Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Trump’s Timely Shift in Tone

President Donald Trump pivoted, if not in substance, at least in tone and language. Gone in this address was the dark “carnage” references, the narrow nationalism of “America First” or edgy attacks on media and opponents.

The shift was timely. He accomplished about all he could in signing events around the Resolute Desk. Republicans, market investors and impatient voters needed to see if there is a more typical political leader with management and legislative skills within the effective showman. He passed the test. The reset button was hit.

Polls showed his performance up to this point left voters nervous. They liked the possibility of change and keeping promises, but questioned the language, distractions and erratic performance of the first five weeks.

In fact, a public opinion poll prior to the speech suggested containment, a foreign policy term applied during the Cold War to describe efforts to restrain the bad impulses of perceived adversaries and their expansionist, destabilizing activities, could be applied to Trump’s White House.

Democrats, of course, want to contain President Trump, but in a Politico/Morning Consult February poll, 37 percent of Republicans who favor the President and many of his programs want Republicans in Congress to act as a restraint on him. More than half (53%) of the public at large want Congress to be a check and balance on Trump.

Trump’s performance will, no doubt, provide a bump. Republicans will be relieved by the tone and focus on the legislative agenda. Trump, for all the hostile criticism, is a voracious consumer of cable news, polls and audience feedback. Tuesday night should provide some reinforcement for the new approach. But the question is can he sustain it?

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