After President Donald Trump visited the Pittsburgh, Pa., synagogue where 11 people were killed in a mass shooting in late October, Rabbi Jeffrey Myers said he saw a side of the president that few Americans see.
“The president was very warm, very consoling,” Myers recently told CNN’s “New Day.” “He put his hand on my shoulder and the first question he asked me, he said, ‘Rabbi, tell me how you are doing.’”
I heard something similar about Trump when the then-candidate was making a campaign swing through the San Joaquin Valley during the 2016 primaries, that he’s totally different in private than he is at the podium or on Twitter. About 50 growers and local water officials met privately with the real estate mogul before a rally in Fresno, after which one of them told me he was impressed with the way Trump interacted with the group in trying to understand water policy and other issues.
The observations are interesting in light of the recent midterm elections, in which Democrats gained control of the House of Representatives. Many have asked the question, how will Trump handle his relations with the new Congress?
Some think he could pivot to Trump the New York Democrat, working with presumptive Speaker Nancy Pelosi on infrastructure projects, prison reform, a minimum wage hike and maybe even health care. Others, including the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, wonder if he’ll soften his tone.
“Since the Democrats’ argument to the American people opens and closes with ‘hate Trump,’ Mr. Trump might pull their plug by making himself less an engine of Democratic turnout and fundraising,” Henninger writes. “In short, dial it back. In short, he won’t.”
Maybe he will. Trump was recently asked if there is anything he regrets about his first two years in office, and he answered without hesitating: “The tone.”
One thing about Trump is he’ll do just about anything to achieve his goals, including correct himself. We saw it the day after his gaffe during the press conference with Russia’s Vladimir Putin. Have you noticed that since their new trade agreement, Trump has stopped saying that Mexico will “pay for the wall”?
With a new Congress coming, it might be a good time for Trump to reset his relations with the press. He could soften his tone there, too, including by jettisoning the silly and over-the-top “enemy of the people” insult that needlessly baits the media. But he could also send a message, as he did recently, by showing grandstanding celebrity journalists like CNN’s Jim Acosta to the exits. Creating a scene in the middle of a press conference informs no one.
And whether appealing for votes or handling a pressing national issue, it wouldn’t hurt Trump to show his warm, personal side occasionally. The side that nobody sees.