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OpinionEditorial

The morphing U.S. presidency

Trump's imprint reshapes an institution.

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a

President Donald Trump arrives to speak at a rally in El Paso, Texas, on Feb. 11. Photo Credit: AP / Susan Walsh

Happy Presidents Day, a celebration of stellar car deals and the sanctity of the Oval Office.

The great presidents, like George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, are cherished for their sure hands and bold visions, which in times of real turmoil have guided or steadied this country. Past presidents have told us that there is a weight associated with being commander in chief, tasked with directing troops into and out of harm’s way and negotiating with the world’s nations. There are difficult decisions faced by every U.S. president, whose challenges are wide-ranging and whose choices have dramatic consequences.

The current occupant of the Oval Office often has been on more uncertain ground. President Donald Trump has lurched from crisis to crisis of his own making, be it immigrant families separated at the border or an avoidable government shutdown. Now he is provoking a new crisis with a declaration of a national emergency to build the border wall Congress was reluctant to fund.

That funding is setting up a new constitutional clash. And with the looming report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller on whether there was collusion between the president’s campaign associates and Russia, it’s hard to see an end to the chaos.

This Presidents Day also falls during the beginning of the next presidential campaign cycle, with 2020 just around the corner. Dozens of Democrats are jumping in and Trump has started his re-election effort.

The 2020 campaign, however, will be different. During this period, the country will vote not just on a president, but on the presidency itself. What kind of president do we want? Will gravitas and solemnity return? Or have we entered an uncharted moment of change for the role? Can the old norms, the glue between rules and laws that governed behavior in Washington, be resurrected?

These are important questions that might affect exactly what we’re celebrating on Presidents Day in coming years.

The editorial board

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