Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Honeymoon

It's amazing.  As long as I have been aware of Donald Trump, he has been a punchline, a joke.  In bad taste, certainly, but a joke nonetheless.  And now in just over two months he will be our President.

It has been commented that no leader ever turns out to be as good as his supporters hoped or as bad as his opponents feared.  Given that both of those were taken to extremes under Trump, it seems likely to be true.  I myself must reevaluate how much of what I said about him was unduly alarmist.  Much of it does, indeed, seem unduly alarmist -- for now.  The future remains to be seen.

So say this in his favor.  He began with a gracious acceptance speech, promising to set aside divisions and be President for all Americans.  He has lost all interest in prosecuting Hillary Clinton or (presumably) suing women who say he groped them, now that they no longer stand in the way of his power.  He has reassured South Korea that we intend to stick by our treaty obligations.  Republicans who swore they would never support Trump are coming into the fold and seeking places as his advisers.  Even opponents are encouraging them to do so.

Conventional wisdom is now that the Trump of the campaign trail is a thing of the past.  He will now become a generic Republican President.  He will boost the economy by cutting taxes and reducing regulation, reassure our nervous allies, reconcile with Russia, and all will be well.  Struck by the awesome responsibility of power, he will abandon his past reckless and crooked behavior and become a true statesman.*  As for reverting to form with his tweet just two days later condemning protests against him?  Just a speed bump along the way of his transformation into true statesman.

All newly-elected Presidents pass through this phase.  It is called the honeymoon phase.  Every newly elected President suddenly becomes a messiah who will set us on the right course, overcome our partisan divisions, and ensure peace and prosperity for all time to come.  It hasn't happened yet, and I don't expect it to any time soon.

David Frum has unleashed a Twitter storm warning why it is a mistake to assume Trump has emerged as a new man.  It begins, "Slicing away one’s memory lobes an excellent basis for decision-making, so sure (he said with heavy sarcasm)."  Some of the tweets that follow are a bit too harsh. By and large, Trump is so much hot air.  A whole lot of what he said on the campaign trail is best dismissed as fantasy.  Now that he is President, Trump will have to deal in reality.  For instance, once he learns what would actually go into "take the oil," I doubt we will hear any more about it.  Some of Frum's tweets are addressed to similar levels of madness.  But two toward the end are well worth keeping in mind.  "Let’s have a fresh start, because 70 year old men afflicted by narcissistic personality disorder often suddenly become better people," and "Let’s have a fresh start, because Trump’s contemptuous assumption of media gullibility is fully justified."

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.  As for Trump, I have seen him be right at least three times on the campaign trail, all about important things.  One, spoken during the third debate, was that it was a huge mistake to support Arab rebels without finding out who they were and whether they could be trusted.  Well, granted, he has the benefit of hindsight, but yes, the point is sound, and I hope he keeps it in mind and doesn't allow advisers to overcome his judgment on that one.  Two was his comment on the Brexit, when he commented that the falling pound would give tourism a boost and buoy the British economy through the transition.  It was in rather poor taste to make in the context of advertising his own golf course, but the overall point is sound.  Three was a comment on Ben Carson's claim that he had a violent youth until he took Jesus Christ as his savior and then completely turned around in a matter of hours.  Trump, unaware that such things are a standard narrative for Evangelical Christians, pointed out that it doesn't work that way.  And, of course, he was right.

Well, guess what.  Trump may know how to act the gracious statesman for a while, with everything going his way.  But he has been a megalomaniac for 70 years and is most likely to stop in one day. The bombast may die down a bit as he discovers that he has to deal in reality.  But sooner or later the honeymoon will end.  It always does.  And then we will see how President Trump (I can't believe I actually have to say that) reacts to adversity.  How long will the honeymoon last?  In my experience, Presidential honeymoons last until at least a few says after inauguration, but never as long as the midterm elections.

In the case of Trump, it may be shorter.  A mere twenty days after the election, the Trump University lawsuit for fraud is scheduled to go to trial.

*Again, my boss is a fair barometer.  Remember all those horrible things that are just about to happen and he wants to see Democrats in power so they will be blamed for?  Well, never mind, now that the Republicans are in power, they won't happen after all.

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