Letting Trump Be Trump
Presidents who come from outside the professional political class run and win on their lack of Washington experience. But once they get to the capital, it seems, they quickly fall prey to Beltwayitis as the scourges and blood-suckers of the District of Columbia attach themselves, lamprey-like, to their extremities and begin feeding. Entering office without a K Street Rolodex, new chief executives are forced to staff up by relying on the suggestions of others -- often, the very same politicians and consultants they defeated on their way to the White House.
Thus it was that back in the '80s the cry went up to "let Reagan be Reagan," as the president's conservative supporters both inside the administration and across the country felt stifled by the business-as-usual johnnies who had entered Reagan's orbit in part through his forced marriage with the consummate insider, George H. W. Bush (that's how you got Bush). Naturally, the media, which hated Reagan back then almost as much as it hates Donald Trump today, sneered at the notion of a liberated Ronnie, preferring to see his presidency through its customary prism of Stupid Republicans:
The chairman of President Reagan's re-election campaign said Thursday Reagan lost the debate with Walter Mondale because the presidential briefers smothered him with facts and figures. Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., vowed America will see 'a brand new Ronald Reagan' in the next debate, Oct. 21.
'The man was absolutely smothered' by facts and figures, Laxalt said. 'This time we're going to let Ronald Reagan be Ronald Reagan.' Laxalt, Reagan's closest friend on Capitol Hill, told a news conference Reagan is better fit, both mentally and physically, to be president now than when he first took office. 'Now we can get out of the ivory tower and into the streets -- as we did in 1980,' Laxalt said. 'The president will be even more aggressive than he has been in the past.'
Laxalt said the age issue is the 'red herring' of the 1984 campaign and that 'Ronald Reagan today -- physically, emotionally and in know-how -- is better today than when he took office.' The Nevada Republican conceded Reagan lost the debate to Mondale, adding that 'even champions have off nights.'
As we all know, an aging, senile Reagan went on to lose the 1984 election to Walter Mondale... oh wait. Reagan destroyed the hapless Minnesota senator in the 49-1 landslide that saw him win 525 electoral votes to Mondale's 13, and held a 17 million popular-vote margin over Fritz by the time the refs called the fight.
Now it's Trump's turn to release his inner beast. Gone are such early stalwarts as Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka, and Reince Priebus, along with Rex Tillerson and now H.R. McMaster. The national security adviser was no favorite among the most conservative backers of the president, being seen as insufficiently zealous regarding the threat from Islam. With Mike Pompeo now at State and John Bolton at the NSC, Trump now has two allies who see the world exactly the way he does. Like it or lump it, Trump has the team he wants (with the possible except of Jeff Sessions, who's still hanging on as attorney general).