Why Trump Can’t Get Enough of the Rose Garden

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.

“It’s not as formal as a statement from the East Room or behind the desk of the Oval Office,” said Lori Cox Han, a political-science professor at Chapman University, who wrote a paper about how presidents use the Rose Garden and other public activities. “But it’s one of those traditional, very presidential, settings that can work to the president’s advantage. You sign a bill that doesn’t have a lot of support in Congress, and it says, ‘I’m still the president,’ in this iconic setting. The perception is very important.”

For Mr. 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, Mr. Trump staged a Rose Garden celebration with about 100 Republican lawmakers in attendance. The measure failed in the Senate two months later.

Since he entered office, Mr. Trump has favored backdrops that portray strength. He pushed for a military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue that was ultimately scratched. More recently, he has explored putting himself at the center of the nationally televised fireworks display on July 4, and addressing the nation from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. That plan, however, is running into resistance from Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington.

But the Rose Garden is one of the few outdoor venues he controls unilaterally.

“He’s an indoor creature, but he wants to be seen outdoors,” said Douglas Brinkley, a presidential historian. “He likes the Oval Office because he could do the big signature and show power. But after a while, it becomes an image of a guy who is locked in a room. This is a deeply image-driven president. In the Rose Garden, he’s able to project that he’s outside and enjoying the compound.”

Former aides said Mr. Trump loved how his complexion looked in the Rose Garden’s natural light, as well as its proximity to the Oval Office and that it felt like a “tourist destination” he could show off while hosting an event.

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