There will never be a Trump pivot. Ever.

Published 9:52 am Friday, March 10, 2017

by John Micek

After his speech to a joint session of Congress last week, where President Donald Trump successfully managed to read, from a teleprompter, a speech that someone else had written for him and not sound barking mad, some members of the Beltway punditocracy fell all over themselves to declare thusly:

It had happened — that magic moment we’d all been waiting for: Trump had, finally, and at long last, made the presidential pivot. He’d finally moved past reality TV host and become something approximating statesmanlike.


By the weekend, Trump was back to his old tricks, ranting on Twitter, without a shred of evidence, that former President Barack Obama had ordered a wiretap of Trump Tower.

As expected, Trump’s thus-far groundless complaints devoured the weekend’s news cycle and deflected attention away from the woes of embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the endless drumbeat of questions about Trump’s — and his inner circle’s — ties to Russia.

But it also provided formal confirmation of something that should be screamingly obvious to anyone who doesn’t spend their weekends hurtling up and down the Acela corridor:

Donald Trump will never “pivot” and become presidential.


The sooner the Beltway punditocracy accepts this and stops crediting him for getting through a speech without saying something completely unhinged, the safer and better off we’re all going to be as a nation.

Since exploding onto the public stage more than 18 months ago, someone, somewhere has declared a pivot to the presidential at least a dozen times.

Donald Trump is 70 years old. If he’d actually pivoted that sharply that many times, he’d need a double-hip replacement.

In case you’re skeptical, the good folks at Slate, last August, compiled a list of alleged Trumpian pivots and resets.

It’s worth reading in full. But here are a few highlights:

The earliest such instance was last March where Trump finally embraced the teleprompter during a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He was hailed for his sober embrace of policy.

Two days later, he made fun of Ted Cruz’s wife on Twitter, Slate reported.

Or, there was that time last May where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell supposedly performed a magical intervention, telling Trump to “cool it.”

Three days later, Slate recounted, Trump suggested Bill and Hillary Clinton were killers and he followed it up by accusing an Indiana-born judge hearing a fraud case against Trump of being biased against him because he was of Mexican descent.

Last July, Trump picked now-Veep Mike Pence as his running-mate, which apparently signaled some kind political maturity. During their first public appearance, Trump ignored him for 15 minutes and then reminded the crowd that Pence had backed Ted Cruz over him during the primary season. 

Pence, readers will remember, was also apparently last to know about former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s Russia problem.

Perhaps only Ben Kingsley’s Vice President Jim Nance in the 1993 presidential spoof “Dave” has suffered more indignities.

Which brings us to the most recent alleged Trumpian pivot.

The proximate cause, we were told, was Trump pausing to honor war widow Carryn Owens, whose husband, Navy SEAL, William Ryan Owens, was killed in a botched raid in Yemen earlier this year.

Owens is a hero, no doubt about it. And his wife and family have endured an unspeakable tragedy.

But the sustained ovation Trump prompted came only hours after he threw his generals under the bus and tried to evade responsibility for the botched raid. It was an act whose political cynicism knows few parallels.

It also managed to deflect attention to a speech, while calm and measured in its tones, that actually offered little variance from the standard Trumpian script: Tough talk on immigration and an ongoing fear of the other.

Yes, there were some things to like about it — such as a $1 trillion infrastructure proposal. But that glossed over Trump’s creation of an office focused on crimes by undocumented immigrants, a move that was straight-up fear-mongering.

“Trump, dare I say, gracefully handed the spotlight to Owens — even taking a few steps back to let her have that moment,” Washington Post columnist Chris Cillizza wrote. “For a candidate, a man and a president who has shown a stunning inability to ever make it about anyone other than him, it was a very deft move.”

In other words, he didn’t completely bungle it.

Which may be the best we can ever expect from him.

JOHN L. MICEK, an award-winning political journalist, is the Opinion Editor and Political Columnist for PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Readers may follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek and email him at