Welcome to Trump Raw.
After a weekend spent at Mar-a-Lago surrounded by loyalists and hangers-on and with advisers who disagree with him either shelved or siloed, President Donald Trump now appears to be entirely unfettered — a living, breathing political id who also happens to be the most powerful person in the country.
Witness Trump’s Tuesday morning on Twitter. Here’s a list of the topics, assertions and attacks the President of the United States covered before 7:30 a.m. ET:
- Alleged that the mainstream media is pursuing a “sick and biased AGENDA”;
- Defended Sinclair Broadcasting Group amid controversy over requiring its anchors to read a prepared statement about honesty in media;
- Threatened to take down NAFTA and/or revoke foreign aid for Honduras and other countries that allow the caravan of asylum seekers to pass through their land;
- Called on the Republican-controlled Congress to act on immigration, without making clear what specific proposals he meant;
- Wrongly alleged that CNN has some sort of “anti-Trump” requirement in its hiring practices;
- Touted a single poll as “honest” because it shows him in decent political shape;
- Referred to his immediate predecessor as “Cheatin’ Obama.”
That fusillade of tweets comes after a series of attacks on Amazon, a shot at his own “Justice” Departmentand a declaration that DACA is dead in the last 48 hours. And it also follows hard on Trump’s weekend at the so-called “Winter White House” in which he huddled with the likes of Sean Hannity, Jeannine Pirro and Don King — a who’s who of Trump “yes” men (and women) who tell the President that his gut instincts on, well, everything are all that matters.
For much of the first year of the Trump administration, top aides — usually speaking without their names attached to their quotes — insisted that the behind-the-scenes activity in the White House was far more chaotic and unhinged than even what made the papers. “If you think that tweet is bad, you should have seen what he wanted to say!” was the constant retort. (That, and, of course, “the tweet speaks for itself.”)
The underlying idea was that Trump’s political instincts were far more radical, confrontational, antagonistic and divorced from accepted norms of civil behavior than even his most ardent critics supposed. That the “real” Trump was both much more and much less than the public image crafted of him by his advisers.
Over the last few months, a series of stories have emerged that make one thing very clear: Trump feels as though he now “gets” what being President entails. He is no longer cowed or wowed by the office. Instead, he feels entirely comfortable steering the ship of state with little to no input from advisers — especially those who don’t agree with him.
He’s jettisoned independent voices within his administration — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and national security adviser H.R. McMaster being the most recent and most prominent to go — and replaced them with people distinguished primarily by their willingness to accede to Trump’s wishes on most issues.
Those few stragglers who remain willing to challenge Trump have been largely marginalized. Take chief of staff John Kelly. He wasn’t in Florida with Trump over Easter weekend and is the subject of near-constant whispers that he is on his way out of the administration.
Which leaves us with Trump, raw and uncut.
To say Trump has “snapped” or that something has fundamentally changed with him is, I think, to miss the point. This is not a “new” Trump on display of late. This Trump was always there.
We saw more of him during the campaign — particularly when he was surrounded by people like Corey Lewandowski, Hope Hicks and Dan Scavino. While Trump showed flashes of this sort of political id during his first year in the White House, he also seemed to lack the sort of total confidence that would allow him to be the most Trumpian version of himself.
So, Trump hasn’t “snapped.” He’s just thrown off any sense that his gut might not be right about everything all the time. Whereas Trump once might have deferred to the likes of Tillerson or Kelly or McMaster when it came to what to tweet or say publicly about a foreign country or his own party in Congress, he now feels absolutely no constraints on saying whatever he feels.
We are now getting the live feed of Trump at all times — not the edited version.
How will it play politically? His base, which has become increasingly restive with every day that passes without a plan on how to build the border wall, will eat up the raw and uncut version of Trump. This is the guy they voted for, the damn-the-torpedoes dude who tells it like it is, never apologizes and stuffs it in the face of sanctimonious liberals. The more Trump embraces that outsider persona, the more his base is reminded why they like him. For a party struggling to rally its most loyal supporters in advance of the 2018 midterms, that’s not a bad outcome.
Legislatively — and from a policy perspective — the effect of Trump’s increased Trumpiness is cloudier. The scattershot approach Trump seems to favor — The media! Immigration! Amazon! The Justice Department — is not conducive to advancing a clearly articulated message through a friendly Congress.
On immigration, for example, what exactly does Trump want Congress to do? Attempt to pass legislation that has stalled in the past? If that’s the case, how might he propose approaching things differently to ensure a different result? And can lawmakers reasonably expect Trump to keep up the immigration drumbeat if they do take up some sort of legislation? (Answer: No.)
What we know is that this is likely to be the new normal for Trump between, at least, now and November — and perhaps for much longer than that. He’s always wanted to get to this place — where he can be in full control, the maestro directing his orchestra.
You can like that reality. You can hate that reality. You can be encouraged by that reality. You can be anxious with that reality. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is now our collective reality.
By: Chris Cillizza, CNN