Donald Trump couldn’t be more relieved than this columnist for the end of the blasted first 100 days.
One more quantitative analysis of his (lack of) accomplishments or his (mis)deeds during this period would have put at risk the sanity of the Western world. It’s over, done, finis — thanks be to whatever deity gets you through the night — and now we can relax into a possibly “major, major conflict with North Korea,” as suggested by the president during a recent Reuters interview. Whew.
The 24/7 news cycle has jumped the shark with its incessant critique of the first 100. Yes, I’m guilty as well, but a 700-word column takes a few minutes of one’s time and it’s all over. I confess as well to having been somewhat obsessed with this president, but I wonder how it could have been otherwise? He’s a scary dude, y’all.
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Not necessarily insane, but potentially dangerous. His loose lips may have had no rival in presidential history. Thus, when he casually mentions that a conflagration with the crazier-than-thou Kim Jong Un may be imminent, I’m a tiny bit terrified.
This is not an irrational reaction, though perhaps it is irrational to continue covering the president in the same ways. It’s long been clear that his words are designed primarily to control that 24/7 news cycle. They’re often meaningless or at least intentionally hyperbolic for maximum media effect. Thought cloud: If we ignore him, will he go away?
The more logical approach to covering and commenting about this administration is to pay greater heed to the more-measured words of Cabinet members, such as United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, both of whom have performed admirably in recent weeks.
Haley, quickly at home in her new position, has been at once firm and diplomatic in her statements about Russia. Southerners are exquisitely expert at being polite while adding arsenic to a glass of sweet tea.
Tillerson, speaking Friday to the U.N. Security Council, was both more direct and less provocative than Trump in making a case for stronger, “painful” sanctions against North Korea. Specifically, he urged China, which accounts for 90 percent of North Korea’s trade, to join forces in putting an end to Kim’s nuclear aggressions. Tillerson didn’t take military action off the table but nor did he emphasize it.
To Trump, he and Tillerson may have been saying the same thing, but verbal precision and tone matter. The differences are distinctions, both clear and strategically paramount.
It’s a fact that Trump has failed to meet many of his own expectations, as well as deliver on promises. The House punted on health care again Friday. Earlier in the week, Trump withdrew his request for billions in funding for his benighted border wall when a government shutdown seemed inevitable. And he’s changed his tune about both NAFTA and NATO.
These failings and reversals are perhaps what prompted Trump to say recently that being president is harder than he thought it would be. Who knew?
On one thing Trump has been absolutely right, even if this, too, represents a corrected view: The 100-day sprint to transform the world is absurd. There was no way, as predicted often in this column, that Trump could meet his goals, not least because of his lack of political skill and experience.
Perhaps, as the BBC’s Katty Kay tweeted Friday, “Trump talks in superlatives. We should all get used to that. It doesn’t mean he acts in superlatives too.” While likely so, some thanks are owed to Congress for applying the brakes on his bigger initiatives. What Kay’s comment really suggests, however, is profoundly distressing: We have a president who should be ignored.
To this end, I shall try. Disliking Trump, even for all the right reasons, is exhausting and unsustainable. It’s also boring. With 265 days still left of Trump’s first year — talk about exhausting — our highest calling is to encourage wiser men and women to prevail, to ignore most of what Trump says, and to keep our eye on the bouncing ball.
Where it lands, nobody knows.