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Photo Credit: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association

New Political Realities

By Shelby Mettlen   |   Angus Beef Bulletin EXTRA
3/10/2017

As former White House Press Secretary under President George W. Bush, Dana Perino is no stranger to the world of politics. As it turns out, she’s no stranger to ranch life, either.

Now a host on Fox News’ The Five, Perino makes her home in New York City, where she admits she hasn’t driven a vehicle in seven years. Even so, she hasn’t forgotten the roots from which she came.

Perino addressed a very large and very eager crowd at the Feb. 3 opening session of the Cattle Industry Convention & NCBA Trade Show in Nashville, Tenn.

“What you’re doing every day to help feed the country and the world is so important,” she told listeners, “but I also really appreciate how each one of you is trying to preserve the Western way of life.”

Earning a standing ovation from attendees, Perino colorfully illustrated some of the current political realities and uncertainties, and what cattlemen can attempt to predict from the Trump administration.

Perino was born in Evanston, Wyo., where her family raised cattle. Her uncle Matt still ranches on an operation that has grown to 50,000 acres. Her family moved to Denver, Colo., when she was young, but Perino continued to spend summers on the ranch. After completing her bachelor’s degree in mass communication at Colorado State University-Pueblo and earning a master’s degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, she worked in public relations before serving as press secretary for former President George W. Bush for seven years. She now serves in her current position as a host on The Five.

New administration

After Donald Trump defied all the odds and nabbed the presidency back in November, the days following have been nothing short of chaotic.

For the media, trying to keep up with President Trump is “like a dog on ice chasing a marble,” Perino said. There’s just so much news happening.

Thanks to social media, news moves much faster than it has in the past, she said. In 2009, Twitter was just taking off, and the press would deal with one or two big stories a day. Now, there could be upward of 10 stories to follow each day.

While President Trump appears to thrive on chaos, the rest of us can only process so much information at a time, she pointed out. “The White House will eventually come to understand that message discipline is important.”

You can lose the popular vote and still become president, but it casts a shadow on the mandate, Perino said. Additionally, while conservatives are ruling Washington, D.C., now, Republicans are doing better in counties that are shrinking, while Democrats are doing better in counties that are growing.

Anytime a president leaves office after two terms, there is the question of “Who will be the new leader?” The 180-degree shift in leadership is contributing to the unpredictability of the new administration, she said.

Embrace the uncertainty

Expect the unexpected, Perino offered. “Every president will have to deal with things they didn’t expect.”

Harry Truman had the atomic bomb, Jimmy Carter watched the Soviets march into Afghanistan and take hostages, and George W. Bush dealt with 9/11.

“On each of those inauguration days, no one knew what to expect,” Perino said. “Every president will face a crisis; that is the nature of the job. Every problem in the world comes to that desk, and they have to figure out how to deal with it.”

Terror continues to be an issue that President Trump will have to fight. Repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, tax reform, immigration and infrastructure were all issues President Trump voiced strong opinions about during his campaign. Perino said she believes tax reform will actually get done this time around, and with health care and immigration such complex and multifaceted issues, it’s important for agriculture to put itself in front of the new administration as much as possible to communicate what cattlemen and farmers need from new policies.

Perino remained open-minded on the issue of trade, but urged her audience to speak out and be heard.

She praised President Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. She pointed out that the President’s cabinet is a set of strong personalities.

“These are not shrinking violets,” Perino said. President Trump respects them and will work with them. On the whole, she said, “rural America will be pleased.”

Be willing to have an open mind, reach across the aisle, and get in front of Congress and the President, she told her audience. “You have an amazing voice.”

Editor’s Note: This article was written as part of Angus Media’s coverage of the 2017 Cattle Industry Convention. For further coverage, watch future issues of the Angus Journal and visit www.angus.media.