One of Trump’s closing arguments was his promise to “drain the swamp”.
Less than a week after winning the election in dramatic fashion and preparing to move into the White House, he appears to have caught a serious case of swamp fever.
He may have been infected from the whole set of Washington insiders that he has invited to help him plan the transition.
He may have caught it from President Obama himself. After what he described as very cordial meeting for which he appeared genuinely grateful, he described Obama as a very good man.
That wall that he promised to build on day one? Newt Gingrich admitted that Trump probably can’t get Mexico to pay for the wall, but that it was a “great campaign device”.
Instead of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton and Barak Obama, in an exclusive interview with the WSJ, Trump said, “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform.”
Instead of making the repeal of Obamacare his first priority, instead he is talking about a series of amendments to improve it.
Oh and that Iran nuclear deal, one of the worst deals in the history of the world? He kinda likes it. He’s going to talk with the Iranians about a couple of his concerns, but he isn’t going to tear it up.
Moving or embassy to Jerusalem (a big issue for Sheldon Adelson)? Trump’s campaign said that any move would come only after there was a consensus by all parties. The Palestinians have been and are seriously opposed to the move.
That waterboarding stuff? Mike Rodgers representing the Trump campaign said it was just “campaign talk”.
Instead of supporting Paul Ryan’s call to privatize Medicare and Social Security, Trump has been curiously quiet.
Those mass deportations? They are history too. Instead Trump has said he is only going to deport those illegal immigrants who commit violent crimes. This is pretty much what the Obama administration has been doing for the past 8 years.
Those nasty late night tweets? Even they appear to have moderated. After sharply criticizing the #notmypresident demonstrations, he quickly released another tweet celebrating their passion and their right to express their opinion.
What happened to this guy?
Who kidnapped Donald Trump and replaced him with a thoughtful moderate?
Here’s my take.
We already know that he is not an ideologue and his main principle appears to be his own self-interest.
What we may be discovering is that he is more of a narcissistic Zelig chameleon than anyone thought.
We also may be discovering that he understands that he has to start working now to win the midterm elections in two years. Those who didn’t vote for him are just waiting for his first misstep to turn the next two years into an Occupy Washington protest.
We are now 7 years into this economic expansion cycle. We are starting to see some inflation and finally a little wage growth. We are well overdue for a recession.
The best thing that Trump could do to protect his Congressional majorities in 2018 is pump a lot of money into the economy as quickly as possible in the form of infrastructure improvements. We know from Obama’s attempts to do the same thing on a MUCH smaller scale that it takes a while to get this going. Obama may have warned Trump about how long it will take to get anything done in Washington. We also know that big spending bills provide plenty of opportunities for back seat driving and second guessing. The last thing Trump needs is a fight over this. The best way to get spending bill passed quickly is to make sure that the Democrats are on board too. He may need their help to overcome the fiscal conservatives and small government ideologues that still dominate his party.
By narrowing his focus to jobs, securing the boarder, amending Obamacare, and passing his tax plan; he can gain enough good will with the public to gain a little momentum. If he can find a way to work with the Democrats rather than poking them in the eye, he can continue to keep the Republican establishment off balance. Perhaps Obama also warned him that the Republicans in Washington are not his friends.
Since he doesn’t have the votes to over override a Senate veto, he would be wise to take small steps that will make it through the Senate. Otherwise, he runs the risk of the Democrats running out the clock on his first two years in much the same way that Republicans tied up Obama.
If he can find a way to get government working again by pivoting to the center, while still retaining the support of his base, he may prove to be a better politician than anyone imagined. If so, it may turn out that swamp fever isn’t so bad after all. If, however, this is really honeymoon fever, and the old combative Trump returns, it could be a bumpy two years.