Culture Wars/Current Controversies

The threat of a ‘smart’ Trump

By Joel Mathis, The Week

Former President Donald Trump held his first big rally of 2022 Sunday night in Arizona, and all his familiar old tendencies were on display. He obsessed about the 2020 election he still falsely claims was stolen from him. He slammed President Biden and the media. He boasted a lot. If you’ve spent the last half-decade or so watching Trump the politician, it would be easy to believe that absolutely nothing has changed about him.

But that’s not quite true.

One of Trump’s chief characteristics as president was that he wasn’t very good at his job. He spent too much time watching Fox News and raging on Twitter and sometimes seemed to think his chief role in the Oval Office was to tangle with the media — he was a man who loved attention but didn’t seem much interested in doing the work. Trump’s narcissism and short attention span led The Washington Post‘s Dan Drezner to dub him the “Toddler in Chief,” while The New York Times’ Ross Douthat made the case that the then-president was too much of a “noisy weakling” to be much of a threat to American democracy.

Trump will always be Trump. He’s 75 years old; it’s a bit much to expect major changes in his approach or outlook at his age. Still, there are signs that as he prepares for a likely 2024 run to recapture the presidency, he’s taking a smarter, more systematic approach to acquiring and using power — and, perhaps more importantly, that his party is shaping itself to accommodate him.

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