NOVEMBER 10, 2016
I’m not the first to make this analogy, but remember the old story about the dog who’s spent his lifetime trying to chase a car, but when one day he finally catches it, he doesn’t know what to do?
That’s what President-Elect Donald Trump looked like when he was whisked around the White House and Capitol Hill on Thursday. As he met with President Obama and Speaker Paul Ryan, two political figures with whom he has previously had, let us say, words, Trump left all of his braggadocio and bluster back on the campaign trail as he hit Washington.
This was not the first time we have seen a responsible Trump — that probably would have been his gracious (if not yet Presidential) acceptance speech on Tuesday night. But as the cameras flashed on Thursday at the meeting of the current and future Presidents at the White House, I began to sense something coming across Donald Trump’s face that I had never seen before — nervousness.
Part of that could be explained away by being at the White House, which can inspire awe in anyone, but I suspect that a larger part of it was having to come face-to-face for the very first time with the man whose legitimacy he has questioned (and has often derided) for at least the past five years. With the President generously offering the help of his entire administration in aiding the Trump team make the transition, Trump then was forced to say kind words about Obama.
It was nothing short of awkward to watch Trump twist like a pretzel to say it was “a great honor” to meet Obama, whom he called “a very good man.” Really, Mr. Trump? You know that there’s such a thing as videotape where we could play back for you just what you had previously said about this “very good man.”
What was most surprising to me, however, was that Trump’s nervousness continued right through his photo op with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, about whom Trump has often spoken ill. But when Ryan walked Donald and Melania out to the balcony of the Capitol building and showed them the vista of Washington before them, I could swear I saw a “Holy shit, what have I gotten myself into?” expression on his face.
Now, it is possible that Trump could surround himself with responsible, experienced Republicans in his Cabinet and salvage this thing. But on Wednesday, the list leaked of Trump’s first-choices for Cabinet positions, and you won’t be surprised that they include professional blowhards Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, Ben Carson and (ugh) Rudy Giuliani.
It appears that the Presidency is the car, and Trump is the dog who, it is becoming increasingly clear, doesn’t really know what to do.