Republicans in Washington are delirious at the prospect of finally pushing through a conservative agenda now that Donald Trump is moving into the White House.
Protesters have taken to the streets across the country to decry the tidal wave of bad policies and decisions they see coming with Trump at the helm.
Both sides are kidding themselves if they think they know what’s going to happen.
What will Donald do?
Trump has said things to both warrant and call into question each side’s feelings. But how can anyone have any certainty about many of the things he’s said?
His own advisers told us at various times not to take what Trump says literally, that his proposals are “suggestions,” and that the idea that words matter is ridiculous. Trump himself has spoken of the need for “a certain degree of flexibility.” One of his foreign policy advisers said Trump’s endorsement of torture was the kind of stuff you say because “we are in a political season.” Then there’s his oft-stated negotiating stance: “I want to be unpredictable.”
Look, I’m not debating the merit of anything he’s said. Nor am I talking about the many untruths or the many issues on which his views have morphed. I’m only pointing out that Trump hasn’t written much in bedrock as his core beliefs to use as a guide to predict what he’s going to do.
Even his vile comments about women, Mexican immigrants here illegally, Muslims and others could be part of his transactional nature. As he wrote in “The Art of the Deal”: “Sometimes, part of making a deal is denigrating your competition.” Winning the presidency was clearly a matter of closing a deal. And in Trump’s negotiations, everything is on the table when all that matters is the win.
Trump was a reality TV host for 14 seasons on “The Apprentice” shows. He played a part, and played it well. He played a part during the blustery GOP primaries, too. He even copped to it at times, noting that he had to find a way to stand out among 16 tough competitors.
Now he’s going to be playing president. Fortunately, he can be a quick learner. We saw that during his surreal White House visit, when he praised the man whose legitimacy he questioned for years, telling Barack Obama that he looks forward to the president’s continued “counsel” and to dealing with him in the future. Was that real or more role-playing?
Who Trump really is has bedeviled people for years. Psychologists say he’s a classic narcissist — and that’s not necessarily a negative. The most narcissistic presidents in history, according to a 2013 study by a group of behavioral scientists, were, in order, Lyndon Johnson, Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson, FDR, JFK, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.
Ponder that roster. Narcissism can produce charismatic leaders with great powers of persuasion and legislative achievements. And it can lead to unethical behavior and impeachment proceedings.
With Trump, who requires constant affirmation and self-affirmation, it could mean that the decisions he makes will depend on who will be happy about them.
So now we’ve got Democratic liberal icons Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan all saying they’re ready to work with Trump, who had the scarlet R next to his name on the ballot but not deeply in his heart. Even his now-fellow Republicans know he’s more a Democrat on many issues.
And so now we’ve got Trump saying he might keep certain parts of Obamacare in place after vowing repeatedly to repeal it.
Trump is a vessel into which people pour their own dreams and hopes and frustrations and fears. They see in him what they want to see.
That’s a long way from saying that that’s what they’re going to get.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.