Monday, January 2, 2017

Trump will make it up as he goes along

"I mean, how do you know what you're going to do until you do it? The answer is you don't . . . I swear it's a stupid question." – Holden Caulfield, "Catcher in the Rye."

The thing about young Holden is that you have no idea what he is going to do or say, and neither does he . . .

Apologies if you read that opening quote and assumed it to be a midnight tweet or an interview brush-off from Donald Trump.

Admit it: Even a staunch Trump supporter would assume (and celebrate?) that the line could come straight from his well-oiled jaws.

Whole gobs of what J.D. Salinger imagines depicts his ramblingly neurotic teen, even Holden's syntax, match up with Trump-speak – including insults and obscenities.

But the objective as we go forward should be to focus not so much on 
Trump's words but on his policy actions as they occur or are proposed.

That's what Matthew Yglesias writes on in making the case for "normalizing" Trump.

What Yglesias means is that those troubled by the prospect of a Trump presidency should focus less on twitterized intemperance and more on that which would be truly catastrophic: what he actually might does.

Not that Trump knows what that might be at the moment. He'll peruse the breakfast menu as it arrives.

John McCain is focused on one particular prospect: Trump's dalliance with Russia and Vladimir Putin, and more seriously the prospect of marginalizing NATO partners and putting decades of geopolitical agreements into a blender.

McCain and a congressional delegation last week traveled to Ukraine to make a symbolic statement against Russian expansionism.

Ian Bremmer is focused on something similar. Whereas the U.S. and G-8 countries have provided global leadership, he sees the concept of "G-Zero" unfolding, "the transition to a leaderless world" – this should Trump, on our behalf, declare free agency from long-standing international ties.

Bremmer, a World Policy Institute fellow, writes in Time magazine that the moment Trump is sworn in, the United States, which he credits as an agent of economic and diplomatic stability, becomes "the single biggest source of international uncertainty."

Joseph Cirincione, president of the global security foundation Ploughshares Fund, is worried about nuclear arms.

Cirincione said it was "bizarre, totally out of bounds and unprecedented behavior for a president-elect" for Trump to have tweeted about the need for the United States to dramatically beef up its nuclear arsenal.

Of course, those are words, and as Yglesias points out, Trump's actions are what matter.

Yglesias asserts that when people focus on Trump's bombast it plays right into his hands, as it did in the presidential campaign. After all, exactly what cogent policy did Trump stand for? (Sound of crickets.)

Yglesias writes, "Populists in office thrive on a circus-like atmosphere that casts the populist leader as persecuted by media and political elites" while the leader poses as "doing the people's work."

The "people's work" is public policy.

We are the public.

Yglesias suggests that we start focusing on that public policy and not on Trump's tantrums.

Those who oppose what Trump stands for "need to do as much as they can to get American politics out of reality-show mode."

Yes, this is about our world. This is about our health and welfare. This is about our infrastructure, our schools. This is about us. This is not about Donald Trump.

So, the fact is that we don't know what the man is going to do, and neither does he. One thing he should know is that we will be watching very closely what he does, even if we discount many of the ridiculous things he says.

Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email:


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