Trump really crossed the line this time. His detractors, the Never Trump movement and liberals across America are up in arms over his latest statement. It’s hard to say if he can even rebound from such depravity.
What did he do? He encouraged people to buy American.
L.L. Bean came under fire from an anti-Trump advocacy group earlier as the personal campaign donations of Linda Bean, the granddaughter of founder Leon Leonwood Bean, became public.
Media outlets decried the fact that Trump, in his capacity as the President-Elect of the United States, would encourage people to buy from a particular retailer or endorse a specific business.
In a Washington Post article, a Harvard business professor said “It’s unprecedented for someone of his power voicing his support or being against particular companies.”
An advertising and social media lawyer quoted in the article acknowledges Trump broke no laws with his tweet, but instead insists it’s just poor form. She also lamented, “…for hundreds of years, it has been understood that the ruler of the land shouldn’t be picking and choosing which companies to endorse or otherwise.”
Ruler of the land? Hundreds of years?
Promoting American businesses by United States political figures actually does have precedent. Here’s two off the top of my head.
U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin of Maine’s 2nd Congressional District repeatedly called for the Department of Defense to work with New Balance to outfit new military recruit’s running shoe needs as part of their initial clothing issue. He even sponsored legislation in the form of an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was signed into law December 23, 2016.
In press releases and radio interviews discussing his amendment, it was all New Balance, all the time. No mention of any other athletic shoe maker was to be found.
It’s also hard to say how much endorsement value BlackBerry received in 2009 as newly elected President Obama made headlines for his refusal to give up his PDA. Countless stories detailed his love of his trusty BlackBerry. Not his PDA, not his mobile phone – his “BlackBerry”.
“I don’t text. I email. I still have a Blackberry,” he said in an interview on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live”.
But, that isn’t what this latest dust up is really about. Donald Trump wanted to take a jab at the group boycotting L.L. Bean because of an employee’s personal political donation. He knew exactly what he was doing and the ire it would draw.
Trump haters on Twitter took the bait and media outlets, whose relationships with the Trump campaign could be described as frosty at best, couldn’t wait for another gotcha story to run with.
Did he literally say “Buy L.L. Bean”? Yes, he did.
Was he “hawking” the outfitters products? No, he was not.
Was he lobbying for one specific company over another? No, he was not.
The core of the matter is this: Is it proper for a United States official to endorse a private business? The simple answer is no.
However, when it comes to discussing President-elect Donald Trump, I’m not sure there is ever a simple answer.