Actions of the new administration are like “a dog on ice chasing a marble,” Dana Perino told an audience Feb. 3 at the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn. “You have to expect the unexpected.”
Perino spoke to many of the more than 9,000 cattlemen and women at the event – a record number of attendees for any cattle industry convention – at Friday’s general session. The previous convention record was in Nashville in 2014, at just under 8,300.
Perino was the press secretary for President George W. Bush for seven years and is now a panelist on The Five, which airs daily on the Fox News Channel. Her exposure to the Washington scene brought an insider’s knowledge as keynote speaker at the general session.
Perino said the recent presidential election was unique. The odds of getting an inside straight are 254 to 1, she told the audience, and those are the kind of odds Trump beat to win the presidency. “It was a hard hand to play, and he played it perfectly,” she said. While Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, she didn’t win states she needed, including Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. For two years she didn’t visit Wisconsin, Perino said, and she should have listened to her volunteers in the state, instead of her statisticians, who said the state was safe.
However, she said something to keep in mind is that the Republican party has lost six out of the last seven popular votes. “That does cast a certain shadow on the mandate.”
Additionally, she said that when a President doesn’t have the popular vote, it is harder to govern. “There is a wave of protest all across (the U.S.). It is not fleeting, in my opinion. I do not believe it is all paid for by George Soros. I do believe that this is some sort of a movement that is starting to have some impact.”
She also pointed out there is currently a “fog” as a result of President Trump trying to do too many things at once. “The White House will eventually understand that message discipline is important because there is only so much that we can all absorb.”
Government doesn’t work just like a business, she said, adding that she hoped “things would settle down for them.” Donald Trump “thrives on chaos,” according to Perino. At some point, however, things will get calmer “or the chaos will take over.”
Perino was also confident that the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the country’s highest court would be successful. “Mark my words,” she said, “he will get confirmed to the Supreme Court.”
In regards to the Democratic party, she said they have a “terrible hand to play” and that they’ve decided to try to block everything.
And, despite new leadership problems, Perino did suggest that the Democrats have “some silver linings on their clouds.” For example, she said Republican woman in the suburbs have shifted a bit, a sign for a Democratic opening. Additionally, she said Republicans are doing better in counties that are shrinking, while Democrats are doing better in counties that are growing.
Message to rural America
While the agriculture industry continues to hold its breath on issues like trade and immigration, Perino said she does believe President Trump will let his cabinet do their jobs, including his pick for Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
“I think rural America will be pleased, but I do think these issues of trade and immigration are so complex that it’s really important for you work as an association together to make sure that you get in front of the Administration as much as possible. That you are visible, that they hear you and that they hear your story.”
She suggested giving away the upper hand in trade to China through destruction of the TPP was not a good idea, but “he (Trump) can change his mind.”
She told the audience, “You are very powerful. You just have to stick together, but most importantly, you have to tell your story.”