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Friday, December 02, 2016

The showman president

It’s not that previous presidents haven’t tried. Reagan was good at the speeches, as well as some sweeping gestures (“tear down this wall,” and the firing of the air controllers). Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush were abysmal; Clinton only so-so (playing the sax on TV comes to mind).

Obama tried and sometimes succeeded, particularly during his first campaign. Remember the Greek columns?

But this is the water in which Trump swims. This is his most comfortable place to be: the showman, in the spotlight. He’s been doing it for his entire life.

That’s one of the reasons Trump preferred enormous rallies, and was relaxed when giving lengthy speeches without a teleprompter and ad-libbing extensively. He likes the spectacle of it all and realizes the important of the gesture and the symbol. And despite his more “presidential” demeanor since his election, I doubt this aspect of his personality will fade during his presidency; au contraire. And he understands the elements of surprise, of timing.

The Trump Carrier episode has many aspects—potential problems, and potential upsides. You can read about a great many of them here. But the saving of the Carrier jobs in Indiana is symbolic, too (although it’s not the least bit symbolic to the workers themselves). Trump is trying to convey a number of things about himself, for example that he keeps his word (something he certainly has not always done in the past). That he cares about the “little people, the forgotten ones.” That he can work a deal, just as he said he could. That he’s a man of action. That he’s a man of quick and decisive and successful action.

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