Donald Trump’s campaign rallies were charged with his vow to prosecute Hillary Clinton for her actions as secretary of state and the overblown email “scandal” that with the help of the FBI director distracted her campaign in the final days. “Lock her up!” crowds chanted. And face to face, Trump vowed she’d “be in jail” if he was president.
The president-elect’s agenda, however, is evolving. Perhaps Trump, having met with President Obama and gotten now a close view of national security challenges, realizes as president he’ll have many more important things to deal with than engaging in frivolous and fruitless legal maneuvering against Clinton. Thankfully, his team says there will be no prosecution of Clinton.
And in going to social media to announce his priorities in the first 100 days Trump is offering up an agenda that is considerably less bombastic than his rhetoric on the campaign trail. He says he’ll cancel regulations on energy production to create jobs, start the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, institute a five-year ban on federal officials’ lobbying after leaving government.
But Trump, surprisingly, isn’t saying much about abolishing all aspects of “Obamacare,” or the Affordable Care Act, or building a wall on the Mexican border, or abandoning the nuclear deal with Iran. All were cornerstones of his campaign rallies. They may not be off his list, but chances are the transformation from candidate to president-elect has been sobering. On the ACA, for example, there’s already talk among Republicans of repeal but with preservation of some aspects of what they prefer to call Obamacare. With 20 million people dependent on the program for insurance, Republicans may realize that it would be a shock to the insurance system as well as the nation’s confidence in a new leader to simply strip those people of insurance.
Trump has never been much of a political ideologue, the extremes in his speeches to the contrary. Even during the campaign, countless old videos showed Trump’s changing positions on a host of issues. Now, faced with the monumental task of governing, he may be going through a phase of realizing that the weight of the world is literally about to fall on his shoulders. That is something that will give pause to anyone facing the presidential oath of office.
Many of those to whom Trump has talked about Cabinet or advisory posts are, while conservative, fairly mainstream on the political spectrum. There are exceptions, such as the troubling appointment of the conservative media figure Steve Bannon as a strategist. But Trump’s talked with Mitt Romney, the 2012 nominee, and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, along with former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown.
But as president-elect, Donald Trump is figuring out that at the end of the day, most Americans want a leader who is calm, measured in thought and action, and not on either end of the political extremes.