Not the Way the GOP Had Planned

Molly Ball: “But the Republican Party that takes over Washington as Trump assumes the presidency is not one the Priebus of a few years ago might have recognized. Trump won the GOP primary, and then the general election, on a populist-nationalist platform that upended much of the party’s conservative dogma. Many Republican elders abandoned him, offended in principle and sure he could not win. They got their comeuppance on Election Night.”

“In the weeks since, Trump has moved on every level to demonstrate his dominance: over the party organization, over Republicans in Congress, over the press and the public arena. Not for him to compromise, to accommodate, to forgive. He enters the White House as determined as ever to divide and conquer, to punish his enemies, to do things his way and sideline the enforcers of the old order.”

An Inaugural Celebration That Rings Hollow

David Frum: “For the 58th time, the system has worked, and power has smoothly transferred from one heir of George Washington to another. The truth is not so happy. With full advance notice, and despite the failure to gain a plurality of the nation’s vote, the United States will soon inaugurate someone who owes his office in some large part to a hostile foreign intelligence operation. Who is, above and beyond that, a person whose character that leaves him unqualified to hold the presidency, and threatens the country with an impending sequence of financial and espionage scandals—a constitutional crisis on two legs.”

“The real message of today is that the system has failed. The challenge of the morrow is to know what to do to save the remainder.”

Is Trump Stronger Than He Seems?

Nate Cohn: “One piece of evidence seems consistent with this possibility: the seeming optimism about his presidency.”

“Take the most recent Quinnipiac poll. At first glance, it’s bleak for Mr. Trump. Just 37 percent of registered voters — a narrower group than the adult population — view him favorably or approve of his performance. But just about every other question is better for Mr. Trump: 45 percent think he’ll take the nation in the right direction, and 52 percent of registered voters are optimistic about the next four years with Mr. Trump as president.”

“Just about every new poll tells a similar story.”

Trump Gets a New Phone

New York Times: “This week, Trump traded in his Android phone for a secure, encrypted device approved by the Secret Service with a new number that few people possess. The official rationale was security. But some of Mr. Trump’s new aides, who have often been blindsided when a reporter, outside adviser or officeseeker dialed the president-elect directly, expressed relief.”

Previewing Trump’s Speech

Mike Allen says Donald Trump’s inauguration speech will have three themes:

  • “The speech is an attempt to address the deep structural problems facing American society… We’re talking here about decades-long problems.”
  • The speech is “not ideological”: “It’s a rejection of ideological thinking. Ideological thinking is always looking at the world through a strictly dogmatic prism. It’s having a set of beliefs that are uncompromising.”
  • The speech will convey “that a nation and its people and its affairs are like a family and you need to take care of them.”

Obama and Biden Had Secret Signals

Jonathan Alter: “But sometimes, their most important communication was unspoken. Obama and Biden worked in wordless tandem in the Situation Room, where Biden served as what Obama told me he called ‘my hidden proxy.’ By pre-arrangement familiar to fans of buddy cop movies, Biden posed tough questions and offered provocative ideas that Obama wanted discussed but preferred not to raise himself, for fear of tilting the debate. (If the president tips his hand, subordinates tend to tailor their arguments to that position to win favor.) Biden took the lead this way dozens of times, most memorably on debates over Iraq and Afghanistan.”

“Obama told me that he thought the synchronized approach gave high-level policy discussions ‘more intellectual rigor’ and let him stay above the fray. Biden remembered Defense Secretary Leon Panetta theorizing that every time Obama leaned back in his chair in the Situation Room, it was a quiet cue for the vice president to do his thing. Biden was amused that their gambit had been discovered: ‘I told Leon he was correct.'”

The Next JFK

Politico: “Obama’s enduring legacy will be as a cultural symbol, the first African-American president who represented a current of social change in the country and reflected the values and attitudes of the progressive elite. He will be remembered—and revered—by his admirers as his generation’s JFK. Lasting substantive achievements are besides the point when ascending to this iconic status.”

“The standards here are largely stylistic. And Obama checks nearly every box: He was a young president; a photogenic man with a good-looking family; a symbol of generational change; an orator given to flights of inspiring rhetoric; if not a wit exactly, a facile talker with a taste for mocking the other side.”

Trump Aides Jockey for the Best Offices

Politico: “In the two months since Donald Trump won the most coveted office in the United States, his aides have quietly jostled for the next most valuable workspace—the short corridor just down the hall from the Oval Office. Reince Priebus will occupy the corner suite at the hallway’s end that is traditionally reserved for the chief of staff. In between, Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, will work in one of the handful of coveted corridor offices, as will Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and his most trusted confidante, according to three officials familiar with the office assignments.”

“Around the corner is the space where soon-to-be Vice President Mike Pence, the designated point man for Trump’s legislative agenda, will sit when he’s in the West Wing. Upstairs will be Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s old campaign manager and incoming counselor, in a suite occupied by Karl Rove under President George W. Bush and then Valerie Jarrett under President Barack Obama.”

‘None of Us Knows What Is Going to Happen’

Politico: “Everything in Washington is a question—what kind of bills are going to come through Congress, how radically Republicanism and conservatism are going to be reshaped, what the Democratic Party is going to do in an attempt to be relevant again, how much is going to be dictated by the president’s mood on any given day, what would constitute everything going right, what will happen when something inevitably goes wrong, how much America is going to change with each day, with each minute.”

“The clock’s going to tick over to 12:01, Donald Trump will be the president, and no one knows the answers.”

New York Times: Administration, still in flux, struggles to fill key positions.