'Trump Whisperer' Conway named White House counselor
WASHINGTON DC, USA (UPDATED) – More than just a trusted advisor, Kellyanne Conway earned the nickname "Trump Whisperer" on the US presidential campaign trail for an uncanny ability to soothe and soften the brash real estate magnate.
Conway on Thursday, December 22, was rewarded for her gifts – and her political acumen as driver of Donald Trump's successful campaign strategy – with an influential White House post as counselor to the president-elect.
The news cements a place after Trump's inauguration next month for the wily veteran strategist, who will be working in a White House led for the first time by someone who has never before held elective office.
Conway, 49, has been arguably Trump's most effective surrogate, softening the Republican billionaire's prickly edges and helping him appear more reasonable and relatable.
For months she was his indefatigable spokeswoman and careful manager, an apologist for his worst excesses, emphasizing the good, deflecting the bad by pivoting to Democrat Hillary Clinton's weaknesses, and handling his ego with dexterity.
"She is a tireless and tenacious advocate of my agenda and has amazing insights on how to effectively communicate our message," Trump said in a statement announcing Conway's appointment.
The ever smiling pollster, Republican strategist and mother of 4 was the first woman to manage a successful US presidential campaign, and now becomes one of the most influential women in Trump's administration.
'Make crazy seem normal'
Conway had an unusually high media profile as the public face of Trump's campaign, and has been on the receiving end of regular lampooning from popular late-night comedy show Saturday Night Live – as has her boss.
For Gabriel Kahn, a professor at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Conway's gender helped make her indispensable to Trump.
As the real estate mogul came under fire for vulgar remarks about groping women and stood accused of sexual misconduct by a dozen women, she made his words "seem not so awful, simply because she was an attractive, articulate and blond white woman," Kahn told Agence France-Presse recently.
"The fact that she could, with a straight face, go on talk show after talk show and explain away all these transgressions, inconsistencies, multiple flaws, what have you, was an effective tool to make crazy seem normal," he said.
Conway never indulged in the vicious mudslinging that characterized so much of the election, earning the trust of the Trump children and grudging respect from her detractors.
On Thursday morning, Conway made a round of television interviews, elaborating on her White House role in the Trump administration.
She told MSNBC she saw herself as "a discreet adviser" on Trump's communications strategy, calling him a "brilliant communicator and connector."
"That's how he won this campaign, how he became president. If I can support that, I will."
Trump later Thursday tapped veteran party strategist Sean Spicer – the longtime chief spokesman of the Republican National Committee – for the key post of White House press secretary.
The New York Times reported that Trump had hoped to persuade Conway to at least share the podium as press secretary – but that she declined.
The New Jersey native, raised by a single mother, studied political science, later getting a law degree from George Washington University.
She founded her own polling company in 1995 with offices in Washington and New York, and has worked with a number of Republican heavy hitters over the years.
For the 2016 presidential campaign, she initially worked with Ted Cruz, but joined Trump's team after the Texas senator crashed out of the race.
She outlived the two campaign managers who preceded her running Trump's campaign – Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort – both of whom showed less deftness in their campaign strategy, and considerably less finesse handling their boss.
As aides confided to the US press, you cannot order around a 70-year-old billionaire who thinks he's invincible.
Instead, Conway took a more subtle approach. A New York magazine article compared her talk of managing Trump to a mother of "unruly toddlers."
"It's like saying to someone, 'How about having 2 brownies and not 6?'" she told the magazine.
Married to George Conway, a partner in a New York law firm, the couple and their children live in a $6 million mansion in Alpine, New Jersey, one of America's wealthiest zip codes. – Rappler.com