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Trump Re-Frames the Narrative

Updated on April 29, 2019
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Mike has a keen interest in the effects of politics in our culture. He has a unique way of simplifying complex concepts.


This article is my opinion based on my observation of Donald Trump. However, I have made every effort to be be as factual as possible. Everyday there is something newsworthy about Trump, therefore, this article is a snapshot in time of how he re-frames issues to his advantage.

Nuance and Details

Trump seems to have a hard time with nuance and details. He generalizes almost all of his claims, proclamations, and declarations. The following are just a few examples of his generalizations.

  • Obama’s fraudulent birth certificate- Never appeared
  • Mexico paying for the wall-Never happened
  • Voter election fraud- Never proven
  • Completely Repeal and Replace Obama Care- No plan, even though he claims republicans have a plan. Now it has been postponed until after the next election
  • Southern Border National Emergency-Taking too long to be a national emergency,
  • Bring coal miners, steel workers, and auto workers back to work – Technology has replaced most of them
  • Defeated ISIS - They are now re-constituting themselves and attacking other countries like Sri lanka
  • Bring troops home from the Mid-East – They are still there
  • Meeting with Putin- Secret meeting, don’t know what happened
  • Meeting with Kim – Missile program still active

Some may argue that given enough time, he will fulfill all of these claims, but time will tell. My point is because he generalizes his claims and never considers the details and consequences, he either has to flip-flop on what he claims or they just go by the wayside, just like Obama’s birth certificate. He generalizes to re-frame the narrative. Did you know that re-framing is also a technique used in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, herein after called CBT?

What does CBT have to do with Trump?

I learned CBT many years ago and it literally saved me from going off the deep end with depression. The concepts of CBT are actually very simple. There are two main concepts: re-framing and changing your focus. Trump uses both of these concepts to change the narrative and motivate his supporters to believe him.


Imagine that you are looking at a scene of two people sitting on a beautiful, serene beach. The scene is framed in a very light complimentary color. That scene and that frame make you feel serene and calm. Now imagine that frame is replaced with a black frame. More than likely, you will feel bad, disturbed, and unsettled.

Light blue frame makes you feel good.
Light blue frame makes you feel good.
Black frame, don't feel as good.
Black frame, don't feel as good.

Changing Your Focus with Journaling

Changing your focus is done by documenting or journaling the situation that most bothers you and how it makes you feel when it bothers you. Now look for something good in that same situation and document how that makes you feel, then document those feelings. The next time you are in that situation, focus on the good part of the situation, not the bad parts. It is basically the concept of the glass being half full or half empty.

How does all of this apply to Trump?

Trump re-frames the narrative of his opponents by using name calling, ridicule, and mockery. The main stream media is not fake news, but he wants you to believe it is and he wants you to focus on it being bad and the enemy of the people. He wants you to focus on the glass being half-empty in a broad-brush manner in order to change the narrative. He does it by constantly lying, repeating the name calling, ridicule, and mockery. He is doing exactly what is done in CBT only he is re-framing for the negative side, not the positive side. If he wants to take something that is positive about others, he will re-frame them in a negative light. If wants to take something that is negative about himself, he will re-frame it in a positive light.

What is broad-brushing?

One form of broad-brushing is what children sometimes do when they are creating a picture. They use sweeping strokes to make a general image of what they are presenting, but never any detail. It is all just broad strokes. Trump does not provide detail or even allow himself to delve into detail to understand what the ramifications are of his claims and how they affect others, policies and procedures. He just uses superlatives like beautiful, wonderful, fantastic, much like a used car salesman would without understanding anything internal to the car. He is re-framing the negative to make it look positive and/or the positive to look negative. It just depends on the situation.

Government Shutdown

He shutdowns the government without having an understanding of the effects on the economy and the people who were put out of work during that period. He executed a zero-tolerance policy at the border without understanding that children were being separated from their parents.

He declared he was going to shutdown the border with out understanding the ramifications of that action and the effect it would have on our trade with Mexico. Then he backed off with that because he was told it was a bad idea because it would have a negative impact on our economy. He now has stated that he will give Mexico a year before he shuts down the border. And if that doesn’t work then he will place tariffs on cars coming into to the U.S.

Completely Repeal Obama Care

He declared he was going to completely repeal Obama care, but keep pre-existing conditions, without understanding how it works and the effects it would have on the insured. He claimed he had a plan and congress was working on it. It turns out he had no plan. Further, he claimed he would remove pre-existing conditions. Again, he was told it was a bad idea and he backed off until after the elections in 2020.

Meetings with Putin and Kim Jung Un

With the Putin and Kim Jung Un meetings, he claimed everything is wonderful. We don’t know what he and Putin discussed, it was all just good and there was no collusion or interference by the Russians because Putin said so.

With the release of the Mueller report, we now know there was a concerted effort by Russian operatives to influence the 2016 election in Trump's favor while undermining Clinton.

Kim, has a meeting with Putin and tells Putin that the U.S. acted in bad faith, even though Trump says at their last meeting both sides left on good terms.

Completely Exonerated

Trump believes he was completely exonerated of obstruction of justice in Barr’s summary and Mueller's report, but neither document says that. It says he was not completely exonerated of obstruction of justice, but in his mind, he believes it and is broadcasting it to the world.

At an NRA convention, Trump tells the audience that Mueller's investigation was about a coup to overthrow his presidency, but he won. When we all know that is not the truth, but if he is questioned, he will say many people told him so, again the broad-brush re-framing without details.


All of these situations are due to broad-brushing and changing the narrative. With his constantly lying and changing his mind, his re-framing picture looks more like an abstract Picasso than a realistic coherent image.

I have been told by his supporters to overlook all of these situations and his behavior. And that I should focus on the good that he has done for the country, like tax reform, jobs, the economy, and foreign trade. But more than likely those people are also broad-brushing and changing their focus.

More middle-class people are not getting refunds, but are paying more in taxes. The job market in high tech sectors is increasing, but the coal, steel, and auto industry are still the forgotten ones. We don’t know what the long-term impact is going to be with foreign trade.

I believe his supporters don’t care about details in any of his policies, but they can relate to broad-brushing slogans about the glass being half empty. I believe when Trump makes a false statement, for that moment he actually believes what he is saying. But very shortly afterwards, he may change his mind and either blame that statement on someone or something else and claim that he never said it.

One may argue that as president, he doesn’t have to understand the details. But I believe, as president he should understand the details at least at the rudimentary level to understand the unintended consequences his claims may bring. That is not the same as broad-brushing, which is basically not based on anything other than proclamations without any consultation of others who may have more consequential information. Unsubstantiated proclamations and claims are what monarchs and dictators do, not The President of the United States of America. I think there are many times when Trump is lying, he truly believes in his mind, he is telling the truth, just like what is shown in the first picture in this article, he can''t tell the difference.

We all wake up in the morning with the expectation of certainty, but with Trump we are never certain of what the day will bring.


Joe Biden is now in the Democratic race and he called out Trump on his statements about Charlottesville. Trump in his own defense said, “There were very fine people on both sides and they were chanting about bringing down the statue of Robert E. Lee, a very fine general. When in fact the video shows they were white supremacist, neo-Nazi groups carrying tiki torches and chanting “blood and soil, Jews will not replace us."

Today (4/27/2019), a 19-year-old boy attacked a Jewish synagogue in Poway California and killed one person and injured several others using an AR15. Trump at his rally denounced the attack as a hate crime.

On the one hand, Trump calls a Jewish hating neo-NAZI group very fine people and on the other hand, he denounces a Jewish attacker for killing people in a synagogue. This is a classic example of how Trump becomes conflicted by re-framing the narrative and changing the focus on situations.

Below is a link to the Charlottesville video. I'll let you decide if the the people chanting are "very fine people."

DId you learn about the concepts of Cognitive Behavior Therapy?

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After reading this article, do you believe Trump uses re-framing to change the narrative?

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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Mike Russo


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