Trump tran­si­tion points to­ward pres­i­dency with new norms

Malta Independent - - WORLD - Nancy Benac

Don­ald Trump, that most un­con­ven­tional of pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates, last spring pledged that he would act per­fectly pres­i­den­tial when the time was right.

“I will be so pres­i­den­tial that you’ll call me and you’ll say, ‘Don­ald, you have to stop that, it’s too much,’” he promised dur­ing a March tele­vi­sion in­ter­view.

Less than two months from In­au­gu­ra­tion Day, there are grow­ing signs that Trump’s idea of what’s pres­i­den­tial may never sync up with past norms — to the de­light of some and dis­may of oth­ers.

The pres­i­dent-elect has kept up his habit of send­ing un­fil­tered tweets, di­rectly chal­lenged the First Amend­ment right to burn the flag and selected a flamethrow­ing out­sider for a top ad­viser. He’s shown no hes­i­ta­tion to traf­fic in un­sub­stan­ti­ated ru­mors, has mixed deal­ings in busi­ness and govern­ment, and has flouted diplo­matic con­ven­tions to make his own sug­ges­tion for who should be Bri­tain’s am­bas­sador to the U.S., a job that hap­pens to al­ready be filled. He’s picked nu­mer­ous fights with in­di­vid­ual jour­nal­ists, dis­re­garded past prac­tices on press ac­cess and dab­bled in the name-call­ing that was com­mon­place dur­ing his can­di­dacy.

Trump’s search for Cabi­net nom­i­nees has played out like a re­al­ity TV show, with a num­ber of can­di­dates en­gaged in un­abashed self-pro­mo­tion while their as­sets and li­a­bil­i­ties are pub­licly de­bated by mem­bers of the pres­i­dent-elect’s own tran­si­tion team. (It’s nor­mally a hush­hush process un­til the un­veil­ing of an ap­pointee). Trump’s tweet that “Fidel Cas­tro is dead!” had none of the diplo­matic sub­tleties nor­mally as­so­ci­ated with such an in­ter­na­tional de­vel­op­ment.

Is all of this, then, the “new nor­mal” for what to ex­pect from a Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion or a re­flec­tion of the grow­ing pains as­so­ci­ated with any pres­i­den­tial tran­si­tion?

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, who knows a thing or two about mak­ing the big leap to the Oval Of­fice, has ex­pressed hope that the weight of the of­fice will ul­ti­mately have a sober­ing ef­fect on Trump, cau­tion­ing peo­ple

against as­sum­ing “the worst.”

“How you cam­paign isn’t al­ways the same as how you gov­ern,” Obama said in one of a string of re­cent com­ments try­ing to pro­vide some mea­sure of re­as­sur­ance to those con­cerned about the next pres­i­dent. “Some­times when you’re cam­paign­ing, you’re try­ing to stir up pas­sions. When you gov­ern, you ac­tu­ally have re­al­ity in front of you, and you have to fig­ure out, ‘How do I make this work.’ “

Repub­li­can Rep. Mark Mead­ows of North Carolina, a strong con­ser­va­tive and a Trump de­fender, said of the tran­si­tion, “You gotta break a few eggs to make an omelet.”

But Thomas Mann, a long­time scholar of govern­ment from the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion, said that while peo­ple can hope for the best, “There’s no rea­son to take what’s go­ing on with any­thing other than great un­easi­ness and cau­tion about the kind of govern­ment that is pre­par­ing to take con­trol in the United States.”

“To call this the ‘new nor­mal’ is to make light of the se­ri­ous­ness of what’s go­ing on,” Mann said.

Trump has “got to get some dis­ci­pline,” said New York Uni­ver­sity’s Paul Light, an­other scholar of govern­ment. “He’s just got to get on this.”

On the mat­ter of Trump’s tweet­ing, Light said, “If he’s up at 3 a.m. about to tweet, he should start read­ing some­thing about his agenda in­stead. He’s un­der-in­formed and so is his staff.” The con­cerns ex­tend well be­yond mat­ters of style.

—Trump’s out-of-the-blue tweet this week that peo­ple who burn the flag should face jail time or a loss of cit­i­zen­ship had Republicans step­ping for­ward to de­fend First Amend­ment rights.

—His un­founded charges that mil­lions of Amer­i­cans voted il­le­gally sow distrust in the in­tegrity of the U.S. elec­toral sys­tem.

—On mat­ters of press ac­cess, the idea that the where­abouts of the pres­i­dent or pres­i­dent-elect might be un­known in a time of na­tional emer­gency has trou­bling im­pli­ca­tions be­yond mere in­con­ve­nience for re­porters.

And ex­perts on govern­ment ethics say that if the pres­i­dent doesn’t sell off his vast busi­ness build­ings, he’ll be sub­ject to a never-end­ing string of con­flictof-in­ter­est ques­tions that will cast a cloud over his pol­icy ac­tions.

For all of that, though, polls show Trump’s fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ings have ticked up since the elec­tion, even if they are still ex­tremely low for an in­com­ing pres­i­dent.

A CNN sur­vey re­leased last week found that Trump’s fa­vor­a­bil­ity rat­ing had gone from 36 per­cent a few weeks be­fore the elec­tion to 47 per­cent 10 days af­ter the vote. A lit­tle less than half of Amer­i­cans said Trump’s ac­tions since the elec­tion had made them more con­fi­dent in his abil­ity to serve as pres­i­dent.

A Quin­nip­iac poll re­leased last week found that nearly 6 in 10 Amer­i­cans thought Trump should shut down his per­sonal Twit­ter ac­count. And more than half were con­cerned that Trump might veto leg­is­la­tion that’s good for the na­tion if it hurt his busi­ness in­ter­ests.

Trump has of­fered post-elec­tion re­as­sur­ances that he’ll be “very re­strained” in his tweets and more go­ing for­ward. His ac­tions haven’t al­ways con­firmed that.

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