Americans will get the Trump they elected
WASHINGTON (AP) — After 10 weeks, dozens of tweets and one rollicking news conference, Donald Trump’s transition into the White House has left little doubt that the man Americans elected in November is the president they’ll get.
The immense responsibilities of the office and the daunting decisions that await Trump when he takes office Friday have not appeared to change the confrontational, divisive Republican.
Just days away from his inauguration, Trump is still litigating old campaign fights and picking new ones with intelligence agencies and Rep. John Lewis, the Georgia Democrat and civil rights movement veteran. Trump is refusing to be boxed in by the conservative ideology his party prefers and he’s battling with journalists, yet still craves their attention.
To supporters, Trump’s handling of this transition period is proof that the political novice-turned-president-elect plans to follow through on his campaign promises to take a sledgehammer to Washington’s traditional ways.
“The American people voted for change,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer said. “He is the instrument of that change.”
It’s clear, however, that a solid majority of Americans are not behind him. Trump is poised to enter the Oval Office with a far lower approval rating — 42 percent — than his three predecessors, according to Gallup, which only has comparable data going back to 1992. The previous lowest was George W. Bush, who won positive marks from 59 percent during his transition to office. Bush, like Trump, also lost the popular vote in a tightly contested race.
Gallup found just 44 percent of those questioned approve of the way the incoming president has handled his transition, compared with 83 percent approval of Barack Obama’s transition. Sixty-one percent approved of Bush’s transition.
That leaves a hefty task ahead for Trump, who must take the stage on Friday and, after swearing the oath, address perhaps his largest, broadest audience to date. Presidents typically call for unity and common purpose.
David Axelrod, a longtime political adviser to Obama, cast doubt on whether that was something Trump could do. He pointed to Trump’s postelection “thank you” tour that took the Republican only to states he won.
“It might not be within his emotional range to be a unifying figure,” Axelrod said. He acknowledged that some Democrats might resist any overtures from Trump, though he said total resistance would not serve his party well either.
Advisers and others who have spoken with Trump since the election say that despite his combative public presence during the transition, he’s aware of the grand sweep of history as he approaches the presidency. He’s told friends that he’s drawn to both the ambition and style of Presidents Ronald Reagan, a Republican, and John F. Kennedy, a Democrat.
During a lunch with presidential historian Douglas Brinkley and other guests at his South Florida club, Trump said he was thinking about spending his first night in the White House sleeping in the famed Lincoln Bedroom. A participant in the lunch first recalled the conversation and Brinkley confirmed its accuracy.
One of the biggest questions facing Trump as he prepares to take office is how his confrontational and unpredictable style will affect his ability to enact his agenda.