The start of a new year usually engenders in most Americans a fresh feeling, a new beginning or a start from scratch.
Politics is no different as politicians come and go in early January — newly elected officials are sworn-in and those who resign or are defeated exit their public-service lives. A Speaker of the House is elected anew and new majorities take over (as in 2019 when Democrats will enjoy a House majority and elect a Democratic Speaker).
President Trump therefore starts 2019 with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate, a challenge for him to fend off House investigations and navigate confirmation hearings for a new Defense Secretary and other Cabinet confirmations, including the Attorney General; these positions deserve top-quality nominees. Mr. Trump serves with a temporary chief of staff; he may have other temporary individuals in top positions as well.
The American citizen should be concerned as all await Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s probe results, North Korea and Iran remain volatile and Russia seems to be flexing its muscles.
Mr. Trump likely won’t again face so many chaotic crises or challenges in his presidency.
All this requires that he abandon his disruptive style and place a steady hand on the presidential levers of power, though at age 72, he may not want to. No longer should President Trump dismiss news reports as “fake” or continue his Twitter war of words with opponents — always striking back. The presidency is no longer about him, his business interests or his ego — it’s about the welfare of some 330 million Americans, and their safety.
President Trump has so far acted petulantly, even with a Republican Congress. He’s properly nominated individuals to fill U.S. Supreme Court vacancies and nominated other quality judges.
His congressional majority wants him to succeed; now he faces members of Congress who want him to fail. Therefore, if possible, he’ll need to change his style to a more traditional one in order to successfully navigate the political challenges before him.
Immigration reform and barriers to entry to the U.S. will challenge his political skill. He should back off his insistence on a wall on America’s southern border and make sure that the government opens; other immigration surveillance and barriers will suffice.
Mr. Trump doesn’t appreciate the massive political resistance he faces — his opponents couldn’t care less about his financial or personal consequences.
It’s been puzzling that President Trump seems to have been content with his approval ratings hovering around 40 percent. Usually political figures desire to increase their approval ratings while in office, recognizing that future elections await.
He can reverse his dismal approval ratings if he acts responsibly in his presidency, seeking to persuade his opponents that he’s acting to enhance American prestige instead of diminishing it through name-calling and losing good Cabinet secretaries because of snap-decisions he’s made (note Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Syria).
While many Americans want President Trump to succeed, he must admit to personal failings that cause voters to dislike him — he seems to thrive on disunity and angry polarization among the electorate. Anger rarely leads to success.
He can eventually attract valuable appointees, instead of losing their service as potential personnel avert him. He needs them to help him succeed. Perhaps he’s been so used to acting in his own interests that it’s impossible for him to accept the help of others.
“Draining the Swamp” is admirable, but so is having staff with experience in Washington politics, especially in the complicated world he faces. Mr. Trump should appoint to responsible positions individuals who love America, not eliminate those who might have previously objected to his caustic personal style. His ego should be secondary to what’s good for America. Inexperience in government shouldn’t rule when Mr. Trump must responsibly staff some 1,300 federal agencies.
Though Mr. Trump may tire of presidential responsibility and not seek re-election in 2020, he’s nationally obligated to present a solid America to his successor, bequeathing a sound economy, respect for the United States overseas, a workable immigration policy and presidential respect. Congress has the same obligation and should work with President Trump to assure his — and America’s — success, particularly on the world stage.
New years signify new beginnings. Former House Speaker Tom Foley once wished his successor (me) good luck, commenting that a first term was the most exciting.
President Trump can make the New Year exciting by acting presidential, seeking to increase his approval ratings and positively signaling his efforts to make America great.
George R. Nethercutt Jr. served five terms in the House from the 5th Congressional District as a Republican after defeating House Speaker Tom Foley, a Democrat, in 1994, Nethercutt is the founder and chairman of The George Nethercutt Foundation.