Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION -

Dur­ing the 2016 po­lit­i­cal cam­paign, with Hil­lary Clin­ton clearly headed for White House vic­tory over her un­ortho­dox GOP op­po­nent, Don­ald Trump made the bold claim that he could change and be­come any­thing he wanted.

“It’s very easy be­ing pres­i­den­tial,” he pro­claimed with the con­fi­dence of a bil­lion­aire.

The first fifth of the Don­ald Trump pres­i­dency has proven the ac­cu­racy of Don­ald Trump’s claim. He can in­deed change and be­come pres­i­den­tial — but only dur­ing his for­eign trips as United States com­man­der in chief and leader of the free world. We wit­nessed that other Pres­i­dent Trump dur­ing his five-na­tion, nearly two-week jour­ney around Asia.

At home, it’s a dif­fer­ent story, dif­fer­ent pres­i­dent, dif­fer­ent man. His reg­u­lar early-morn­ing tweet of­fen­sives, for in­stance, pro­vide a hos­tile res­i­dent me­dia the day’s easy sto­ry­line — who’s an­gered the 71-year-old with what state­ment on which broad­cast net­work.

Diehard Trump sup­port­ers, a group of­ten hov­er­ing now slightly be­low 40 per­cent, love it. Trump is be­ing the rowdy gun­slinger crash­ing the deco­rous D.C. party, up­set­ting all the stuffy elites who’ve been dis­mis­sively ig­nor­ing them for years. The more out­ra­geous, the bet­ter, even if it’s po­lit­i­cally coun­ter­pro­duc­tive.

The rest of Amer­i­cans, a group now ap­proach­ing six in 10, do not ap­prove of this Oval Of­fice oc­cu­pant. It’s not like they can do any­thing about it for three more years. But they frown, even wince, at this pres­i­dent’s ver­bal an­tics and un­abashed ar­ro­gance.

But wheel a long stair­case up to the gap­ing door of that beau­ti­ful blue-and-white Air Force One com­mand cen­ter on some for­eign air­port, and the man who steps out and waves is a dif­fer­ent pres­i­dent.

Con­fi­dent. As­sured. Ac­tu­ally hu­man. In Bei­jing, the pres­i­dent of the United States de­lighted China’s Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping by pro­duc­ing a tablet with a video of 6-year-old grand­daugh­ter Ara­bella Kush­ner singing a song for him in Man­darin.

At that mo­ment the man who mil­lions still love to hate for soundly shat­ter­ing their over-con­fi­dent elec­tion ex­pec­ta­tions was just an­other proud grandpa.

Of course, in re­al­ity the real es­tate mag­nate was also sell­ing some­thing, in this case sup­port for in­creased pres­sure on North Korea’s ro­tund, rogue dic­ta­tor, Kim Jung Un, to aban­don his rapidly de­vel­op­ing nu­clear weapons pro­gram.

For­eign traveler Trump has the sup­port of both Democrats (75 per­cent) and Repub­li­cans (74 per­cent), in rare agree­ment that the North’s weapons pro­gram is a ma­jor threat to the coun­try, the Pew Re­search Cen­ter found.

Trump took a broad states­man­like ap­proach in a speech to South Korea’s Na­tional As­sem­bly. It was not apolo­getic, but both elo­quent and re­fresh­ingly can­did.

“Amer­ica does not seek con­flict or con­fronta­tion,” the pres­i­dent said, “but we will never run from it. His­tory is filled with dis­carded regimes that have fool­ishly tested Amer­ica’s re­solve.”

Trump urged other na­tions to pres­sure Pyongyang. “The time for ex­cuses is over,” he said. “Now is the time for strength. If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times. The world can­not tol­er­ate the men­ace of a rogue regime that threat­ens with nu­clear dev­as­ta­tion.”

Then, Trump di­rectly ad­dressed “the leader of the North Korean dic­ta­tor­ship. The weapons you are ac­quir­ing are not mak­ing you safer. They are putting your regime in grave dan­ger.

“North Korea is not the par­adise your grand­fa­ther en­vi­sioned. It is a hell that no per­son de­serves. Yet, de­spite ev­ery crime you have com­mit­ted against God and man, we will of­fer a path to a much bet­ter fu­ture.

“It be­gins with an end to the ag­gres­sion of your regime, a stop to your de­vel­op­ment of bal­lis­tic mis­siles, and com­plete, ver­i­fi­able, and to­tal de­nu­cle­ariza­tion.”

No­tably ab­sent from this 35-minute Trump speech was the bom­bast, de­ri­sive “lit­tle Rocket Man” nick­names and threats of unimag­in­able “fire and fury” rain­ing down on Kim’s Penn­syl­va­nia-sized coun­try.

But wait! That shouldn’t re­ally sur­prise. This was the Pres­i­dent Trump speak­ing abroad in Seoul, not the other Pres­i­dent Trump spout­ing off back in Wash­ing­ton

Andrew Mal­colm

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