The Corner

Politics & Policy

Silence Is Golden

Anything Trump says or tweets is going to being contextualized in the worst light, even when he does not venture into Cairo-speech–like historical mythologies. The ensuing controversy usually results in yet another tactical defeat for the media, which further turns off the public by its displays of abject mediocrity and arrogance, but nevertheless is also a strategic setback for Trump in adding to a media narrative of chaos that drives out good news or news in general.

Indeed, the daily news cycle itself, both upbeat and not so, aids Trump. The epidemic of Islamist terrorism abroad reminds the nation why enforceable borders, a targeted travel cessation from war-torn terrorist wild lands, and why naming an existential enemy “radical Islamic terrorism” were all wise and overdue.

The decrease in illegal immigration is welcomed by most of the population, reminding them in contrast with the unsustainable chaos of the last two decades. The wild progressive effort to remove statues in the dead of night by executive order or through mob violence is seen by the public as anti-democratic and, to be frank, creepy in a Soviet or 1930s European way — and yet the shrill effort will continue until wiping away memory butts up against either progressive saints such as Woodrow Wilson or public outrage over attacks on Jefferson or Washington.

The economy — jobs reports, Wall Street, consumer confidence, family income, GDP growth, corporate profits, gas prices, energy production, exports — is creating a new confidence among Americans. Abroad, the team of Haley, Mattis, McMaster, Pompeo, and Tillerson is slowly reestablishing deterrence in a fashion of “principled realism.” The cabinet secretaries are steadily and quietly repealing the Obama progressive experiment. If Trump can start on the wall, go after elites’ tax loopholes, keep hammering away about unfair trade, and the need for industrial revitalization, he will keep his populist base (which may enjoy Trump’s controversial editorializing but not if it endangers their own populist agenda).

In other words, the news speaks for itself, without Trump’s editorializing, tweeting, or impromptu commentary.

Given that the public does not like the media, there is no reason or advantage in driving down its numbers even further if that entails some cost to Trump himself. If he could try, for three weeks, filtering his communications through his staff, and let his undeniable good start speak for itself, while events in the news reflect the commonsense logic of his agenda’s reactions and remedies, he would rather quickly regain enough public clout to leverage the calcified Republican Congress to pass tax reform and revisit Obamacare repeal and reform.

Most will say, “Duh — of course, but also impossible given Trump’s character is his fate.”

But most thought Trump would either prove a liberal wolf in thin conservative fleece incapable of the sort of appointments he has made or a supposed wild man who would leave NATO, collude with Russia, and withdraw U.S. troops from their forward bases. Neither followed.

Trump has a cunning in understanding human nature, and he should trust it in knowing what the media and progressive activists would hate most about his tenure would be relative silence while his agenda steamrolls over them, turning attention from the messenger to a message that is far more popular than that of his critics.

Victor Davis Hanson — NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Second World Wars: How the First Global Conflict Was Fought and Won.

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