It has been a hallmark of the Trump presidency for the president to go it alone, sometimes ignoring his staff and other times treating them with contempt as he shows them the door.
But as coronavirus spreads throughout the country, a different Donald Trump is coming into view.
No longer dismissive of his staff and colleagues. No more Mr. Know-it-all.
The man who said, during the campaign, that he knew more than the generals did about how to defeat ISIS (it turned out he did!) has yielded place to a president who listens to advice both on medical and public health issues and on how to mitigate the economic fallout from the virus.
This new, more respectful Donald Trump is winning admirers in strange places. CNN’s chief political correspondent Dana Bash commented on the president’s Oval Office address and coronavirus press briefing, saying:
“If you look at the big picture, this was remarkable from the president of the United States. This is a nonpartisan — this is an important thing to note and to applaud from an American standpoint, from a human standpoint. He is being the kind of leader that people need, at least in tone, today and yesterday, in tone that people need and want and yearn for in times of crisis and uncertainty.”
From my standpoint as a Trump fan, I noticed the same thing in my column this week when I spoke of the changes coming over Trump. He’s less of a gladiator and more of an administrator, a competent manager looking to his experts for guidance.
Trump has always believed that he doesn’t need staff. And he’s right.
Having steered his own business career through the shadow of bankruptcy, created a new kind of TV personality and then won election against heavy odds in this first try at elected office, he doesn’t usually need advisers. More often than not, they just get in his way.
But this challenge is different. Now he needs expert advice on epidemiology and a crashing economy. Nothing in his background prepared him for this crisis. Suddenly, he needs help.
Imagine if he himself were seriously ill.
His usual bluster and arrogant assumption that he had only to look to his instincts for guidance would not serve him very well. He would be forced to depend on others, perhaps for the first time in his life.
Now, he finds himself in just such an unfamiliar situation. And he’s turning to experts like the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
And he seems willing to share the stage with his often shunted-aside vice president, Mike Pence.
After four HHS secretaries, he seems to have settled on Alex Azar, who appears to be up to the task.
This change in Trump’s attitude and dealing with his colleagues gives him a wonderful opportunity to get voters to take another look at him.
Coupled with a hopefully positive outcome to the coronavirus crisis, this development should help him immensely in November.
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