Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump needs to change his tune, be­lieve me

The Trentonian (Trenton, NJ) - - NEWS - Jeff Edel­stein Colum­nist Jeff Edel­stein is a colum­nist for The Tren­to­nian. He can be reached at jedel­stein@tren­to­, face­­freyedel­stein and @jeffedel­stein on Twit­ter.

Be­lieve me. How many times have you heard those two words come from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s lips? Dozens, if not hun­dreds.

And when he says those words, he’s not say­ing them to punc­tu­ate a point; he’s say­ing them be­cause he’s telling us that we should be­lieve him in the lit­eral sense, no mat­ter how ridicu­lous the claim.

“I know more about ISIS than the gen­er­als do, be­lieve me,” he said over a year ago on the cam­paign trail. To me, that’s the quin­tes­sen­tial Trumpian “be­lieve me,” in that there prob­a­bly isn’t one per­son on this great green Earth that ac­tu­ally be­lieved that state­ment.

But again: I as­sert that he meant it. And you know why? Be­cause for his en­tire public life, he’s been pulling the same “be­lieve me” stuff and we lapped it up ev­ery time, mostly be­cause it didn’t mat­ter.

All of his claims be­fore he started run­ning for pres­i­dent — true or not — were triv­ial. Thus, we had noth­ing to lose by “be­liev­ing” it, usu­ally pas­sively. You’ve got the classi­est build­ings? Sure fine what­ever. Your girl­friends are gor­geous? Great won­der­ful fan­tas­tic. Your steaks are the bestest, your vodka is the classi­est, your TV show is the great­est, your univer­sity is the smartest, and on and on and on? OK then. That’s great. Lovely.

But let’s look at it from Trump’s per­spec­tive: His whole life he’s made ridicu­lous claims, and his whole life none of us checked him on it. So he fig­ured — cor­rectly — he could keep on do­ing it through the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign. But now, as pres­i­dent, the “be­lieve me” act is wear­ing thin.

It was fun when he was our rich Un­cle Don­ald. But now that he’s the pres­i­dent of the United States, it’s not fun. Not at all.

Es­pe­cially right now, when things are go­ing south.

Re­ally, from any ob­jec­tive an­gle, his first month as pres­i­dent has been a dis­as­ter. The travel ban is tied up in courts, these weird/scary ties to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence have come out, his na­tional se­cu­rity ad­vi­sor re­signed, an­other cabi­net nom­i­nee quit, the head of the mil­i­tary’s Spe­cial Op­er­a­tions Com­mand pub­licly said the White House is in “un­be­liev­able tur­moil,” and Trump con­tin­ues to lie about voter fraud (and if not “lie,” spread base­less claims). And those are just the high­lights.

Upon think­ing about it, it’s no sur­prise he’s hav­ing cam­paign rally Satur­day in Florida, and yes, you read that right, a cam­paign rally. For the 2020 race. It’s been hyped through his cam­paign web­site and his press secretary Melissa McCar-, er Sean Spicer called it a “cam­paign event.” Why would he do this 29 days into his first term? Who knows. But I bet he’s go­ing to feel good when he lets loose with a few “be­lieve me’s” and his loyal sup­port­ers cheer in re­sponse.

Of course, the non-sup­port­ers out­weigh the sup­port­ers these days. Gallup has Trump at a 41 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing, which is the low­est ever for a new pres­i­dent since Gallup be­gan track­ing in 1953. To give an even starker idea of how low 41 per­cent ap­proval is when it comes to the of­fice of the pres­i­dent, con­sider this: As he was leav­ing of­fice, Richard Nixon still car­ried a 24 per­cent ap­proval rat­ing. Trump is un­pop­u­lar, point of fact. (But ac­cord­ing to Gallup, only 20 per­cent of Amer­i­cans trust news­pa­pers, so polls schmolls, right?)

You’d think he’d try to do some­thing about this. You’d think in­stead of sur­round­ing him­self with po­lit­i­cal neo­phytes, he’d find qual­ity peo­ple to help him out. You’d think in­stead of con­tin­u­ing to in­sist he knows more than every­body, he’d ad­mit the job is big­ger than he thought. You’d think he could check his ego, if only for a few mo­ments, in an ef­fort to get the ma­jor­ity of the coun­try in his cor­ner.

But he’s not do­ing any of this, and he prob­a­bly won’t. As a re­sult, we’re prob­a­bly go­ing to pin­ball around based on his whims while we all silently pray he’s not truly tested in any mean­ing­ful way. In the end, prob­a­bly not a whole lot is go­ing to get done.

Be­lieve me.


Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump walks on the South Lawn upon ar­rival at the White House in Wash­ing­ton from a trip to Florida.

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