The scenes out of Washington today were striking to anyone who has watched Trump and the wild campaign he just concluded.
There was Trump seated next to President Obama in the Oval Office, being wished well by the man whom he will replace. The president whose very legitimacy Trump questioned was praised by Trump as a “very good man,” and for the “really great things that have been achieved” during his time in office.
It’s not a question of whether this era of jovial banter and mutual praise will last -- it won’t. But the scenes that played out in official Washington today serve as a vivid reminder of the key choices ahead for the biggest outsider ever elevated to this ultimate insider post.
As leaders in Washington size him up, it’s worth remembering that Trump’s rise came at the expense of the establishment of both political parties. He didn’t just not have their support -- he plowed right through their collective strength.
Trump rode a populist, angry wave based on a promise to “drain the swamp,” and sported a biography where a lack of government experience was a plus. He took on the Obama legacy, the Republicans’ hierarchy and ideology, the congressional leadership in both parties, and even the nation’s military leaders -- and, yes, exploited racial and ethnic tensions and suspicions.
Trump has never shown an accommodating side as a politician. It seems folly to expect he will adjust his agenda to fit those of other leaders in a city where he’s pledged to “drain the swamp.”
But he comes to Washington largely liberated of the traditional special interests that have long held sway over the agenda. He will have a window to operate and make deals, buffeted by congressional majorities that remember, for now, that Trump helped them stay in power this election.
His first trip to D.C. as president-elect also suggests he might benefit from an overall political weariness. Obama showed Trump a path, with his gracious recognition of his election, and what that means from here.
“I believe that it is important for all regardless of party and regardless of political preferences to now come together, work together,” Obama said.
The fights, and maybe even the tweets, will come later. But a political system that fought Trump every step of the way may not be in a fighting mood when he takes office.