After three weeks as the president-elect, we are starting to get a sense of what a Trump presidency will look like. Or at least a clear idea of how he is running the transition from Trump Tower to the White House. It looks much the same as his unconventional campaign, combining Twitter rants with Rust Belt rallies.
On Monday evening, you might have thought he would be huddled with aides discussing his pick for Secretary of State or catching up on security briefings (reportedly he took only two of the daily briefings offered during his first fortnight as president-elect). But no. Despite having won the election by 306 electoral college votes to 232, he decided to launch a classic Twitter rant reheating dodgy claims that fraud cost him a chunk of the popular vote.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 29, 2016
He singled out CNN, for what he said was the channel’s support of Hillary Clinton, and its senior Washington correspondent, Jeff Zeleny, after he called Trump a ‘sore winner’ and said there was ‘zero evidence’ to support his claim that he was the victim of rigging. To ‘prove’ his point, Trump resorted to retweeting a 16-year-old boy:
— Seth Morton (@FiIibuster) November 29, 2016
It all suggests his staff have lost the battle of the Twitter account. Having wrested it from his short fingers in the final days of the campaign – when the late-night rants gave way to more temperate language and schedule announcements – it seems Trump is back in campaign mode, seeking out petty fights to satisfy his constant need for attention.
Then there is his method for picking key members of his team. Last week, guests at his Thanksgiving party – including Don King, the boxing promoter – were asked who they preferred for Secretary of State. As they tucked into ‘Mr Trump’s wedge salad’ or ‘ahi tuna martinis’, their host asked whether Mitt Romney, a vehement critic of the president-elect, or Rudy Giuliani, the loyal former mayor of New York, would make the better chief diplomat.
The same technique was on display during the campaign when Trump went around a donor meeting quizzing his bemused audience on whom he should appoint as his running mate. The result is a sense that Trump is most comfortable running appointments in the style of his TV show The Apprentice, keeping viewers waiting as he turns the process into a series of public tests.
And now we hear Trump is planning a grand victory tour, starting in Cincinnati on Thursday. There is still no sign of a press conference (his last was in July). But we know, thanks to his campaign website, he’ll be on stage at the US Bank Arena (home to the Cincinnati Cyclones ice hockey team) at 7pm as part of his ‘Thank You Tour 2016’.
The giant rallies, with raucous chants of ‘Build the wall’, were one of his favourite parts of the campaign. He was treated like a rock star. Fans queued for hours to get a glimpse of the Donald, who would invariably arrive after the sort of lengthy, fawning introductions that took the atmosphere up to fever pitch.
He’ll need a new catchphrase, of course. ‘Lock her up,’ might fall a bit flat after telling the New York Times last week he doesn’t feel strongly about prosecuting Hillary Clinton over her private email server. But that still leaves plenty of room for his act, which will no doubt include berating journalists in the press pen and settling scores from the stage.
So far President-elect Trump looks mighty similar to Candidate Trump. And it is bad news for those of his opponents who said they would give him the benefit of the doubt, that he should be given a blank slate and a chance to bring the country together; that he would grow into the job as he realised the responsibilities that came with the post. Twitter rants, fake claims of voter fraud and giant rallies in the Rust Belt are not the way to heal a divided and bitter nation.