Written by Annie Karni
The natural light is flattering. The entrance from the Oval Office’s French doors, and the ensuing walk down the colonnade, is richly symbolic. And the presidential podium perched on the steps in front of the manicured grass conveys power.
The Rose Garden, a 125-foot-long French-style garden, has in recent months become President Donald Trump’s preferred venue for public events at the White House, whether he is hosting athletes and world leaders, or pitching his own defeats as victories.
He has insisted on the locale even when it has been uncomfortably cold.
Trump, a showman and former reality show star with a keen interest in production values, has always cared deeply about the image he projects.
Now in his third year in office, as Democratic presidential candidates sort through the process of choosing a nominee, Trump has increasingly embraced the Rose Garden — a literal interpretation of a time-tested strategy for incumbents seeking to harness the power of the presidency to secure their re-elections.
President Gerald Ford employed a “Rose Garden strategy” in his 1976 re-election campaign, not leaving the White House for months in what was deemed by one aide to be a “no campaign campaign.” President Jimmy Carter followed his lead four years later, staying in the White House to weather the Iran hostage crisis. President George H.W. Bush was criticized for isolating himself from voters by running for re-election from the Oval Office.
Trump appears to be trying a version of the strategy for himself.
In the first five months of 2019, Trump has held at least 11 Rose Garden events — more than double the number of events he staged there during the first five months of 2017.
This year Trump has chosen the Rose Garden to announce he was caving on his demand for a border wall and ending a 35-day government shutdown. He stood outside to declare a national emergency on the border with Mexico, amid opposition from lawmakers in his own party. He has made congressmen who did not wear coats shiver beside him while he bandied for more than an hour with journalists.
The Rose Garden has been a key tool for White House communications operations for decades, often used as the backdrop for the signing of major pieces of legislation.
For Trump, it has also served as a venue for declaring victory prematurely. After the House voted to repeal most of the Affordable Care Act in May 2017, Trump staged a Rose Garden celebration with about 100 Republican lawmakers in attendance. The measure failed in the Senate two months later.