Picture one of those old black-and-white movies in which bank robbers keep pursuers at bay by firing their machine guns at the ground from the back of a fleeing getaway car.
It is an apt metaphor for a public-relations tactic deployed by certain elected officials — one that came into play when Rudy Giuliani was New York City’s mayor.
Every elected executive sees some policies defeated and some personnel choices stymied, but all do not face setbacks the same way.
Like Giuliani, President Donald Trump uses the verbal getaway shot as a way of capping a loss.
After a court blocked his ban on immigration from seven nations, Trump blasted the “so-called judge” responsible. When a three-judge panel turned down a bid to reinstate his executive order, Trump called it a “political decision” and predicted he’d win on further appeal.
Then an aide suggested a modified order could be crafted.
But in recent days, the spotlight shifted and the noise of those getaway shots faded -- with the travel measure still suspended.
After a besieged Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn departed this week as his national security adviser, Trump sprayed the parting shots in different downward directions.
The media faked the news, he said. “Papers are being leaked, things are being leaked,” he said. Earlier, his spokesman blamed “the evolving and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation and a series of other questionable instances.”
Boom, boom, boom, go the getaway shots.
Lost the popular vote?
Pow — Millions voted illegally. Or alternatively, boom — the campaign would have worked its strategies differently if that mattered. And then — Bam! — An investigation will be launched.
Now the noise is abating.
Disappointing attendance for the inaugural?
White tarps covered the ground. Or news media conspired to “lessen the enthusiasm.” Or photos were “framed in a way” to minimize the event.
In other words: Pop-pop-pop.
Trump deployed the method during the campaign when he finally decided to end his years of promoting the false rumor of President Barack Obama’s foreign birth.
Trump's getaway shot: Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton started the whole thing when she ran against Obama in 2008.
For all its credibility problems, the unsupported claim gave Trump some ammo to fire in making his getaway from the birther canard.
Giuliani held off pursuers in a similar way.
In November 1994, his first year as mayor, he lost a big political gamble -- endorsing Democratic Gov. Mario Cuomo against his own Republican Party’s candidate, George Pataki.
Pataki won, prompting concerns that the new administration would see fit to shortchange the city.
So the mayor pegged his verbal getaway shots -- in a style more coherent than Trump's.
“Even as you look at some of the headlines in the papers today about the city being diminished, the city being hurt, I want you to remember a couple of very, very crucial facts,” Giuliani told a meeting of real estate and business executives.
“New York City and this region of the state of New York contributes $3.3 billion to Albany that it does not receive back. Upstate New York gets $3.3 billion from Albany more than it contributes to Albany.”
That gunfire was more muffled than the barrage that issued from City Hall a few months earlier.
One day in May, negative stories were percolating around Giuliani’s youth commissioner. So his press office peddled a story about the previous administration’s commissioner funneling funds to political contributors and a mysterious theft of files occurring at the agency’s office.
Later the tale proved unfounded, wounding someone's reputation. But for the first-year mayor, the getaway shots achieved their limited purpose -- a short-term distraction from a setback.