Is Trump just a conventional politician who uses over-the-top bluster?

Two things stand out in today’s news regarding the Trump Administration.

First, with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in Mexico, the big news there was that there will be no mass deportations, no military, nothing out of the ordinary — at least according to Kelly. And if you listened to Tillerson, it sounded almost as if there were minor differences to be worked out between two friendly country neighbours. Then there was Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin who said that there will be no announcement on his department labelling China a currency manipulator. Instead Mnuchin said he had had “very good conversations” with Chinese officials – again, almost as if there were minor differences between the US and China on trade. Where’s the trade war your boss promised?

Now I’m not saying this diplomatic rhetoric from Kelly, Tillerson and Mnuchin represents the reality behind the scenes. It may well do. But it is in stark contrast to the aggressive commentary delivered by US President Trump.

So one has to ask how policy will get made and what this is going to mean about the tenor of the Trump administration’s economic and political agenda. My view: Trump sets policy direction and policy actually gets made and implemented by his direct reports and their staffs. And that is going to mean much less of a break with existing policy than now feared.

Forget about the executive orders and Trump press conferences. This is all for show – reality TV, if you will. Concentrate instead on what actually happens, what policies are actually implemented and what impact this is going to have on the economy. At this stage, there are a lot of red flags on the rhetorical side of things. But on policy, so far, what I hear coming from Trump and his people is no different than what I would have expected to hear from any other Republican administration.

For all of the rhetoric about changing Washington and draining the Swamp, President Trump’s bark has been worse than his bite.


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