Editorial: Giving President Donald Trump a chance

Donald Trump deserves a chance as president, according to The Star’s editorial board.
Donald Trump deserves a chance as president, according to The Star’s editorial board. AP

President Donald Trump.

As improbable as it still seems to read those words, or to write them, they are reality. The one-time businessman took the oath of office Friday and is now the most significant political figure in the nation, and the world.

In a bleak inaugural speech laced with populist and nativist themes, the president said he would not let the country down. “We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done,” he said.

Since the election, Americans have sparred over how the public should view the new president. Many insist Trump’s communication style and ideas are so far outside the mainstream he should be treated as unqualified and illegitimate.

We saw evidence of the widespread unease about Trump Saturday, when millions of Americans, most of them women, poured into streets and parks across the nation and the world. Their message, delivered in the best tradition of American dissent, was clear: President Trump should not be normalized.

Many Americans are understandably worried Trump threatens long-standing democratic norms: free expression, the protection of minority and individual rights, the importance of debate and compromise. Much of his campaign and parts of his transition have amplified that fear.

But declaring this a failed presidency before it even begins won’t help our country. Like every president before him, Trump deserves a chance to succeed, and Americans should commit to giving him the opportunity to do so.

Part of our reasoning comes from principle. Like it or not, Trump is now the president for all of America. The nation faces enormous challenges: health care, wealth inequality, education, job creation, foreign relations. If Trump fails, we do, too.

We’re also mindful of politics. Eight years ago, Republicans summarily rejected then-President Barack Obama, making his job much more difficult. Some Americans (including Trump) questioned Obama’s citizenship. Others, his religion. They were wrong to do so.

Having criticized GOP resistance to Obama, we can hardly encourage similar resistance to Trump.

Mostly, we want to give the president a chance in order to encourage his better instincts. If he thinks he’s getting a fair shake, he may moderate his rhetorical approach and carefully consider different views on public-policy questions.

If not, a siege mentality likely will consume the White House, and he will do whatever he wants.

Of course, Trump may do whatever he wants, regardless of the circumstances. That means our willingness to give the president some running room has limits.

Trump’s personal ethics remain a concern. His many conflicts of interest are clear and unacceptable. Some legal experts believe he has already violated a part of the Constitution prohibiting payments and gifts from foreign governments. His cozy relations with Russia demand further examination.

Trump’s endless tweet-storms are at best pointless and at worst dangerous. Twitter battles must stop. Governing America is serious business, not a 140-character rant delivered in the middle of the night.

And some of his appointments, although not all, are worrisome. Some nominees are entangled in obscure business arrangements that present potential conflicts of interest; some have little to no experience with the departments they are asked to lead; still others have long histories of supporting dramatic changes to bedrock American programs like Social Security and Medicare.

Trump, to his credit, has pushed back against some of this extremism, promising to be a president for all Americans. If he can accomplish that goal, he’ll deserve our applause.

Similarly, if Trump can reverse the decline in U.S. manufacturing jobs without seriously harming foreign trade, that’s a win for America. If he can boost the farm economy, or bring growth to troubled inner cities, or stop the plague of violence that threatens police and minority communities, he will have helped his country.

We hope he can.

To be clear: We will take President Trump at his word. The suggestion we shouldn’t take his statements literally is absurd — how else are we to understand him? Guess?

And when he makes demonstrably false claims, he isn’t being “colorful” or “populist.” He’s lying.

We are committed to measuring the president’s words and actions against the same yardsticks this newspaper has always used to judge public figures: honesty, transparency, facts.

If President Trump succeeds, you’ll read it here. If he fails, we’ll write about that, too.

He deserves that, and so does America.