Trump's Arrival Shakes Washington D. C. with "Why Change" Attitude

by Placerville Newswire / Jan 24, 2017 / comments

BY NIALL STANAGE - The Memo: Searching for firm footing as Trump Era begins

Uncharted territory. 
A brave new world. 
The new abnormal.

Whatever the phrase of choice, one thing is clear: The Donald Trump presidency is unlike any other we have seen.

The first days of the new administration have put the final nail in the coffin of the idea that a New Trump is about to emerge, more conventional than the man the nation has seen since he descended a Trump Tower escalator in June 2015.
 
There is no New Trump. From his perspective, why should there be? 

He has long been the subject of ridicule from media outlets and Beltway pundits due to his controversial policy proclamations, his penchant for punching back at every slight and his reckless Twitter habit.

Consider the results.

He won the world’s most prestigious elected office in his first attempt. He did so by vanquishing a woman with a quarter-century of experience in national politics and two popular presidents on her side. And his success has forced his critics, both inside the GOP and beyond it, to eat humble pie.

Yet there is another side, too. Trump enters office as the least popular new president since polling began. He is in a self-declared war with the media. Demonstrations against him on Saturday drew millions to the streets across the United States.

The reality — that Trump is Trump, and always will be — is something with which Republicans, Democrats and the media alike are grappling. Each group has its own sense of dislocation.

Republicans

The GOP is buoyed by Trump’s victory and the prospect of finally being able to get legislation passed after eight years of President Obama. 

But some in the party fumble for their bearings when the new president ’s unpredictability strikes — as when he told The Washington Post that there would be “insurance for everybody” even after the Affordable Care Act is repealed or when he sniped at House GOP lawmakers for making the gutting of an ethics body one of their first orders of business. They swiftly backtracked.

Percolating behind the scenes, but mostly unheard in public, is the sense that getting too close to Trump could backfire down the line. “There were, and still are, a lot of Republicans who have reservations about Donald Trump from both a personal and political perspective,” said Dan Judy, a GOP strategist whose firm worked for the 2016 presidential campaign of one of Trump’s Republican rivals, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).

“In the campaign, you saw a lot of Republican candidates for the Senate and for the House who said explicitly in the final weeks that they were going to be a check and balance, when needed, on whoever was elected president,” Judy said. “Not many said ‘Trump’ directly, but it was implied.”

Democrats

Democrats took heart from the huge turnout for the Women’s March on Washington and its sister rallies over the weekend. 

They point to Trump’s historically low approval ratings as further evidence that he lacks the moral authority that new presidents typically enjoy. But when it comes to legislation, Democrats are looking into a dark night. Evicted from the White House and in the minority in both House and Senate, they have no legislative levers with which to thwart a president they detest. 

The new Senate minority leader, Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, “You are going to see a really sharp-edged, bold and Democratic economic plan that’s going to help us at the same time that President Trump is floundering.” But will those proposals be infused with enough of the kind of populism that powered Trump’s victory? 

Some in the party warn that it is easy to cull the wrong lessons from the presidential election, given the highly unusual outcome — defeat for a Democratic nominee who won almost 3 million more votes than her Republican counterpart.

“You have to be a little careful here, because it is too easy to jump to conclusions on this,” said veteran Democratic strategist Robert Shrum. “Democrats should have a mantra, and it’s a pretty simple mantra: ‘Stand for what you believe in. Stand with him when he’s right — maybe on infrastructure. Stand against him when he’s wrong.’ ”

The Media

If the depth of Trump’s challenge to the media was not clear before now, it became so on Saturday, Trump’s first full day in office. The new president spoke at CIA headquarters of being in “a running war with the media.” His press secretary, Sean Spicer, then went to the White House lectern and let loose with several factually false statements. His performance earned the most mendacious rating possible in a Washington Post fact check and launched the mocking hashtag #SpicerFacts on Twitter.

Team Trump has made clear that it will adopt an unusually aggressive posture toward the press. When Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway came under vigorous questioning from Chuck Todd on “Meet the Press” and asserted that Spicer’s false claims were merely “alternative facts,” she also warned Todd that the administration might have “to rethink our relationship.”

The media must not be cowed by its critics in the administration or beyond it. “When someone uses the term ‘alternative facts,’ it just cannot be left there to stand,” said Margaux Ewen, the advocacy and communications director for Reporters Without Borders, North America.

At the same time, the press would only taint itself if it was drawn into the “war” Trump has declared, rather than covering the administration with rigor and fairness.

“I don’t think that the press should go into anything regarding the White House as its enemy,” said Ewen. “The way to go forward is to retain the traditional role of the press. … The media is meant to play a watchdog role.”

Trump’s inauguration has thrown Washington out of whack. For the moment, the whole town is struggling to find its footing.