — creating wealth and jobs for American workers,” Trump said in the video.
The brief YouTube video offered one of the few opportunities for the public to hear from Trump directly since he was elected two weeks ago. The president-elect has broken with tradition, refusing to hold a news conference shortly after his victory, and instead has used early-morning Twitter bursts to communicate.
Trump delivered a brief middle-of-the-night speech after Hillary Clinton called him on Nov. 9. And he sat for an interview with the Wall Street Journal and a gauzy appearance, surrounded by his family, on CBS News’ “60 Minutes” last week. Since then, he has mostly been hunkered down behind closed doors as he assembles his Cabinet and White House team.
In the video, Trump described his plans to “make America great again” on Day One, but his message seemed aimed less at the supporters who chanted that slogan at rallies and more at the Americans who remain skeptical about it.
The president-elect appeared to try to emphasize his appeal to those voters at the end of the video, and he promised to provide more updates as he worked together with everyone to reach his goals.
“And I mean everyone,” he emphasized.
The video — in which the president-elect is sitting in front of an American flag — is Trump’s way of telegraphing the themes that will undergird his inaugural address and try to present himself as inclusive even as his staffing decisions may suggest otherwise, said Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a professor of communication and the director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“What it does is cast him as presidential, because it establishes that the things that he forecasts are important to the electorate as a whole and he’s not emphasizing the divisive elements that you would have expected to dominate his presidency,” Jamieson said. “He’s signaling to his base, ‘See, I’m keeping my word,’ but he’s signaling to the world, ‘See, I’m going to be a president for all the people.’ ”
The video underscored the extent to which Trump intends to try and navigate around the traditional newspaper and television media outlets as he seeks to communicate his message to the public.
In releasing it, Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary under George W. Bush, said, Trump was using technology to quickly and effectively communicate with the public in a format that Bush’s staff would never have dreamed of doing 15 years ago, because it would have been dismissed by the news media as propaganda. President Obama has become adept at doing the same thing in recent years, through videos posted on Facebook and other media.
Fleischer said, “He’s just doing more of what President Obama successfully did, and what I’m fascinated about is, what does this mean for the future?”
On Monday, the president-elect met privately with television executives in a confidential session that was described later as a sometimes contentious effort to clear the air after a campaign season in which Trump often clashed with members of the media.
Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to Trump and his former campaign manager, called the meeting “candid and very honest. From my own perspective, it’s great to hit the reset button.” Trump is also scheduled to meet with editors and reporters at the New York Times on Tuesday.
But his decision to deliver a highly scripted video message suggests that he, like Obama, is eager to embrace new media opportunities. By Monday, Trump’s @RealDonaldTrump Twitter account, which he enjoys using, had 15.6 million followers. Once in the White House, he will inherit @POTUS, with its 12.1 million online followers.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Trump’s video was what he did not say in it.
On immigration, he avoided any mention of his plan to build a wall along the border with Mexico or his desire to deport immigrants here illegally, whether or not they have a criminal record. He made no mention of ending Obama’s program that grants work permits to immigrants who were brought illegally to the United States as children.
Instead, Trump simply promised to direct the Labor Department to investigate visa abuses.
The tough-talking president-elect, who has often railed against Obama and “the generals” for what he often called their “stupid” conduct of foreign policy, said nothing in the video about fighting terrorism, confronting Russian aggression, or pressuring NATO allies to pay more for their common defense.
Instead, he said he would ask his top military officials for a comprehensive plan to guard America’s vital infrastructure from “cyberattacks, and all other form of attacks.”
Trump’s other promises in the video recapped points that he made repeatedly during the campaign, offering a series of executive actions that he says he will order on his first full day in the Oval Office.
Some, like his pledge to “issue our notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership” trade deal, will be well within his power as president to accomplish. But his additional promise to “negotiate fair, bilateral trade deals that bring jobs and industry back onto American shores” will be in the eyes of the beholder, and may not produce the results he expects.
Others appear to be overblown political hyperbole, like his promise in the video to “cancel job-killing restrictions on the production of American energy — including shale energy and clean coal — creating many millions of high-paying jobs.”
He did not specify in the short video what restrictions he will lift or how that would result in “many millions” of jobs. Even supporters of the Keystone Pipeline, which Trump has said he will greenlight once in office, do not believe it would create millions of jobs if it were built.
Fleischer said Trump’s more inclusive tone in the video was the latest example of a pattern he set during the campaign of dialing back his impulse for fiery speech when he felt it was in his interest.
“He has said this about himself, that he knows how to be really boring when he wants to be,” Fleischer said of Trump. “He’s so self-aware about the fact that there are these two Trumps, and we’re seeing more of the other one since he won.”