WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan
, not an anti-Trump conservative, tries to put her finger on the ambivalence that many Republicans have about their leader.
First, the positives from a Republican point of view: [bold added]
[President Trump] has established in his government a deregulatory spirit that is fair and helpful....excessive regulation, especially when it springs from ideological animus or practical ignorance, kills progress, growth, jobs, good ideas and products.
Mr. Trump has put a sober conservative on the Supreme Court, and many conservative judges on the lower courts. This provides greater balance in the judiciary. In a split country, split courts—balance—is probably the best we can do.
The economy is improving. And Mr. Trump helped pass a tax bill that was better—maybe a little, maybe a lot, but certainly better—than what it replaced.
Not bad for a first year in office!
The negatives, however, are hard to brush off:
You look at his White House and see what appears to be epic instability, mismanagement and confusion. You see his resentments and unpredictability. You used to think he’s surrounded by solid sophisticates, but they’re leaving. He’s unserious— Vladimir Putin says his missiles can get around any U.S. defense, and Mr. Trump is tweeting about Alec Baldwin. He careens around—he has big congressional meetings that are like talk shows where he’s the host, and he says things that are both soft and tough and you think Hmmm, maybe that’s a way through, but the next day it turns out it was only talk. This has been done on the Dreamers, on guns and we’ll see about tariffs. He loves chaos—he brags about this—but it isn’t strategic chaos in pursuit of ends, it’s purposeless disorder for the fun of it. We are not talking about being colorfully, craftily unpredictable, as political masters like FDR and Reagan sometimes were, but something more unfortunate, an unhinged or not-fully-hinged quality that feels like screwball tragedy.
To summarize, in 13 words, "On some level this is working. And on some level he is crazy."
The nub of her worry [bold added]:
Crazy doesn’t last. Crazy doesn’t go the distance. Crazy is an unstable element that, when let loose in an unstable environment, explodes.
I may be whistling past the graveyard, but I am not as concerned as she is. Here's an alternative narrative, some of which may be true!
A lifetime in the public eye has enabled Mr. Trump to perfect his public
persona, which is the following: he's a bully; he makes impulsive decisions, and he says what's on the top of his mind without thinking of the consequences. He doesn't appreciate the seriousness with which everyone takes the words of the American President. The staff turnover indicates that people who have seen him up close for just a few months can't stand him.
Yet while the media and political opposition obsess over Russia! Russia! Russia! and the Trump insult of the day (North Korea, immigrants, s******e countries, Mexico, China, Sweden, Nancy Pelosi, Hillary Clinton, Alec Baldwin, the list goes on and on and on), his Administration chugs along, ruthlessly pruning regulations, lowering taxes, and appointing judges. If the public persona were reality, very little would have been done.
The impulsive shoot-from-the-lip President has puzzlingly refrained from talking about two key longer-term projects: the counter-Mueller investigation, led by the recused Attorney General Jeff Sessions, of powerful government agencies that spied on the Trump campaign, and the slow-motion strangulation of North Korea.
Last week there was near-universal condemnation of the upcoming tariffs by allies, Republicans, Wall Street, and economics professors. A few days later, after the meeting with Kim Jong Un was announced, other experts weighed in on how our Dealmaker-in-Chief will be taken to the cleaners by the 34-year-old dictator.
Just a question, chicken littles: could these moves be related? The tariffs are clearly aimed at China, which for decades has viewed the United States as a pitiful, helpless giant
in trade negotiations. The falling markets, reinforced by Mr. Trump's public persona, believe that this time the American President means business about Chinese dumping.
What if Mr. Trump is using tariffs as a bargaining chip in the North Korea negotiations? What if, in exchange for Chinese help in de-nuclearizing Korea, he relaxes or removes them? Without having tariffs in the first place the United States can't apply pressure to China, so the President took the hit now in order to strengthen his hand for the Korean talks.
Of course, what do I know? Peggy Noonan is probably right: he's crazy.