by Michael Goodwin · February 16, 2017
Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Barnum & Bailey is folding its tents this year. After all, how could the circus possibly compete with Donald Trump?
The president proved once again that he is the greatest show on earth. Lions and tigers and elephants are kids’ stuff next to his high wire act.
Next time, the White House ought to sell popcorn.
Amid feverish reports of chaos on his team and with Democrats fantasizing that Russia-gate is another Watergate, Trump took center stage to declare that reports of his demise are just more fake news.
Far from dead, he was positively exuberant. His performance at a marathon press conference was a must-see-tv spectacle as he mixed serious policy talk with stand-up comedy and took repeated pleasure in whacking his favorite pinata, the “dishonest media.”
“Russia is a ruse,” he insisted, before finally saying under questioning he was not aware of anyone on his campaign having contact with Russian officials.
Trump’s detractors immediately panned the show as madness, but they missed the method behind it and proved they still don’t understand his appeal. Facing his first crisis in the Oval Office, he was unbowed in demonstrating his bare-knuckled intention to fight back.
He did it his way. Certainly no other president, and few politicians at any level in any time, would dare put on a show like that.
In front of cameras, and using the assembled press corps as props, he conducted a televised revival meeting to remind his supporters that he is still the man they elected. Ticking off a lengthy list of executive orders and other actions he has taken, he displayed serious fealty to his campaign promises.
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Sure, sentences didn’t always end on the same topic they started with, and his claim to have won the election by the largest electoral college margin since Ronald Reagan wasn’t close to true.
Fair points, but so what? Fact-checkers didn’t elect him, nor did voters who were happy with the status quo.
Trump, first, last and always, matches the mood of the discontented. Like them, he is a bull looking for a china shop. That’s his ace in the hole and he played it almost to perfection.
The immediate impact of his performance is likely to calm some of the jitters among Republicans in congress and supporters elsewhere, especially after the beating he took in the last few days.
On Monday night, Trump suddenly removed Gen. Michael Flynn, his national security adviser, over circumstances that still are not entirely clear. And on Wednesday, his nominee for Secretary of Labor, Andrew Puzder, withdrew after Republicans said he didn’t have the votes to be confirmed.
Combined with courts blocking his immigration and refugee order, unflattering leaks of confidential material from intelligence agencies and numerous demands for investigations into any Russian connections, Trump’s fast start suddenly hit a wall.
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Just three weeks into his term, Democrats, in and out of the media, smelled blood. Many already were going for the kill.
They won’t get it, at least now. Trump bought himself time yesterday.
Yet those determined to bring him down won’t give up, and the insidious leaks of secret material suggest some opponents are members of the permanent government who are willing to use their position and the media to undermine him.
Indeed, the most serious leaks seem to vindicate a warning that Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer made in early January after Trump criticized leaders of the spook agencies.
“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you,” Schumer told an interviewer. “So even for a practical, supposedly hard-nosed businessman, he’s being really dumb to do this.”
That incredible statement reflects what a dangerous game rogue agents are playing. The world is on fire yet the president is the target of partisan revenge in his own government. It’s a scandal and it’s outrageous, but it’s a fact that Trump must confront.
Finding the leakers and prosecuting them, which he promises to do, is part of the solution.
Another part comes Saturday, when Trump takes his solo act to Florida for a massive public rally. It’s smart for him to get out of Washington and soak in the enthusiasm of the populist movement he leads.
He should do it regularly, and also hold smaller, town-hall style forums where ordinary citizens can ask him questions in more intimate settings. Any way he can speak directly to the American people and hear from them democratizes his presidency and reduces the power of big biased media and the Washington establishment.
Yet the only sure and lasting way to keep ahead of the lynch mob is by producing results. Success will be Trump’s savior.
And nothing says success like jobs, jobs, jobs. Getting the economy to reach lift-off speed is essential so it can deliver the good-paying jobs and prosperity that he promised and the nation needs.
While Republican honchos in congress say they’re getting ready to move on tax cuts and replacing ObamaCare, nothing will happen without presidential leadership. That means Trump’s fate is in his own hands and he must keep himself and his White House team focused on delivering an economic revival.
If he does that, the lynch mob will be left holding an empty rope.