I am increasingly confident that I'll be able to begin a lot of columns that way over the next four years. That's because the one clear takeaway from his the first days of this presidency is that the Trump we saw during the campaign is the Trump we got. He may move to the center on this policy or that -- indeed, I expect he will -- but there was never going to be a lasting "pivot."
Trump spent his first weekend burning through political capital arguing about crowd sizes. It was foolish but relatively harmless. Trump's actions his second weekend were more worrisome. It's not just the substance of Trump's "Muslim ban" executive order that bothers me -- I'm using scare quotes because it's not really a ban on Muslims -- but his process, or lack thereof.
If Trump had given agency professionals 30 days to review his order on refugees, he could have avoided the confusion at airports, not to mention the media hysteria and the protests. And if his communications team had been given time, they could have pre-empted some of the wild claims made by Democratic detractors.
They went another way:
Over the weekend, Bannon also succeeded in getting himself put on the
This is not to say Bannon is to blame for all this. The buck stops with the president. But Bannon leads the "let Trump be Trump" wing of the
Actually, "wing" might be the wrong word, given that evidence of a countervailing faction is in short supply. (On "Fox News Sunday,"
Bannon has said he's a "Leninist" but he's really more of a Trotskyist because he fancies himself the leader of an international populist-nationalist right-wing movement, exporting anti-"globalist" revolution. In that role, his status as an enabler of Trump's instinct to shoot -- or tweet -- from the hip seems especially ominous.
Presumably at Bannon's insistence, Trump didn't even consult his secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security, on the grounds that this was a need-to-know operation requiring secrecy, lest the "bad dudes" -- Trump's term -- find out and rush into the
But what if he doesn't? He could put the country in serious peril.
Putin might well decide to act on Trump's hints. But I don't think Trump would actually welcome an attack on
Then what? Who backs down? Do we abandon
In normal times, the essence of statecraft is to avoid getting into such predicaments in the first place -- by working carefully and deliberately and consulting with such institutions as the
Which is where Trump will find Bannon.