Trump's presence at UN was reassuring

So far, President Donald Trump's approach during his first visit to the United Nations General Assembly has shown an unusual grasp of realism and relatively remarkable restraint. It comes as a surprise given Trump's nationalist rhetoric and generally hostile disposition toward the U.N. But there he was, at the General Assembly Hall lectern, saying, "We must uphold respect for law, borders and culture and the peaceful engagement these allow and just as founders of this body intended we must work together and confront together those who threaten us with chaos, turmoil and terror." 

A week after working to forge agreements with Democratic leaders New York Sen. Charles Schumer and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Trump is making nice with the U.N. But his core supporters (I think "base" is an overused word) probably have an easier time with him dealing with Pelosi and Schumer than him suddenly seeing the usefulness of the U.N. 

Anyway, there is talk today about Trump wanting to keep "dreamers" at home in America, maybe sticking with the Paris climate accord, and now this — a salute to the U.N. So, what is a Bannonite to do?

Is Stephen Bannon's departure having that big of an effect? Or maybe Trump is learning something about the presidency. I will not say he is changing or pivoting because I've been wrong so many times before about Trump. But maybe it is possible that the president is coming to understand one of the great truths in Washington; specifically, everything easy to do has been done. 

Trump's campaign consisted of shallow promises and pithy tweets. He didn't know much about our nation's problems or the world's complexities. He was encouraged by the likes of Bannon, who likewise had no practical experience in government or diplomacy. Trump was confident when he promised "repeal and replace," a wall, tax reform and endless winning of whatever there was to win. 

Well, Bannon is gone, and the president's dominant adviser is retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly. I don't think you can get a more "reality based" leader and manager than a Marine general who has commanded troops in combat. And remember, Kelly joined an already in place core of adults at the State Department, Defense Department, National Security Council, Office of Management and Budget and most of the rest of the Cabinet. The last administration office to fall to adult supervision was the White House itself. Which brings us back to Trump at the U.N. 

Trump's tone was serious Tuesday. And U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley has turned out to be a sure-footed star with confidence and a grasp of the issues that has been critical to the administration's image at the U.N. and around the world.

Trump may not ever pivot from or really change his M.O., but it is possible that he sees the futility in saying things that he knows aren't true and pledging to do things that won't happen. Those around him certainly won't enable this behavior or feel as though they should feed his worst instincts to get face time and career enhancement. 

I am not ready to declare that Trump's presence at the 2017 U.N. General Assembly was a pivotal event, but it was reassuring. Call me Charlie Brown holding the football. I'm still hopeful. I'm hopeful that at some level, Trump gets it. At some level, he knows he's over his head, he knows that this is serious business and he knows that it takes more than bluster to be effective.

Ed Rogers is a political consultant and a veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush White Houses and of several national campaigns.

 

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