Trump makes his own mark on Wash­ing­ton

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In the year since his elec­tion, Don­ald Trump has changed Wash­ing­ton more than Wash­ing­ton has changed him.

With that, the na­tion’s 45th pres­i­dent has up­ended yet another norm — in this case, the as­sump­tion that mov­ing into the White House will have a sober­ing in­flu­ence on a newly elected com­man­der in chief. Fac­ing awe­some re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and the sud­den re­spon­si­bil­ity for gov­ern­ing, a new pres­i­dent typ­i­cally moves to mod­er­ate his rhetoric and reach out to old foes, at least for a while. Cam­paign prom­ises are ad­justed to ac­knowl­edge po­lit­i­cal re­al­i­ties and com­pet­ing power cen­ters. Not this time.

In­stead, Trump con­tin­ues to be the un­pre­dictable blud­geon fa­mil­iar from the 2016 cam­paign. He has forced Wash­ing­ton to ad­just to him — ac­cel­er­at­ing the pace, rais­ing the tem­per­a­ture and wi­den­ing the frac­tures in both par­ties. In short: louder, faster,


As much as any pres­i­dent in mod­ern times, he has left a dis­tinc­tive stamp on the cap­i­tal that prob­a­bly will have reper­cus­sions after his ten­ure is over.

“Trump’s suc­ces­sors can draw lessons from his successful and last­ing ap­peal to the white work­ing class, his flam­boy­ant ver­bal dis­par­age­ment of es­tab­lish­ment Wash­ing­ton, his at­tempt to di­min­ish a hos­tile main­stream me­dia and his strong use of ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers,” says Steven Schier, co-au­thor of The Trump Pres­i­dency: An Out­sider in the Oval Of­fice. “All this has con­verted the pres­i­dency into an en­gine of bat­tle. Fu­ture pres­i­dents will no doubt fire up that en­gine for their own pur­poses.”

An al­ter­nate uni­verse?

Trump has in­ten­si­fied and mag­ni­fied th­ese trends. Par­ti­san­ship has been hard­en­ing for decades, and Pres­i­dent Obama ex­panded the use of ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion when he wasn’t able to push leg­is­la­tion through Congress. Trust in the news me­dia and the gov­ern­ment was erod­ing well be­fore Trump be­gan at­tack­ing those in­sti­tu­tions on Twit­ter.

In an al­ter­nate uni­verse in which Hil­lary Clin­ton man­aged to win the White House last year, it’s hard to imagine there would have been a cease-fire in the era of con­stant po­lit­i­cal com­bat.

Trump has re­de­fined the GOP in his im­age — no longer the party of free trade, global lead­er­ship and deficit re­duc­tion but of “Amer­ica first” and cul­tural war­fare. In a book out next week, for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush told Mark Upde­grove, “I’m worried that I will be the last Repub­li­can pres­i­dent.”

And Trump has at­tacked the main­stream me­dia as “fake news” and “en­e­mies of the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” cast­ing re­porters as ad­ver­saries in a way not seen since Richard Nixon.

The el­e­vated ten­sion level is par­tic­u­larly re­mark­able at a time that the econ­omy is strong. There are chal­lenges in North Korea and else­where but no for­eign pol­icy cri­sis. One party con­trols the White House, the House and Se­nate, tra­di­tion­ally an emol­lient for ac­tion.

Yet for those who work in gov­ern- ment and pol­i­tics from both par­ties, Wash­ing­ton has been in what amounts to an un­in­ter­rupted and ex­haust­ing state of high alert since Elec­tion Day.

Trump men­tioned Wed­nes­day’s oneyear an­niver­sary at a rally with U.S. troops Sun­day in Ja­pan.

William Gal­ston, who ar­rived in town 35 years ago to work on Wal­ter Mon­dale’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, re­calls that “there was a rhythm to Wash­ing­ton,” with times of con­tro­versy fol­lowed by pe­ri­ods of rel­a­tive calm. “Now it’s like sen­sory over­load. … It’s like ev­ery six hours, a new front is opened on a con­stantly ex­pand­ing war.”

The sense of uncer­tainty and peril has been fu­eled by in­ves­ti­ga­tions into al­le­ga­tions that mem­bers of Team Trump may have col­luded with Rus­sian med­dling in the elec­tion, which the pres­i­dent de­nies. The first in­dict­ments and plea deal an­nounced last week by spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller sig­naled the opening of a new and po­ten­tially ex- plo­sive chap­ter on that scan­dal.

For Trump, tur­bu­lence is a tac­tic and dis­rup­tion a sell­ing point.

“I think the Amer­i­can peo­ple elected some­body who’s tough, who’s smart and who’s a fighter,” White House press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders said in a de­fense of his lead­er­ship style. “And that’s Don­ald Trump.”

In­deed, Pres­i­dent Trump is a lot like Can­di­date Trump: a com­bat­ive puncher and coun­ter­puncher who won’t or can’t back away from a fight or an in­sult. A mas­ter of so­cial me­dia who has de­ployed what amounts to a provoca­tive per­sonal broad­cast­ing sys­tem.

“I’ve never seen a man less changed by the cus­toms and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties of the pres­i­dency,” says Gal­ston, a White House pol­icy ad­viser for Pres­i­dent Clin­ton now at the Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion.

No ‘piv­ot­ing’ here

Trump de­clines to ac­com­mo­date to the stan­dard prac­tices of his mod­ern pre­de­ces­sors, in­clud­ing his re­fusal to re­lease his tax re­turns. In re­cent days, he blasted the ac­tions of his own ad­min­is­tra­tion, call­ing the Army’s de­ci­sion not to im­prison Bowe Bergdahl for de­ser­tion “a com­plete and to­tal dis­grace” and say­ing he was “very un­happy” with the Jus­tice De­part­ment for not pur­su­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions of Hil­lary Clin­ton.

This isn’t what the po­lit­i­cal ex­perts pre­dicted.

By now, spec­u­la­tion that Trump is poised to “pivot” to more fa­mil­iar ground in his pol­i­tics or per­sona has proven in­ac­cu­rate so of­ten that the word has be­come more of a punch­line than a pre­dic­tion.

Even a dis­puted elec­tion that was set­tled by a 5-4 de­ci­sion of the Supreme Court was less un­set­tling.

“It was hard, but noth­ing like this,” says Sam Skin­ner, a for­mer chief of staff in the first Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion. What’s more, Trump filed papers to run for a sec­ond term on the day he was in­au­gu­rated to be­gin his first term. That’s new, too.

“Trump’s out there do­ing cam­paign events now,” Skin­ner mar­veled. “Who would have heard of that?”

“It’s like sen­sory over­load. … It’s like ev­ery six hours, a new front is opened on a con­stantly ex­pand­ing war.” William Gal­ston Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion

Pres­i­dent Trump greets the press on his trip to Asia. KAZUHIRO NOGI/AP

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