During the presidential campaign there were a number of camps you could fall into: Trump supporter, never Trumper, Trump lover, fall-in-line-and-support-the-Republican Trumper and defiant critic of everyone involved.
That latter group, of course, was me.
Now that President Trump is a reality, I happily have been giving him a chance to see how he does. I notice the same problems he had during the campaign, but I also notice they are issues of personality, not policy defects. The policies, so far, have offered little imposition on American citizens, but it's the pugnacious packaging that rules the rollout -- and makes it easy to galvanize vitriol among the reactionary, bitter clingers found on campuses and couches.
Trump's policies are a mix of fairly traditional things. Even his immigration stuff isn't really that new. And we forget that Obama deported a ton of people, and so on.
While I'm not happy with some of it (threats of tariffs, ignorance of the inevitable impact of automation), I'm happy with other parts (tax cuts, eradicating ISIS, strengthening national security). Meaning, Trump's got something for everyone to like or dislike (what we'd often, in the past, call a centrist, or establishment). However, the bluster and humor of his personality is so unique that he makes it easy for critics to angrily scope in on his policies -- as if they're the problem. They aren't.
Trump is the most human creature ever to hold this office. He's you and me. When he insults someone, he's often joking -- the same way we joke in lunch rooms and in baseball game bleachers. He exaggerates, and talks trash. When he prematurely snapped at a sympathetic Jewish reporter last Thursday -- I saw myself. I still remember yelling at a friend of mine years ago, for misunderstanding what he said, and it still bothers me. As a New Yorker, this is what you do: you confront, jab and slap, sometimes wrongly, then smile and forget about it. That was last week’s press conference in a nutshell. This isn't a tasteful episode of “The West Wing,” it's a raucous Comedy Central roast. Or perhaps a decent rerun of “Taxi.”
But despite the relatively benign nature of Trump's political motives -- the media and the virulent left are recasting him as a profound evil. On the other side, you have the hardcore cheerleaders for Trump accepting everything as 100 percent correct. Meanwhile, there's folks like me, wondering if reality falls somewhere in the middle of all this.
As I give the president the benefit of the doubt, I can see how the two extremes (Trump-hate and Trump-love) actually help each other. The frothing Trump-haters’ extremism turns whatever criticism they have for the guy into mere parody. If you keep saying he's like Hitler, you become the caricature, not him. Your hysterics pollute everything you say. It's hilarious, actually.
Likewise, the Trump lovers contaminate any real achievements by Trump because they say EVERYTHING is an achievement. After a while, they're gonna pull a muscle carrying all that water. Trump is doing his job, and makes some mistakes along the way. What's wrong with admitting that? It makes the achievements shine when they're not complimented only by people who compliment everything.
The good news is -- nothing is ever as bad as it seems. And nothing, alas, is as great as it seems.
Trump is rolling along, doing what presidents do (he just scares the crap out of the left, which is a good thing). Sure, the rollout of the immigration ban was perhaps a setback, but it had more to do with a liberal court and a hastily written action that gave the opportunity to shut it down. The deportations of criminals will surely be portrayed by the MSM as an attack on innocent lawful immigrants (I saw so many shots on CNN of weeping mothers, as if we were deporting only infants), even though Obama did the same thing. It's similar to the attempt to prevent terrorists from coming in, when that's portrayed as an attempt to block all Muslims. The left does the conflation, not the right: that somehow illegal immigrant criminals are no different than lawful immigrants, and terrorists are no different than Muslims. That's actual bigotry.
The goal of the thoughtful conservative is to keep both sides honest -- for the last thing we want our side looking more and more like, is the other.
Step back, take a deep breath -- and you'll see a president turning a ship around, on his own. It scares the opposition and unsettles his allies. But underneath it all is a correction of sorts. It's not even a dramatic one, but it feels this way.
For most Americans, life goes on.
I use this metaphorical comparison: for us in the media, politics is the ground floor of a teetering skyscraper. When politics gets ugly, our entire world is rocked -- the skyscraper topples. But for everyone else, politics is just one store in a strip mall -- a storefront no different than a gift shop next to a dozen other stores. If it closes, it has no effect on our other commitments. Life goes on. And sooner or later that gift shop is replaced by a nail salon.
We overdo it. America doesn't. Keep that in mind, in all this chaos.