In the hilarious words of actor Steve Martin, as scam artist Freddy Benson in the movie Dirty Rotten Scoundrels: "As my Gram Gram [his grandmother] used to say, 'It's better to be truthful and good than to not!'"
It's time for President Trump to follow Gram Gram's advice.
Perhaps Donald Trump didn't expect to be president. If not, that may explain why his administration is slow to form, despite his assertions to the contrary. He can rightly criticize Democrats for slow-walking his nominees, but they're not totally at fault. The Trump administration, including its transition teams, hasn't named essential government officials. White House offices are mostly empty. Critical government positions are unfilled. His first obligation is not his own reputation, but meeting the requirements of a ruling majority. He should not deny Cabinet officials the freedom to staff their agencies with like-minded subordinates.
President Trump may soon discover that such solid potential officials either won't accept appointments or will avoid government service rather than manage Trump loyalists they don't know. In the meantime, opposition mobilizes. Being "good" in this case means standing up a responsible administration to lead America forward.
If Donald Trump follows Gram Gram's advice, it would be good if he could acknowledge the disruption in United States-Mexico relations resulting from his campaign rhetoric — that Mexico pay for the wall, along with the more extreme pronouncements of his immigration policy. Mexico remains a prominent U.S. trading partner. Press Secretary Sean Spicer recently declared that U.S.-Mexico relations are "great." They aren't.
Tensions with our southern neighbor were proven by the cool reception that secretaries Rex Tillerson and John Kelly recently received in Mexico. Trump should swallow some of his pride and acknowledge what most Americans realize — that most things in government aren't as "great" as he pretends they are.
This kind of honesty would help defend against criticism. Progressive Democratic opponents will always criticize, but that doesn't make their criticisms valid. In the public's eyes, doing so makes them seem small and petty. How they're opposing Trump is also not good, but they are gaining the upper hand.
Trump's recent appearance before CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Committee, received much media attention, including interviews with White House insiders Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, insisting that they're good friends. Trying to reassure America is important, but Trump should recognize it's not necessarily "us against them," it's "all for one and one for all." It's time for Trump to act presidential, as he did in his recent speech before Congress. His rants against the media and calls for conservatives-only support only divide America further. While they may satisfy Trump supporters, they repel all others.
CPAC participants don't represent the majority of Americans. That's why Trump's "style" could pave the way for a Republican demise in 2018. Town Hall events showcasing protesters amid legitimate citizens objecting to health care developments, among other issues, signal real danger for Republicans — especially Trump Republicans. It may reflect less citizen support for the president's many pronouncements and more support for traditional government, such as rapidly filling governmental positions with sensible public servants.
Trump is already starting to see objections to his "style" in the House and Senate, as members see danger in getting too close to his narrow pronouncements and developments. Some polls suggest that many Americans believe our country is on the "wrong track" under Trump. Disruptive Town Hall meetings — whether legitimately or not — are evidence thereof. Congressional Republicans should face their constituents in person to justify their policy positions, no matter how uncomfortable it may make them. They should not hide behind call-in Town Hall gatherings.
Being "truthful and good" also means meeting public expectations. Republicans have had years to formulate a replacement for Obamacare, yet they struggle to come up with a publicly acceptable alternative. Former Speaker John Boehner was probably truthful when he recently opined that repealing and replacing Obamacare is easier said than done. Given all the public promises made about health care, Republicans must now deliver. An unyielding public won't stand for less. Health care is too important.
Trump's border tax pronouncements are also quite complicated and could backfire on him. Congressional Republicans also have legitimate objections to some parts of his tax policy. And immigration reform will take legislative finesse. His criticisms of "establishment" elected officials in his inaugural address may have spoken to those who elected him, but they may haunt him now that he most needs "establishment" support from Congress.
Freddy Benson, as brilliantly portrayed by Steve Martin, was a charlatan. America cannot afford to have one in the White House. ♦