I have written before: I want Mr. Trump’s presidency to be successful. Unlike Mitch McConnell I do not want to see a presidency fail before it starts, but this one is off to a stumbling start at best.
Mr. Trump is involved in an ugly public fight with the intelligence agencies he will depend upon as president to comprehend the deep currents that swirl in world affairs.
This is like picking a fight with your girlfriend’s father. You may win—temporarily. Meanwhile the security of the US is compromised as either the intelligence community backs off, or the President ignores what they tell him.
He is deeply unpopular. Where, at this point, Bill Clinton’s approval was 68%, George W. Bush’s was 61%, Barack Obama’s was 83%, Donald Trump’s, according to Quinnipiac, is 44%.
Into this comes a salacious document generated by a former British MI6 agent who curates a number of rumors about Trump’s relationships and behavior, reportedly
for the Jeb Bush campaign. This is raw intelligence, the droppings of embassy dinner-table gossip, but such is the stuff from which solid intelligence is built. It has
been rattling around Washington since mid-summer.
Senator John McCain was given a copy and passed it along to the FBI. Having gotten a hold of this the FBI turned it over to the President, the President-elect and key members of Congress. The contents were not made public. But everything leaks eventually and the contents were strewn all over the airwaves and the newswires. It’s almost certainly rubbish, but the handling creates a scandal.
In a bravura example of how not to handle the media, our incoming president picked a slap-fight with CNN, said he was quite capable of running Trump International and the United States of America, but it would look wrong. He then pointed out that conflict of interest laws don’t apply to him, but said he’d turn things over to his grown sons. Mr. Trump’s efforts to separate his business from his official duties fall far short. He is both landlord and tenant of the Trump hotel in Washington for starters. Telling us he will donate any foreign profits to the US Treasury is fine, but this is a man who has not released his income tax returns, says he won’t and what constitutes profit is in the eye of the accountants. The nation’s ethics lawyers say not good enough, so Congressman Chaffetz decides to investigate the lawyers.
Donald Trump has been breaking and modifying campaign promises daily it seems. “We’re going to build a wall and you're going to pay for it.” That one would have been an applause line, I’m sure. DJT now says the Russians did hack into our emails. Now the demise of Obamacare, without a substitute, could potentially leave millions without health insurance. There is no new plan.
One comfort, in the eyes of one writer, was that as Trump discards his campaign promises, the potential for damage seems to recede. While those who voted for him apparently took him at his word, it appears Trump didn’t really mean any of it, won’t do those things. His cabinet picks are largely reasonable people with mainstream ideas. Some, like General Mattis, quite excellent; many express ideas that contradict the beliefs of the incoming president. One does not need a cabinet of yes-men.
At this point one wishes to have a sense of hopeful anticipation of a fresh start, of a renewed energy. Unfortunately, it becomes steadily more difficult to feel optimistic.