The problem with all the advice to the president urging him to change his demeanor is that it is given for the wrong reason and at the wrong time.
As I have often recounted, since Donald Trump attacks the entire political system and almost everyone in or near it in both parties (including former presidents), it was never going to be possible for him to lower the ferocity of his barrages until it was clear how successful his effort to dislodge or reorient the entire political establishment had been.
Obviously, if he had not won the nomination, or lost the election, he would be, in political terms, a trivia question like Michael Dukakis (Democratic presidential nominee in 1988). He has expelled the NeverTrumpers from the Republican congressional delegations with Senators Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and others headed for the exits. But if he loses control of the Congress next week, gridlock will reimpose itself, and we will have trench warfare until the next presidential election. In those circumstances, Trump might likely be disposed to be more placatory, and behave more like a contestant in a great national debate, with little realistic hope of changing the system he has attacked much more than he already has.
This was the lot of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, who put in their tax increase and health care, respectively, in their first two years, and then were severely defeated at their first mid-terms and never moved more than a Christmas card through Congress thereafter. Republican congressional leaders Newt Gingrich and Bob Dole frustrated Clinton, and John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Mitch McConnell drove Obama to attempt government by questionable executive regulation, leading to the extreme politicization of Supreme Court nominations.
Trump has revoked almost all Obama’s executive orders, gutted the coercive part of Obamacare, and got his two conservative nominations onto the Supreme Court. Obama’s lasting effect—apart from having admirably smashed the color bar on eligibility for the presidency—has been minimal, as has been Clinton’s. So much for the loudly proclaimed ambitions of both of them to be “transformative” presidents. At transformation, they were a bust. Trump is already ahead of them. America and the world are waiting to see if this president can hold the momentum past the midterms.
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