After what seems like years without any substantive action in Washington, D.C., the city was literally on fire last week.
Between protest marches, confirmation hearings, tweets and executive actions, there’s just too much going on. Trump’s promise to cause political climate change seems well on its way.
So, instead of diving deeply into one topic, I’m going to take a less exhaustive approach this week and provide a barrage of rapid-fire opinions, hence the use of bullet points. (I already regret using such bad puns, but not enough to delete them.)
• So many protests, not enough time. The women’s march, the pro-life march and the inauguration, which was essentially a pro-Trump march, each brought thousands to our nation’s capital and elsewhere. While America is great because we have the freedom to peaceably assemble and speak, don’t protesters realize they do themselves a disservice when they start fires, disrupt traffic, cause vandalism or use vulgar language? It makes me question their motives. Are they trying to change the hearts and minds of the opposition, or are they merely admiring their own reflection and preaching to their own choir? A march shouldn’t be about broadening one’s social network and raising money, it should be about influencing public opinion. The marches of the 1960s did that. Today’s marches, conservative or liberal, don’t seem to have the same impact.
• Whether you like his style or not, Trump’s first days in office prove he’s a leader like no other. He’s neither a traditional Republican nor Democrat, and pundits who like to put politicians in neat and tidy boxes are gnashing their teeth in frustration. It’s best to think of Trump as his own man. Democrats who rush to judge him are shooting themselves in the foot. Republicans who think he’ll always be on their side may be rudely awakened. Trump is something new. We should quit trying to predict how he’ll govern and take each proposal as it comes.
• Trump’s prominent character trait is toughness, and we haven’t had a tough president since Ronald Reagan. After 25 years of Obama as wise professor, Dubya as bumbling idiot, Clinton as womanizer-in-chief and George H.W. Bush as “wimp,” we’re not used to a tough guy in charge. Trump proved he was tough on the campaign trail by getting back up, dusting himself off, and carrying on like nothing happened after he said and did stupid things. Most of us wouldn’t have the gall to say the things he did and then show our faces in public. Sure, he was an idiot for getting in trouble in the first place, but he’s got spunk (to quote Lou Grant from “The Mary Tyler Moore” show), and that, more than anything, is what many want in a president. People voted for him because they want the president, and the country, to appear tough on the world stage. And voters put up with Trump’s sideshow garbage because his toughness and willingness to lash out when cornered, like a badger, will make our enemies think twice.
• I was shocked and disappointed to hear Trump say to ABC News’ David Muir that he’d consider using torture if his top advisers supported it, which they thankfully don’t. I may be guilty of rationalizing here, but there is a silver lining to his statement supporting waterboarding: It’ll make the terrorists nervous. Trump is cunning. He likely already knew his military advisers didn’t approve of torture, but voiced support of torture as a way to intimidate enemies, namely radical jihadists. I’d like to think Trump’s off-the-wall comments have some thought behind them. Of course, terrorists will now use Trump’s statement to defend their own use of torture, and that’s the reason Trump shouldn’t have said what he said.
• Have you noticed that all the talk regarding a border wall with Mexico isn’t so much about the merits of building a wall but about how Trump is going to get Mexico to pay for it? If he just had the goal of building a wall, then the public and media would focus on the merits of that alone. When he adds “and Mexico will pay for it,” attention is diverted from the first part of the statement and onto something more outrageous, but ultimately less important. If Reagan was the Teflon President, Trump’s the master manipulator. Starting with a high price (or outlandish statement, in this case) and negotiating down from there is a smart way to get what you wanted in the first place.
That’s the art of the deal, and Trump wrote the book.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.