“Don’t normalize Trump.” That’s been a mantra for his critics since he won the Republican nomination. Everyone in Washington recognizes that President Trump is not “normal.” Some of the ways he’s not normal are good: He has open contempt for “the swamp” of D.C., its corruption, its polite fictions, its arrogant denizens and their disdain for the choices of ordinary citizens. But he is also a walking rejection of older, more important virtues: separation of powers, the rule of law, the value of truth, the virtue of learned expertise and education, modesty, even simple decency towards one’s fellow men and women. He’s a very big bull in a very big china shop, and some of the china is worth saving.
We shouldn’t pretend that some of the stranger things Trump does are normal. But he’s not going away anytime soon, and the more normal we can encourage him to be, the better off we all are. Republicans and Democrats alike should try to make this happen.
Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress proved that he can be normal when he puts his mind to it. His tone was widely viewed as “presidential,” and much of the speech could easily have been delivered by Barack Obama or George W. Bush with only modest alterations. Yet Trump reverted to abnormal form on Twitter four days later. First, he tweeted about being wiretapped by President Obama, apparently with no basis other than things he read on the Internet. He followed that up by taking a swipe at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure as host of “The Apprentice.” That should not have surprised us. At age 70, after four decades in the public eye, Trump is unlikely to change who he is; there’s no pivot on the horizon. But the more Trump is encouraged to be “State of the Union Trump,” and discouraged from kicking up unnecessary panics and controversies, the better.