Posted by Curt on 14 November, 2016 at 11:07 am. 7 comments already!



If you believe the Journal, the president-elect didn’t realize until after he’d won the election exactly what he was in for.

Serious question: Is Trump going to enjoy this job? No president really “enjoys” it, but most know what they’re getting into when they decide to run. What if you won and … didn’t know? What if the job is a lot more tedious, with endless crises and managerial headaches, than you expected it’d be after 16 months of rollicking rallies and daily interviews?

During their private White House meeting on Thursday, Mr. Obama walked his successor through the duties of running the country, and Mr. Trump seemed surprised by the scope, said people familiar with the meeting. Trump aides were described by those people as unaware that the entire presidential staff working in the West Wing had to be replaced at the end of Mr. Obama’s term.

After meeting with Mr. Trump, the only person to be elected president without having held a government or military position, Mr. Obama realized the Republican needs more guidance. He plans to spend more time with his successor than presidents typically do, people familiar with the matter said.

Assuming that’s true — and Trump’s spokesman didn’t flatly deny it — you can look at Obama’s behavior here as both patriotic and very, very smart. Patriotic because he’s willing to go the extra mile to help a successor who’s not only from the other party, who not only intends to undo Obama’s signature domestic legislative accomplishment in the first few months of his administration (and maybe his signature foreign-policy accomplishment, the Iran nuclear deal), but who challenged Obama’s own eligibility for the presidency five years ago. The first black president has been turned out of office by the candidate of the alt-right, who until a few weeks ago publicly questioned whether he was constitutionally able to hold the job, and now, if the Journal story is accurate, Obama’s going to help train him. That’s a lot of pride to have to lay aside for the good of the country, but maybe O’s willing to do it on the theory that everyone will suffer if Trump’s not ready on day one. He deserves credit if he follows through.

But it’s smart too. For all the things he dislikes about Trump, and as much as Trump’s victory is a rebuke to Obama’s own legacy, O surely understands that a Trump presidency presents opportunities for Democrats that, say, a Cruz presidency wouldn’t have. Trump used to be a Democrat; he’s given big bucks to Democrats over the years; he’s by no means an orthodox conservative and yet he enjoys the trust and commands the loyalty of the sort of grassroots right-wingers who pressured Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, and Paul Ryan to resist Obama at every turn. To the extent that Trump, uniquely, can bring those populists to heel and create space for compromise with the left, he’s actually a better outcome for Democrats than a dogmatist like Cruz would be. (Imagine President Cruz talking up a trillion-dollar infrastructure stimulus.) Sensing that, Obama might seize this job-training development as an opportunity to build a relationship with Trump and earn some goodwill, if not to lobby Trump himself in the future than at least to soften him up a bit to listen to congressional Democrats. He’s already done it, in fact: Remember, Trump’s surprising comment on Friday about amending rather than repealing ObamaCare supposedly came out of his Oval Office chat with Obama. If you’re a liberal with a pipeline to a Republican president who’s not very ideological and who’s susceptible to flattery, then flatter him and earn his trust and see if you can influence his direction, even in small ways. There are lots of things Trump might want to do for which Nancy Pelosi will be a more willing partner than Paul Ryan. Obama might remind him of that from time to time.

And if Obama’s worried that Trump really might indulge some nasty demagogic impulses in office, especially if there’s universal antagonism from the left from day one, then making peace early is a good way to cool that impulse. Although that makes you question why O would have shared the details about Trump’s supposed lack of preparation with any of his staff, knowing that they might leak to the media. Reading this in the Journal this morning isn’t going to make Trump better disposed to learning the ropes from Obama. If anything, it’ll do the opposite. There’s more than enough pride to go around between the two of them.

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