Trump gets normal. For how long?

Rick Newman
Columnist

President Trump is on a roll.

His public remarks have been temperate. He has suggested ways to compromise with the opposition. And there haven’t been any cringeworthy tweets for at least a few days.

Trump’s appearance at the annual Davos financial gabfest appears to have gone smoothly. Trump made a persuasive case for doing business in America and schmoozed easily with the world’s poohbahs. Some of the favorable developments:

  • Trump suggested he’s open to joining a big trade pact he pulled the United States out of last year. “I would do [it] if we were able to make a substantially better deal,” Trump told CNBC. It’s only rhetoric, but markets generally welcome any sign that Trump is moving away from the protectionism he embraced as a candidate.
  • He delivered a measured speech at Davos that was generally well-received by the globalists in attendance, many of them turned off by Trump’s anti-immigration jawboning. Trump reveled in “rock-star treatment” by the world’s dignitaries, according to Yahoo Finance’s Andy Serwer, reporting from Davos.
  • Trump clarified a startling remark by his Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, who suggested U.S. policy favored a weak dollar. Currency markets quaked following Mnuchin’s miscue. Mnuchin backpedaled, but the definitive word came from Trump a day later, when he affirmed, “I want to see a strong dollar.” Trump, for once, was the grown-up in the room reassuring markets, rather than the bomb-thrower whose remarks have to be clarified by aides.
  • He suggested a possible compromise involving the tense standoff on immigration policy in Washington, which could shut down the government again in early February. Trump said he’d agree to let the so-called Dreamers stay in the country, if Democrats will approve funding for a border wall. Dems probably won’t agree, but hey, it’s a starting point for negotiation.
  • Trump actually apologized for something. In an interview on British TV, when he expressed regret for retweeting videos posted by a European anti-Muslim group last November. This is not the never-wrong Trump we’re used to.
  • He sounded confident about the Robert Mueller probe, suggesting he’d be comfortable testifying under oath in the investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. elections. Who knows if he means it, but for once he’s not acting like he’s guilty of something.

None of this will end the circuslike romp of Trump’s tenure in office. On Jan. 29, right after Trump delivers the somber State of the Union address, porn star Stormy Daniels will appear live with Jimmy Kimmel to discuss her supposed 2006 affair with Trump and the $130,000 in hush money the Trump campaign paid her in 2016. Or, if the hush money is still in effect, maybe she’ll just wink, nod and communicate nonverbally, which might actually be more entertaining. Kimmel’s ratings will almost certainly exceed those for Trump’s speech.

Trump returns home to the bombshell allegation that he tried to fire Mueller last June, and didn’t because one of his lawyers threatened to resign if he did. But Trump could try again to fire Mueller, who may represent the single biggest threat to his presidency.

And the provocative Trump tweets resumed shortly after Davos, with the president mocking “Cryin’ Chuck Schumer,” who, he said, “took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration!” This is Trump the bully once again, rubbing it in when he wins a round, unconcerned about blowback and oblivious to hubris.

Trump is in an enviable position for a president. The wind is at his back on the economy, especially with tax cuts now boosting corporate profits and stock prices. Unemployment is low and probably going lower. Wages are set to rise, stoked by bonuses and raises many companies are giving, to share the wealth from the tax cuts.

The best approach Trump could take to the economy at this point is doing no harm and simply letting the machinery of capitalism boost growth for a while. But Trump isn’t good at doing nothing. He’s still threatening to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, and he just approved punitive tariffs on imported solar panels and washing machines. So the normalcy of the last few days probably won’t last. But it’s nice to know Trump is capable of it.

Confidential tip line: rickjnewman@yahoo.com. Encrypted communication available.

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Rick Newman is the author of four books, including Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success. Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman

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