During the campaign, Donald Trump spent almost as much time attacking Republican leadership as he did Hillary Clinton, whipping up his crowds to follow suit. On his “thank you tour,” perhaps more accurately called Trump’s victory lap, Trump has a much different message for his followers. After a crowd in West Allis, Wisconsin began booing at the mention of Paul Ryan’s name, Trump told them to stop. “He’s like a fine wine,” Trump told the crowd. “Every day I appreciate his genius more and more.”
The crowd didn’t exactly respond enthusiastically to Trump’s endorsement of House Republican leadership, which made their first ever joint rally appearance a bit awkward:
President-elect Donald Trump appeared in Wisconsin Tuesday to thank supporters and Republican politicians for supporting his bid for the White House — and took a markedly different tone towards House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., with whom he clashed at times during the campaign season. …
Tuesday’s rally is the first time Ryan and Trump have appeared on stage together. They’ve met in person twice since the election: at Trump Tower last week, and in Washington just days after Trump won the presidency.
Ryan and Trump have worked to mend their relationship in the wake of the presidential election. After a campaign where Ryan called Trump’s comments “racist,” rebuked his proposed Muslim immigration ban and criticized his comments on a 2005 “Access Hollywood” tape, the two GOP leaders speak nearly every day.
“We’re fine. We’re not looking back,” Ryan said of his history with Trump in an interview with “60 Minutes” earlier this month. “That’s behind us. We’re way beyond that.”
Of course they are — the election’s over, and both men won. Ryan maintained a large majority in the House, losing fewer seats than expected, and Trump took over the White House. That will allow them to get a lot of things done if they focus on common goals at the start. As both Trump in the clip above and Ryan in his 60 Minutes interview point out, that will cover a lot of ground.
Still, Trump’s endorsement of Ryan’s leadership (which Trump cautions is still conditional) is a sharp change in rhetoric from the campaign. One can forgive the crowd its confused reaction, given how angry and combative Trump had been toward Ryan in the campaign — even while Ryan continued to endorse him in the final weeks. What gives?
Reality, argues John Fund. First, Trump has realized that he can’t get what he wants without Congress backing him up, and that means working with the leaders he demonized to stoke enthusiasm among populists angry at the status quo. More importantly, the post-election hysteria from the Left has taught Trump that conservatives may not be his friends, but they have common opponents to fight:
The viciousness with which left-wing allies of Hillary Clinton and their media enablers attacked Trump persuaded the New York billionaire that there was no making peace with his adversaries. “He is not a traditional conservative, but he sure as hell knows who his enemies are,” a Trump aide told me. “He won’t be forgetting that either he defangs them, or they will defang him.”
Ari Fleischer, the former press secretary for President George W. Bush, was no Trump fan during the campaign, but he concurs that we are now seeing a more focused and determined figure — and one who plans to move in a conservative direction.
“What I’m seeing is a blunt confidence in what he wants to do,” Fleischer told the Washington Post. Trump also realizes, Fleischer adds, that his base of angry voters won’t settle for less than dramatic change.
As Barack Obama found out, executive power alone won’t effect dramatic change. He only got that when he was able to work with Congress, getting ObamaCare and Dodd-Frank passed. Those provided him the structures for significant incremental change in some areas, but Obama wound up stymied for six years on almost every other goal he sought. Trump needs to deliver dramatic change, and he needs Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell to do it.
So for now, they’re geniuses. “Now if he ever goes against me,” Trump adds in almost the same breath, “I’m not gonna say that.” We know, we know.
Addendum: In case readers wonder about this, West Allis is not in Ryan’s WI-01 district. It’s in James Sensenbrenner’s WI-05 district in the suburbs of Milwaukee County. Sensenbrenner did a lot of campaigning for Trump in Wisconsin, but it doesn’t appear that Sensenbrenner was part of this victory lap — or if he was, he didn’t get any coverage out of it.