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Insider, Outsider, Upside Down

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

“Previous attempts at restarting a new — and more politic — version of the Trump Administration have been dashed along the rocks of the President’s desire to be applauded and loved by his base,” warned former Washington Post writer turned CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza, just prior to President Trump’s rally in Phoenix, Arizona, last Tuesday.

 A “more politic” Trump?

Unaware or just outrageously unwilling to observe the unwritten rules of Washington, Cillizza observed, the president “has caused the Republican party — and, really, the entire political world — to suffer from a permanent case of whiplash.”

My goodness, “the entire political world” . . . really? And “lions and tigers, and bears, oh my!” Not to mention donkeys and elephants and RINOs.

You see — and you may want to sit down for this — President Trump doesn’t always do what the Washington establishment, both political parties and its media wing, wishes. Or say what they would have him say. Or say it in a manner approved by the powers that have been . . . for so long.  

But last Monday, when Trump abandoned his previous policy position on getting U.S. troops out of Afghanistan in favor of continuing the establishment-supported policy of keeping those troops there, he was very well-received in our nation’s capital. Neo-con Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), a longtime NeverTrumper, spoke of Mr. Trump’s “smarts” and “moral courage.” The #NeverPraiseTrump Washington Post applauded the president’s “self-correction,” declaring that “Mr. Trump deserves credit for changing his position in a way that is likely to displease some of his political supporters.”

When Trump holds a view contrary to the Washington consensus, however, his wisdom and moral bravery elicit less celebration. 

Instead, we hear that The Donald is unfit to hold the office.

So says former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, best known for fibbing to Congress’s face about the National Security Agency sweeping up every American citizen in its massive surveillance program. “I really question his ability to be — his fitness to be — in this office,” Clapper said on CNN, “and I also am beginning to wonder about his motivation for it.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) agreed: “The president has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”

From television talking heads we get clinical diagnoses. Trump, we are informed, suffers from some sort of mental malady precluding him from being president. Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) recently accused the commander-in-chief of “erratic behavior and mental instability that place the country in grave danger” and demanded the 25th Amendment be invoked removing President Trump. (That Amendment requires a declaration signed by the vice president and cabinet officers removing a president who “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office.”)

Mr. Trump combines every bad personality trait imaginable, the litany runs.

And worse. 

Trump with the nuclear codes? A clear and present danger — the human race faces annihilation. “In a fit of pique he decides to do something about Kim Jong Un, there’s actually very little to stop him,” Clapper cautioned. “So there’s very little in the way of controls over exercising a nuclear option, which is pretty damn scary.”

Still somehow, if Trump will take to a T the sage advice of the wizards of official Washington, we can all get along just swell. For starters, borne of heartfelt concern for the success of the Trump presidency, CNN's Cillizza produced a detailed list of “topics to avoid” when Trump spoke to his Phoenix fans.

The Cillizza-coaxed-and-commandeered commander-in-chief was instructed neither to “re-litigate Charlottesville in any way” nor make any note of numerous Cleveland Browns players taking a knee during the national anthem. And, since “No one likes the guy defending the rich and entitled from the average Joe (or Jane),” Trump was enjoined not to defend his Commerce Secretary’s wife from attacks over her social media post per her fancy fashion sense.

At least, that’s what Cillizza and much of official Washington have been told about average folks.

Mr. Cillizza even worried that Trump might offer an unscripted comment about looking up at the sun for a split second during Monday’s solar eclipse — without protective glasses!!! — which went against the consensus advice of medical experts. (Now Democratic politicians around the country, despondent at the lack of assassination attempts, can hold on to a faint hope for blindness.)

Most important of all, he pleaded with the president not to dare attack Arizona’s two incumbent Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, both Republicans — members of his own party, after all — but both often critical of President Trump.

Needless to say, Trump did not take Cillizza’s advice. He did indeed take shots at both senators, particularly Jeff Flake. Flake faces a difficult reelection campaign, made only more difficult by the president’s kind words for one of Flake’s opponents in next year’s Republican primary.

In more recent days, the president has mixed it up with another GOP senator, firing back at Bob Corker of Tennessee. The mainstream media sees the opposition from the Republican establishment in Washington as proof that Trump cannot get along with others and is not fit to be president. But to the average American voter it appears as more evidence that Trump is a true outsider to the system.

“Barack Obama made people feel hopeful. George W. Bush made people feel at ease. Trump made people feel angry,” explained Cillizza. “That anger — directed at the political establishment, the status quo, the media — is what drove Trump to victory.”

Typical insider viewpoint — both right and wrong. 

Cillizza is correct that the American people are livid with the poor policies and bad behavior of the Washington establishment. He is wrong that Donald Trump “made” them angry. 

Mr. Trump has been able to withstand media negativity as well as the lack of support from his own party’s insiders for one simple reason: it validates him as the ultimate outsider to a system that the long-frustrated, increasingly angered electorate wants turned upside down.

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