The political world is trying to figure out President Trump — again.
Trump has repeatedly transgressed the norms of political behavior since he began his quest for the presidency in June 2015. He has done so primarily by appealing to the Republican base in visceral terms.
That has changed in recent days, as Trump has instead sought progress on a stalled legislative agenda by cooperating with Democrats.
Now, Washington is fixated on whether this presages a longer-term shift on Trump’s part or is only a momentary aberration.
Among some Trump supporters, there was disenchantment, especially at an apparent openness to protecting beneficiaries of the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
During his campaign, Trump promised to end DACA, which he described as an “illegal amnesty.”
As recently as 10 days ago, Trump moved to phase out the program, which has given work permits and relief from the threat of deportation to about 800,000 people who entered the United States illegally as children.
As reports emerged that Trump might back legislation that enshrined similar protections, some erstwhile supporters reacted with outrage, posted pictures on social media of them destroying merchandise from his campaign.
But other Republicans insisted it was important not to get carried away by one or two instances where the president is open to bipartisanship.
Charlie Black, a veteran Republican strategist, said, “I think he figured out that some of the things he wants to get done are not going to get done on a purely partisan basis.”
Black asserted that this shouldn’t be interpreted to mean that Trump was somehow morphing into a centrist.
“No, I think he is transactional person and he will operate on an ad hoc basis,” he said.
Further deepening the confusion, the president has maintained the hard-line rhetoric that excites his base — and appalls Democrats — on other issues.
On Friday morning, in the wake of an apparent terrorist attack in London that required hospital treatment for around 30 people, Trump reaffirmed his belief in his controversial travel ban.
“The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific,” he tweeted, “but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!”
Many Democrats and liberals are dismissive of the idea that Trump has any intention of adopting a more moderate course. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who has repeatedly called for the president’s impeachment, tweeted on Friday that he could not be trusted by anyone, including Democrats.