In case we needed reminding, President Trump believes America is broken and that he needs to fix it. Trump believes it is up to him to solve problems ranging from “protect[ing] our borders from the ravages of others countries making our products” to “unit[ing] the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism.”
It’s clear from Trump’s inaugural address that the Trump administration is going to be all about attacking the problems. He has no use for lofty rhetoric or a gentle touch. There isn’t going to be a velvet cover on the presidential hammer. Trump paints a pretty bleak picture, but if nothing else, he offers clarity about what he sees as our most pressing problems — even if the solutions he has in mind have yet to be fully formed.
And, let’s remember, in Washington, everything that is easy to do has already been done. Trump will need to organize every asset he can, including all the public support he can rally. He will need consistent, reliable and almost unanimous support from Republicans in Congress to solve the problems he has described and fulfill the promises he has made. For Trump to be successful will require real organization and discipline. But if the transition is any indication, his team seems to have a bias toward doing things the hard way, taking minor distractions and turning them into big headlines.
I am intrigued by what I am calling the “Brooks edict.” New York Times columnist David Brooks wrote last week that he wasn’t going to write about what Trump said or tweeted; he will write only about what Trump does. Specifically, Brooks said, “I resolve to write about Trump only on the presidential level, not on the carnival level.” He reasons that “anybody who writes for a living knows how to manipulate an outraged response, and Trump is a fool puppet master.”
I support Brooks’s approach because, actually, it would do Trump a favor. It would cut away all the clutter, distractions and non sequiturs that obstruct so much of what the new administration wants to accomplish. Putting aside all the chaff about crowd sizes and his ongoing war with the media, Trump has been engaged in some serious things since Friday. He had a gracious farewell encounter with the Obamas. He gave an in-your-face inaugural address that deserves a lot of analysis. His family and that of Vice President Pence made a good first impression. He signed some important executive orders, two key Cabinet officers were confirmed by the Senate, he tried to underscore his commitment to our intelligence professionals with a visit to CIA headquarters, and he announced the first meetings he will have with our foreign allies. That’s a lot.
It doesn’t seem as though it should have been hard for the Trump team to craft a narrative about real energy and momentum building within the new administration. Perhaps they have been on the defensive for so long they don’t notice that their opponents are on the run and all the carping from the usual suspects doesn’t matter.
If they would just let it happen and ignore their detractors and the naysayers, the Trump machine could be on a real roll.