It’s confounding, this Donald Trump thing — this President Trump thing.
On Friday, he threw down the gauntlet to the Washington establishment in a fiery inaugural address, a good one if you ask me. Big change would be coming.
By Saturday, he was small again, arguing crowd sizes.
In the intervening hours, with the stroke of a pen, he mortally wounded Obamacare.
After more arguing about crowd sizes, Trump froze all federal regulatory proposals, virtually all new hires; he pulled the country out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal, revived the Keystone XL oil pipeline, instructed the Commerce Department to make sure it would be built mostly with American-made steel, ordered a review of manufacturing regulations, expedited environmental reviews for key infrastructure projects and re-established a ban on federal dollars going to abortions overseas.
Then he was back to arguing with the news media, this time over supposed massive voter fraud in November that he has to know didn’t happen.
It’s hard to tell who’s taking the bait, the president or the media. I used to think it was the former, but now that Trump has a pen in his hand — now that he’s not just campaigning — it looks to be the media.
Day after day, Trump chums the water with the oily mackerel reporters and assignment editors find irresistible. How can you blame them? They’re trained to chase the interesting and inaccurate, especially the interesting. Trump never stops giving both. I’ve had a hook in my gullet since the day he announced. Meanwhile, Trump’s pushing through the (mostly conservative) populist agenda he promised to deliver.
There’s an old Italian expression — at least I’m told it’s Italian — “watch the hands, not the mouth.” Surely, it was minted for this president, a master at misdirection.
I’ve been changing my mind hourly on whether Trump’s going to be a great president or the biggest disaster in history. It feels there can be no in-between with this one. That’s a disconcerting way to view a presidency.
So for sanity’s sake, I’m going to try, try, try to watch only the president’s hands for awhile. I prefer them to his mouth thus far.
William F. B. O’Reilly is a consultant for Republicans.