I have to admit, however, that it was pretty much of an academic exercise, the kind we pundits (Am I one of those? Yikes!) are paid to do.
But as the night follows the day and Pluto, whether it’s a planet or not, revolves around the sun, Trump will be the Republican candidate in 2024.
You don’t have to been sitting fifty or sixty feet from him during his electric CPAC speech, as I was, to know that. You only have to be a sentient human being.
Donald Trump loved being president and he does not like to lose. Only a force majeure of untold dimensions or a serious health setback would stop him, as he blithely put it, from winning the presidency a “third time.”
Now I’m not going to weigh in on the controversy over who won in 2020. Others will do that. But I will ask one “Zen-ish” question. The Democrats and their press buddies keep demanding the concrete evidence the Republicans have that Trump won. What concrete evidence do they have that he lost?
Anyway, whether it will be 2.0 or 3.0, what should we look for in the Trump of 2024? Will he change? Has he changed? Or will Trump always be Trump?
I am going to suggest that we may be getting an improved version.
For one thing, as many mentioned, he looked younger and fitter at CPAC. But that could be transitory. What is more interesting is that he has ceased, for the most part, one of his more irritating flaws—punching down. When is the last time you have heard him go after the likes of Rosie O’Donnell? Not for a while.
He picks his enemies better now—for legitimate reasons and to more effect. He brushed aside Mitch McConnell in an almost casual manner during the CPAC speech that made it clear who is really the boss of the Republican Party—and it’s not the now minority leader.
This may lead to the correction of what, in the view of many, was Trump’s greatest overall flaw—a surprising inability to pick right people to work with him.
What in the Sam Hill was Anthony Scaramucci ever doing in the White House, even for five minutes? Or Omarosa?
More importantly, Trump did not immediately fire James Comey. I suppose he thought he could win over the treacherous FBI director with his charm, forgetting or ignorant of Truman’s famous admonition “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”
Of course, it could be argued that Obama was worse. The Reverend Al Sharpton practically lived in the West Wing but Barrack had his own reasons for exploiting the notorious race-baiter.
Still, as Reagan aptly put it, “People are policy,” and I strongly suspect the 2024 Trump would be much more careful about who is around him. You can bet Christopher Wray will be out the door in a heartbeat, among many others.
In fairness, Trump also had some extraordinary people on his team, many of whom we can assume will be brought back—Larry Kudlow, Steve Minuchin, Stephen Miller, Peter Navarro, Robert Lighthizer, not to mention son-in-law Jared Kushner of Abraham Accords fame, to name just a few of many.
And speaking of those Abraham Accords—quite possibly the most important peace agreement of this century and some decades before—you can look for them to be extended to Saudi Arabia and many others under Trump 2024, even if they luff or are undermined during the Biden Administration.
Trump, I would argue, has grown and learned a great deal as president. Nothing is better training for president than being president. It’s the ultimate on the job training.
He will be an improved version. He will seem more presidential and, at CPAC, he already did, oddly because he was out of office.
But his biggest weakness in his second (or third, whatever) presidency will be the obvious one. He will be a lame duck. That’s what happens.
In our system, presidents lose power in their second term because they no longer hold the threat of re-election.
But one thing is more certain than any of this. Years from now, decades, possibly centuries, pundits, writers, historians, college professors (if they still exist) will be going over and over the United States in the first quarter of the Twenty-First Century that will be known as the Age of Trump.
Why, they will ponder endlessly, was America so passionately, even violently split, almost as never before, over a man who did no more than lower taxes a few percent, build part of a border wall similar to those in many other countries and try to help settle an enmity between Arabs and Israelis that had gone for over seventy years?
That is a mystery that will take 22nd Century versions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming, John LeCarré, Graham Greene, and Raymond Chandler, all working together, to solve.