That press conference yesterday was combative, outrageous, playful, whiny, fearless, misinformed, transfixing, funny, and completely different from anything we’ve ever heard or seen from a president of the United States. Trump’s supporters loved it, the press hated it, and it made Republicans on Capitol Hill very nervous. I would think that Trump should normalize to the extent possible to reassure fence-sitters about him — even a Trump trying hard to be conventional is going to be unusual by normal standards, and his base is going to be with him no matter what. This is who he is, though.
Some commentators are saying that it shows Trump has become unhinged in office, yet this was a performance that wasn’t any more or less hinged than before. It has obviously been a rocky first several weeks, but the range of outcomes are still quite broad here. As I wrote about the Flynn/Russia affair today, it could end up being a major scandal or a complete fizzle. More broadly, the Trump administration could become more unpopular, get bogged down in constant controversy, fail to find its footing, and see its relations with Capitol Hill poisoned such that nothing significant gets done the first year legislatively. Or it could, despite the constant controversy, achieve three big, enduring things — Gorsuch confirmed, Obamacare repealed, and taxes reformed — while Trump is bolstered by a buoyant economy.
The results are going to matter. If Trump manages to deliver, performances like yesterday will be probably be an entertaining sideshow to the median voter; if he doesn’t, they will represent his self-indulgence and inability to focus on what really matters.