Obviously, no one expected to sway the coolly cerebral, professorial and progressive President Barack Obama with the same arguments that won over a self-proclaimed “decider” and “gut-player” like President George W. Bush.
But now influence-peddlers face an even greater challenge: figuring out how to best position themselves before President Donald Trump, an unlikely commander in chief whose policy agenda and worldview appear thus far to lack the coherence of those of his 44 most recent predecessors.
Consider these examples of how ploys for presidential attention may have evolved over the past three administrations.
▪ Your best case for investing in education
Bush: One way to reduce regulations is to enact multi-purpose ones. For example, when it comes to important questions like “Is our children learning?” “Anyone see the twins?” and “Will Jeb ever be president?,” here’s a threefer: No Child Left Behind.
Obama: Unfortunately, Sir, statistics show that 93 percent of Americans still lack the basic reading comprehension skills to follow a conversation between you and Michiko Kakutani.
Trump: No, Sir, the state standards have nothing to do with the pizza place. Wait, this whole time you thought it was Comet Core?
▪ Your best case for standing strong against Russia
Bush: We need to mobilize our most sophisticated intelligence resources to assess Putin’s intentions — so would you mind looking deeply into his eyes again?
Obama: As much as we hoped for a new chapter in this relationship, Putin’s actions in Crimea suggest he forgot there’s no “I” in “peregruzka,” which the experts at State are at least 80 percent positive is Russian for “reset.”
Trump: The best way to remove this cloud of suspicion over your Russia dealings is to remember that smart sanctions are like a great necktie: broad, bold and designed to hit below the belt.
▪ Your best case against torture
Bush: It paints an ugly picture of our country when our definition of “torture” is narrower than the vice president’s arteries. And you wouldn’t want to paint an ugly picture, would you?
Obama: Since you’ve already made clear that the United States doesn’t torture folks, let’s just break for lunch. Here, I brought you seven almonds.
Trump: Mad Dog and I don’t want to Merkel-splain about international conventions to you, Sir, but who needs waterboarding when we could just make them watch “Saturday Night Live”?
▪ Your best case for fighting climate change
Bush: Even if you don’t believe the science, we can’t misunderestimate the possible consequences: The hotter the weather, the bigger the storms, the more you’ll have to deal with Kanye.
Obama: Sen. Jim Inhofe found a snowball, so you can go ahead and cancel the Paris conference. Haha, obviously just kidding.
Trump: As the evidence — namely that DVD Leonardo DiCaprio gave to your daughter — makes clear, there’s at least some possibility that energy from the sun could be messing with our greenhouse gases. As you said, Sir, you can do anything when you’re a star.
▪ Your best case for paid family leave
Bush: This common-sense policy will open new doors of opportunity for hardworking American families. And we all know how hard it can be to open doors.
Obama: The United States is the only industrialized nation that doesn’t give workers paid family leave — and I imagine that makes America a little too exceptional for your taste.
Trump: If we let new mothers stay home until they’re done with the disgusting stuff like breast pumps and baby weight, we can Make Working Moms 8s Again.
▪ Your best case for same-sex marriage
Bush: Even the vice president is for it, and you’re supposed to be the one with the good heart.
Obama: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. And it needs to bend a little faster than we planned because Joe went off script today.
Trump: Daddy, you’re embarrassing me and Jared in front of our friends!
Clare Doody is a speechwriter with West Wing Writers in Washington, D.C.