The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

The Joy of Quiet, Busy, Out-of-the-Spotlight Trump

The Joy of Quiet, Busy, Out-of-the-Spotlight Trump

One of the most surprising, pleasant, and reassuring parts of the infant Trump presidency is how little we’re seeing the President-elect. That sounds like a joke at his expense, but I mean it as a genuine compliment. The parade of GOP officials and prominent figures hustling through the Trump Tower lobby indicates that Trump and his top advisers are actually hard at work on the transition. They’re taking the gargantuan, complicated task before them seriously. No victory lap, no early reveling in the role of celebrity-in-chief, just the occasional tweet. So far, this looks like a nascent administration that intends to govern, and not just continue the era of the Permanent Campaign.

Thanksgiving approaches, and with it the memory of Thanksgiving 2009, when President Obama completed his second straight year of full-spectrum media dominance, popping up relentlessly in every corner of the news and pop culture. It was about midway through the early NFL game — the Detroit Lions were undoubtedly losing to somebody — when television screens across the country showed us this

… slow-motion video of President Obama intercepting Drew Brees’ pass to a kid on the White House lawn. (In some ways, this was a perfect unintended metaphor.) Yes, yes, Thanksgiving is a time of generosity, and United We Serve is this wonderful idea, kids should run around and get exercise, yadda yadda yadda. But once again, the visage of Dear Leader just had to pop up in an apolitical setting to remind us hapless unwashed to be good to each other.  Any grumbling from those of us not so enamored with the Munificent Sun-King were rebuked with the accusation that we inaccurately saw politics in a strictly apolitical message. (Strictly apolitical messages don’t require political figures. Unless you think New Jersey’s “Stronger than the Storm” tourism ads campaign absolutely, positively required Gov. Chris Christie, then running for reelection, and his family to be the ones saying into the camera, “stronger than the storm.”)

Trump is already proving he’s capable of surprises. His willingness to meet, and perhaps hire, formerly critical voices like Mitt Romney, Nikki Haley, and Rick Perry suggests a magnanimous spirit and mission-focused philosophy that was almost entirely missing from his persona on the campaign trail. If you had said to me months ago, that a Trump presidency would have Romney, Haley, and Perry in top positions, perhaps Ted Cruz on the Supreme Court, Bobby Jindal in the mix for Health and Human Services, Michelle Rhee as Secretary of Education, David Petraeus coming back into government service, perhaps John Bolton as Secretary of State, James N. Mattis as Secretary of Defense… and Reince Preibus keeping the plates spinning and running the daily schedule… man, that’s a lot more appealing than just the man himself.

On Second Thought, Maybe the 2016 Polls Weren’t That Far Off After All

My last message to you, the Wednesday morning after the election, asked how the polls could be so wrong. After further review, one of the ironies of this shocking election was that the polls weren’t really wildly off at all.

The final RealClearPolitics average of national polls showed Hillary Clinton ahead by 3.3 points. She led by 4 points in the surveys commissioned by The Economist, ABC News/Washington Post, Gravis, NBC News/Wall Street Journal, and CBS News. Hillary’s currently ahead by… 1.3 percent in the national popular vote. When all is said and done, and those last absentees in California get added up, it could be close to 2 percent. Not that far off!

The final RCP average in Pennsylvania was Clinton by 1.9 percentage points. Trump is on course to win by 1.1 percentage points. Wrong winner, but only off by 3 percentage points. One of the persistent patterns of 2016 was polls showing Hillary Clinton narrowly ahead in a close race… and in the final results, Trump was narrowly ahead in a close race.

The final RCP average in New Hampshire had Hillary Clinton head by six-tenths of a percentage point. She appears to have won with two-tenths of a percentage point!

The final RCP average in North Carolina had Trump ahead by one percentage point. He won by 3.8 points.

The final RCP average in Florida was Trump ahead by two-tenths of a percentage point. He won by 1.2 percent!

The final RCP average in Ohio was Trump ahead by 3.5 percentage points. He won by 8.5 percent—a bigger margin, but almost all of the final polls had Trump ahead here.

Michigan was one of the biggest surprises. The final RCP average in Michigan was Clinton ahead by 3.5 percentage points—but that was the smallest margin in the average for the entirety of the general election. The polls didn’t project Trump’s two-tenths of a percentage point margin of victory, but they did tell the story of late Trump momentum.

The final RCP average in Minnesota… actually, there was no RealClearPolitics average in Minnesota. Don’t blame the RCP crew; only two major public polls were conducted up there in October. There were so few public polls in the same time period that RCP didn’t even calculate one! Both showed solid Clinton leads, so her 1.5 percent margin of victory blindsided everyone.

Wisconsin is the swing state where the polls were furthest from the final results, and you would have figured after two hard-fought gubernatorial races, a hard-fought gubernatorial recall and persistent status as a presidential swing state, pollsters would have a better handle on the land of cheese. Then again, after a victory by Trump, two victories by Ron Johnson, three victories by Scott Walker, a persistent 5-3 split in favor of the GOP in the state’s Congressional delegation, and consistent GOP majorities in the state House and Senate since 2010, it seems fair to ask: Is Wisconsin now a red state?

Notes from the Post-Election Cruise…

This was a strangely happy National Review cruise. I foresaw three scenarios for the election and the trip, two of them really bad. The first would be that Hillary Clinton would win the election by a lot, and the mood on the ship would feel like 2008 and 2012, but even worse, despair and a growing fear that Republicans would never win the White House again. The second scenario would be that Clinton won narrowly, and everyone would conclude that the lack of a formal National Review endorsement cost Trump the election.

There were one or two persnickety voices among our mostly delightful cruise-goers, men who could not simply take pleasure and celebrate a victory so long as there was an opportunity to lash out at someone over past perceived sins. (Then again, maybe bitter snarling is how they celebrate.) But among the hundreds of others, the reactions ran from delighted surprise to cautious optimism, particularly driven by the rumors of cabinet picks. 

Heather Higgins contended, “the Left is an inherently condescending enterprise.” You can’t pick out your own light bulbs, fuel cells, cars, what to eat…

Andy McCarthy reminded us that imprisoned jihadist leaders are not necessarily chess pieces taken off the board, pointing out that the Blind Sheik issued a fatwa authorizing the 9/11 attacks from prison. I thought, “Dead men tell no tales… and issue no fatwas.”

Kevin D. Williamson offered a staggering statistic: About 2.5 million couples want to adopt children, and about 200,000 children are available for adoption. You would think matching the couples to the children would be easily achievable. Government bureaucracy and regulations ensure this is not the case.

Bing West does not expect Trump administration to increase the defense budget that much.

The grandmother of Daniel in Greensboro, North Carolina asked me to say “hi” in the Morning Jolt. So, “Hi, Daniel!”

ADDENDA: I see while I was away, the Washington Post ran a column about the “rude, racist, sexist or plain ridiculous attacks” against Michelle Obama, and pointed to me calling her “strikingly ungracious.” No context to when and where and why I wrote that, and the article’s link to my piece from February 2008 conveniently doesn’t work.

My comment was in response to her declaring during her husband’s campaign that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.” There does not seem to be a working link back to my old Campaign Spot blog, but this is the offending passage:

Michelle Obama, who suggests that her husband’s success is her first reason to feel pride in America in her adult life. Others have addressed the numerous and obvious reasons for pride that easily fit the time period of “her adult life.”

America hasn’t been good to her? What, opportunities to go to Princeton, Harvard Law, working for top-shelf law firms and hospitals, sitting on the board of directors for a major Wal-Mart supplier — that’s not enough?

Kaus wonders if it’s an expression of jealousy of her husband. Either way, it’s a strikingly ungracious remark, and she’s certain to be asked about it in the near future.

Why, I was practically frothing at the mouth, wasn’t I?