Monday, May 29, 2017
TRUMP'S FIRST FOREIGN TRIP WAS A HUGE SUCCESS - MICHAEL GOODWIN
He was clear, concise and disciplined. Those were the key ingredients that created a striking success for President Trump in his first foreign trip.
If he can bottle that recipe and start each day in the Oval Office with a big gulp of it, his presidency gets a renewed chance to live up to its promises.
Trump’s clarity on the global stage was a reminder of why he was elected. Much as he did in the campaign on his best days, he cut through the BS to get to the heart of contentious issues and offer forceful solutions.
Under enormous scrutiny, he acted in the best traditions of American leadership on two continents by helping create a Muslim NATO to combat radical Islamists and by pushing the original NATO to face terrorism and financial facts.
Throughout the weeklong trip, which also included a substantive, friendly meeting with the pope and tense negotiations over trade and climate change, Trump showed the message discipline too often missing in the White House. And he did it without sacrificing his core convictions or puckish personality.
One priceless moment came as he stood in the $1.4 billion new NATO building in Brussels and referred to American taxpayers running out of patience with the alliance’s deadbeats. The incident no doubt cheered his supporters at home as much as it rankled the European elites, most of whom regard taxpayers as suitable only for fleecing, especially when they are American.
But now Trump comes home to the swamp, and the test of whether he can drain it before it swallows him. In some ways, he took the swamp with him.
The leaks that bedeviled him here bedeviled him there, creating the most awkward moment on the trip. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s temporary cut-off of intelligence-sharing followed media disclosures from anonymous Americans about the Manchester bombing, including premature release of the terrorist’s name and pictures of the bloodied scene.
Trump’s response — to agree with May and promise a Justice Department probe — turned lemons into lemonade, but only temporarily. Getting results would show he’s in control of the government.
To that end, it is time that Attorney General Jeff Sessions gets in the game. His recusal from the Russian investigation does not mean Sessions must sit around like a potted plant while laws are routinely violated.
Most important, of course, the president comes home as the Russia probe gains steam, with fired former FBI Director James Comey set to testify. Comey, still doing his best imitation of J. Edgar Hoover, has sent friends out with Hooveresque warnings.
One, Benjamin Wittes, has been blabbing that Comey is about to drop a bomb on the president.
“This is a guy with a story to tell,” Wittes said to CNN. “I think if I were Donald Trump, that would scare me a lot.”
Maybe it does scare Trump, at least enough to lawyer up and give Steve Bannon the job of running a political and legal war room over Russia. Bannon’s pugnaciousness makes him a good fit, but no one should underestimate the challenge.
For one thing, fighting anonymous media sources making serious charges is like shadowboxing. Calling it fake news won’t be sufficient if the White House can’t convincingly deny the substance of what is being alleged.
For another, the investigation will make more Republicans in Congress more skittish the longer it goes on, and that will make it harder to pass an ObamaCare repeal and tax reform.
If they can’t deliver those two big items, Trump and the GOP will have fumbled the chance to govern successfully and given Democrats a big edge in the 2018 midterms.
Of course, a complex political game with these extraordinary stakes has many wild cards. The economy and terrorism, for good or ill, will almost certainly have a vote.
Comey is also a wild card. Friday’s report that he rushed his conclusion to the Clinton e-mail case to avoid the leak of a document that purportedly said Attorney General Loretta Lynch would never let Clinton be indicted raises even more questions about his judgment and integrity.
According to reports, Comey never notified Lynch about his plan to hold a press conference, and never told Congress, even in classified settings, that he suspected the document was bogus.
Yet he still felt compelled to end the probe because he feared the document would become public, and he would not be able to rebut it.
CNN, with its knee-jerk defense of anyone who attacks Trump, said it shows the power of Russian meddling.
Perhaps, but it also shows how Comey put himself above accountability in the Justice Department, and that he was not straight with Congress about the probe.
That echoes Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo about why Comey deserved to be fired. As such, the incident raises the prospect that the more the public knows about Comey’s conduct, the less it might credit his attacks on Trump.
Of course, it’s also possible that the probe will find that Trump has nothing to hide and did nothing wrong. For the nation and the president, that would be the best of all possible outcomes.