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Transition to Trump: Donald Trump keeps media guessing with parade of interesting characters

You wouldn’t necessarily gather it from the tone of recent mainstream media reports, but ever since winning the presidential election two weeks ago, Donald Trump has become a more popular man.

Anna Palmer of Politico reports, “Donald Trump’s popularity is rising in the days since his election, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll of registered voters.

“Forty-six percent of voters now have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of the president-elect. Trump flagTwelve percent have a somewhat unfavorable opinion and 34 percent have a very unfavorable opinion of him.

“It’s a dramatic uptick since the election. Trump’s favorability has grown 9 points, 37 percent to 46 percent, compared to a Morning Consult poll right before the election -- while his unfavorability has dropped 15 points, from 61 percent to 46 percent.”

The drop in unfavorability to below 50 percent is probably just as if not more important than an increase in favorable views. It means Americans are getting used to the idea of having Trump as president and are open to giving him a chance to succeed once in office.

It should also be noted that Obama’s popularity is up too – but only slightly. It seems that people are in a good mood these days, which is understandable considering the months of divisiveness and rancor that dominated the news cycles during the campaign. Taking Hillary Clinton off the airwaves is making a lot of folks feel better about the country.

In contrast to just a few weeks ago, the media now offers reports of events like the president greeting the president-elect in the Oval Office, former adversaries and potential cabinet appointees shaking hands with Trump at his transition headquarters and smiling political commentators providing their take on his steadily evolving administration.

Conservatives are happy; liberals, not so much. But America appears to be settling into a more normal post-election lull, perhaps resting and storing up energy for the certain contentious battles to come in the winter and spring months.

For what it’s worth, Trump’s transition is also receiving good reviews from Americans.

“Trump is also getting high marks for his transition effort. Nineteen percent of those polled believe it is more organized than past efforts and another 34 percent believe the transition is about the same, according to the poll that Morning Consult conducted Nov. 16-18,” Palmer added.

The poll showed few having any strong opinions on Trump’s most notable staff announcements thus far, which is plausible. Except for political professionals and close observers, I doubt many in the country even know who Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon and Sen. Jeff Sessions are.

The personnel moves and work of the Trump transition team will continue to enjoy popular support as long as the president-elect appears to be meeting with an interesting and attention-grabbing group of potential appointees. Personally I thought Trump’s decision to meet with a number of former political opponents (in both parties) was a brilliant public relations move.

Trump the entertainer knows full well that he’ll get positive news coverage from shaking hands with people like Mitt Romney in front of the cameras. Positive news stories will increase poll numbers. Trump won the election doing and saying what needed to be said. Now he’s handling his victory with class and dignity.

Eli Stokols of Politico described it well. “As Trump is acting out a reassuring, familiar tableau for television viewers presenting himself looking every bit the part of an American president, he is also creating a smokescreen designed to mask whatever internal drama is occurring behind closed doors and to give himself the space to do things his way. Less than two weeks into his presidential transition, Trump is still defying convention, ignoring the rules and naysayers, tweeting and assembling an administration in a manner that only further fuels the country’s culture wars — and its new addiction to the spectacle of its politics.”

Trump is one smart politician at play. And if America is “addicted” to the spectacle of politics it’s only because the news media chooses to portray it that way. Trump is merely offering a new spin on the otherwise mundane search for administration staff. If he makes it more interesting in the process, good for him.

I can’t help but think if Hillary had won the election, she would have walled herself inside her Washington transition office and any visitors would have been purposely shielded from view. The whole thing would be in secret, just like she handles everything else.

Trump is showing everything except the private conversations. And judging by the results of the above cited poll, Americans like it.

Donald Trump’s judicial nominations will help mold his political legacy

Though technically not directly related to Donald Trump’s transition deliberations, much attention is being given to the president-elect’s upcoming nomination to the Supreme Court.

While Democrats will certainly put up a spirited fight resisting some of Trump’s cabinet appointments -- such as Sen. Jeff Sessions to replace the horribly corrupt Loretta Lynch as Attorney General -- the real fireworks will fly in next year’s Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

With Democrats out of power in Congress and the White House as well as being thoroughly trounced at the state level, the federal courts could be seen as the last hope to save what’s left of Obama’s legacy.

Democrats are going to fight like dogs to preserve all they’ve stolen in the past eight years and it will probably get ugly when things start to heat up. But it’s also a fight that Trump will likely relish.

John Fund writes in National Review, “Fresh from a meeting with Trump in New York last Wednesday, (Federalist Society executive vice president and a leading adviser to Republicans on judicial nominees) Leonard Leo said that Trump knows the importance of the Supreme Court to the voters who elected him.

“He noted that exit polls showed that 21 percent of Americans said the Supreme Court was ‘the most important factor’ in their decision about which presidential candidate to support. By a ratio of three to two, such voters went for Trump over Hillary Clinton. ‘Mr. Trump has a plane and double-digit victories where Senate Democrats are up for reelection,’ Leo told the group. ‘Obstructing his nominees will be a political loser.’”

Many an observer thought the Supreme Court was too esoteric an issue for the common folk to grasp. Not true.

There’s also the matter of the Senate filibuster rules on judicial nominations that Democrats unilaterally changed when they were in the majority in 2013. Numerous Republicans warned them at the time that such a move (to ditch a 60-vote threshold) would come back to haunt them. With the GOP now firmly in charge of the chamber, that time is now.

If I were advising President-elect Trump, I would counsel him to go over his list and pick the strict constitutionalist who would perhaps be the easiest to sneak past confirmation (because of an impeccable background). Then, if the Democrats want to play politics and reject that nominee, I’d then tell him to pick the most controversial one on the list to send up next.

Trump’s political capital is greatest right now. If he wants a fight, he’ll have more power to win it now then down the road.

As Fund points out above, Democrat stonewalling on judicial nominations is a political loser for them. The bigger the spectacle they make the more difficult it will be for them to keep up the charade and argue that they’re “just being impartial.”

From the Founding Fathers’ standpoint, the Supreme Court was never intended to be the political football that it’s become, but then again, Senators were not meant to be popularly elected, either (they were originally chosen by the states themselves).

Democrats started the political tug-of-war in the 80’s with their all-out efforts to derail President Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork to the Supreme Court. The circus has only gotten worse over the years with Senate Democrats digging deeper and deeper into the private lives of nominees to come up with some twisted justification for denying them a vote.

Who can forget the “high-tech lynching” Justice Clarence Thomas was forced to endure during his confirmation hearings.

Shameful.

Trump himself has said numerous times that he will nominate judges in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia. The new Justices may or may not follow Scalia’s example in every way, however.

Ryan Lovelace of the Washington Examiner reports, “Two of the judges on President-elect Trump's short list of possible Supreme Court nominees indicated over the weekend how they may, or may not, follow in the footsteps of the late Justice Antonin Scalia if they were nominated.

“Texas Supreme Court Justice Don Willett and Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen spoke at a convention hosted by the Federalist Society, which discussed the late Justice Antonin Scalia's past and gave some of the nominees a chance to talk about how they might fill his shoes.”

Willett said he would be open to allowing cameras in the courtroom, something Scalia was adamantly opposed to. Meanwhile, Larsen said she always tries to emulate Scalia’s plainspoken writing style and would take that quality with her to any future judicial role.

It’s clear that Scalia’s shadow will continue to loom large over Trump’s current and future appointees. The political side of Trump will favor popular – and conservative -- nominees…and that could make for a real battle with Democrats for confirmation.

Trump’s meeting with Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard sends media into a frenzy

Perhaps it was meant as a diversion to throw off the media or maybe it was because he’s serious about bringing alternative viewpoints into his administration, but President-elect Donald Trump met with Democrat Rep. Tulsi Gabbard on Monday, sending reporters into a frenzy to try and figure out why the newly elected Republican would be interested in talking with a liberal Democrat who supported Bernie Sanders in her party’s primaries.

The oddity of the affair didn’t end there, as the meeting was apparently set up by none other than Trump senior advisor and media antagonist Steve Bannon.

Jonathan Swan of The Hill reports, “Donald Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon contacted Tulsi Gabbard to arrange Monday’s meeting with the president-elect, according to a source close to Bannon.

“’He reached out to her, not vice versa,’ the source told The Hill on Monday.

“Many in the media raised their eyebrows when the news broke that Trump was meeting at Trump Tower Monday morning with Hawaii’s Democratic congresswoman. But for those who know Bannon best, there was no surprise at all.”

There are a couple things to be said for this strange (on the surface) occurrence. One, Trump seems sincere about bringing ideological matches into his administration – even if they’re not Republicans. And two, Bannon also meant it when he said he would encourage Trump to overlook political labels to find the best people to serve along with him.

From what can be gathered from Gabbard’s short tenure in Congress, she’s a dedicated liberal on domestic issues – but on foreign policy and the military, she might as well be cut from the same mold as Bannon and Trump.

As an Iraq War veteran, Gabbard appears to understand the threat of radical Islamic terrorism as well as the dangers involved with inserting the U.S. military into no-win situations in the Middle East. Bannon is a former Navy officer himself and admires Gabbard’s principled stances as well as her willingness to speak out when she disagrees with her own party on the terrorism issue.

Gabbard also seems to be right in-line with Trump’s views on Syria, meaning she’s against getting militarily involved there to encourage regime change.

At this point it’s impossible to tell whether Trump will actually offer Gabbard some sort of position or role with his administration (CNN reported she’s being considered for UN Ambassador). If indeed she were nominated, there would no doubt be serious questions from conservatives and Republicans regarding her ideological foundation and views.

But Trump – and Bannon – deserve credit for going beyond the traditional lines of Republican establishment thought to consider the views of a possible dissenter. It’s a theme that appears to be present throughout Trump’s transition effort. If for nothing else, Trump’s outreach keeps the news media’s focus on the upcoming administration, and in a positive way.

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