Trump is com­bat­ant in chief; he’s get­ting bet­ter

The Fresno Bee - - Opinion - BY HUGH HE­WITT

Pres­i­dent Donald Trump will win re-elec­tion. Any­one who watched Wed­nes­day’s presser af­ter Trump’s big night Tues­day knows in his or her bones that it will hap­pen, be­cause the pres­i­dent is get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter at the job.

We in the me­dia are rightly up­set that the White House has sus­pended the press cre­den­tials of CNN’s Jim Acosta, but I sus­pect the pub­lic is with the pres­i­dent and gen­er­ally ad­mir­ing of his dis­dain for those of us with mi­cro­phones and key­boards.

When I first in­ter­viewed Trump in 2015 be­fore he de­clared for the pres­i­dency, and al­most a year later be­fore the New Hamp­shire pri­mary, I ref­er­enced his July 21, 2005, tes­ti­mony to the Se­nate on the then-pend­ing re­model of the U.N. head­quar­ters. It is an amaz­ing per­for­mance, if you find it on YouTube. Trump was in his el­e­ment, talk­ing real es­tate de­vel­op­ment, New York City com­mer­cial space and con­trac­tors, la­bor unions and naivete among lessees. He was funny, pre­cise and in com­mand of an amaz­ing ar­ray of facts.

I bring up the U.N. tes­ti­mony be­cause the ex­changes with the me­dia Wed­nes­day, es­pe­cially with Acosta (who has been a wel­come guest on my ra­dio show) were lop­sid­edly in fa­vor of the pres­i­dent. The pres­i­dent has spent two years learn­ing the job. He brought a com­mu­ni­ca­tions skill set un­matched by any other com­man­der in chief, ex­cept Ron­ald Rea­gan, and as much – if not more – tele­vi­sion ex­pe­ri­ence than the Gip­per.

Pres­i­dent Barack Obama could do “cool” as well as any­one. No­body is bet­ter at “com­bat­ive” than Trump, and we live in an age ad­dicted to com­bat­ive­ness. Ca­ble news has adopted sports-like coverage and mon­e­tized com­bat­ive­ness. So, too, video games and block­buster comic-book movies. The cul­ture is built on com­bat­ive­ness.

And the pres­i­dent is get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter at the pol­icy and per­for­mance as­pects of the pres­i­dency, get­ting bet­ter on the de­tails even as he sharp­ens his joust­ing skills.

I have said since 2015 that Trump is the best in­ter­view in Amer­ica. It’s still true. And he’s mak­ing it look ef­fort­less. “60 Min­utes,” a full-on news con­fer­ence, the press avail­abil­i­ties in the Oval Of­fice, the walks to the he­li­copter – he al­ways de­liv­ers in­cred­i­bly watch­able tele­vi­sion.

What he needs is a sup­port­ing cast, beyond the su­perb na­tional se­cu­rity voices he has in Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser John Bolton. (De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis es­chews the talk-show spot­light.) Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence al­ways con­nects with con­ser­va­tive au­di­ences, and a few other Cabi­net mem­bers shine. But Trump needs Sun­day-show talent beyond Kellyanne Con­way. I’ve writ­ten be­fore that he needs Judge Michael Lut­tig at the Jus­tice Depart­ment; part of Lut­tig’s value would be his com­mand­ing pres­ence.

If Trump re­pop­u­lated his front bench with a tal­ented sup­port­ing cast who would am­plify rather than muf­fle his mes­sage, he’ll be un­stop­pable in 2020.

As he leans into the job and gains a new foil in soon-to-be House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, he’ll be sell­ing his vision of “com­pro­mise” as­sisted by Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell, and Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina (the sec­ond-best in­ter­view in Amer­ica).

So much could get done – a DACA-plus (De­ferred Ac­tion for Child­hood Ar­rivals) deal that in­cludes a strong, dou­ble-sided fence, in­creas­ing the Navy to 355 ships, pro­vid­ing jobs in some Demo­cratic states and pre­scrip­tion drug pric­ing re­form.

Link­ing his grow­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and his com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills with, fi­nally, a re­li­able Se­nate ma­jor­ity and maybe, just maybe, a speaker who’d like a few last mark­ers for his­tory could pro­duce quite a ride.

Hugh He­witt is a pro­fes­sor of law at Chap­man Univer­sity’s School of Law.

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