Byko: America held hostage? Let's see what reality Trump brings

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Donald Trump enters the White House on Jan. 20 just as he entered the race for president: defiant, unfiltered, unbound by tradition and utterly confident in his chosen course.

More than eight years ago, candidate Barack Obama offered America "hope and change."

America accepted.

About eight days ago, Michelle Obama lamented the death of hope, but the 62.2 million Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump don't see it that way.

Starting Friday, with his swearing-in as America's 45th president, we are in for Change with a capital C.

One change is from a low-key, thoughtful, "no drama" chief executive to a thin-skinned leader with poor impulse control who is petty and emotional.

In a single recent week, he attacked legends - civil rights' John Lewis and Hollywood's Meryl Streep - accusing them of underperforming. He sounded like some deranged person in the comments section.

In his address today, half the audience will be hanging on his every word, while the other half will be looking to hang him with his words.

He is our first Reality President, our first Twitter President, the first successful candidate to slur war heroes, Mexicans, Muslims, journalists, women, and the disabled. Have I missed anyone? Probably.

He will have his hand on a Bible, assuming it doesn't burst into flame. We know this is happening, it's not a Saturday Night Live skit.

President Trump's inauguration: Our live blog replay.

Hillary Clinton was overpraised as the most qualified candidate ever, while Trump seems like our least qualified, who knows one big thing - business (including the subcategory of "show"). He knows the Art of the Deal, but shows little inclination to learn the Art of Governing.

And yet he is the president, and neither all the #NotMyPresident hash tags nor outraged marches can change that irreducible fact.

He is taking office having won less than half of the popular vote and with his currently popularity in the sewer. This should be painful for a man who gloated about his TV and political poll ratings, at least when the polls had him ahead.

A poll on his transition shows that 44 percent of Americans approve, far fewer than the 61 percent who approved of George W. Bush and the ginormous 83 percent who approved of Obama.

I don't care how many entertainers and elected officials shun his inauguration. I understand their outrage that this crude and lewd creature now occupies the Oval Office, but they are bit players, and being AWOL changes nothing.

To some, Trump represents populist nationalism, an authoritarian presidency that will threaten democracy itself.

To them, this is America Held Hostage, but don't expect a Stockholm Syndrome in which the hostage comes to sympathize with the captor.

My big fear is his potential for inadvertent blunder. He thinks he can play footsie with Russian Thug-in-Chief Vladimir Putin, alienate NATO allies, tug the chin whiskers of China, threaten a trade war, and get our military to commit war crimes.

During confirmation hearings I was . . . stunned? amused? . . . to hear many of Trump's appointees reject some of his key campaign talking points. Don't presidents usually appoint people who agree with them?

Trump brushed off the disagreement, but if your staff is pulling the oars in the opposite direction from you, how can you make any forward progress?

In so many ways, this has been a campaign and a candidate like no other. Historic and hysteric.

He is going to repeal Obamacare, except for the (costly) parts he likes. The roundup of 11 million undocumented people is down to between 2 million and 3 million foreign criminals. Taxes will go up on millionaires, but maybe not. He opposed a higher minimum wage, then backed away. Funding Planned Parenthood? Yes or no, depending on the day.

He changes more often than a baby in Pampers.

While he has retained his combative, bombastic style, his positions are fluid and may bear little resemblance to what gets enacted.

He knows how he feels, but when his billionaires and generals tell him he's wrong, he may do a 180.

He has said he doesn't like to be predictable, and that's one thing he's perfected. Guessing what he will do is like betting red in roulette in one of his old Atlantic City casinos. The odds are less than 50-50 that you will be right.

His term begins Friday. Both critics and supporters are likely to be surprised by what happens next.

stubyko@phillynews.com

215-854-5977

@StuBykofsky

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