Yet before even taking office, Donald Trump has already done some things no other soon-to-be Commander-in-Chief would even attempt.
Here are a few such groundbreaking maneuvers: Decide for yourself if he’s found trails worth blazing.
The U.S. tries to avoid offending China over Taiwan, to the point they note only a “robust unofficial relationship” with the island. Trump’s already made it a little more official by becoming the first U.S. President to speak with a Taiwanese leader since 1979.
1. The Thank You Tour
By the time an election is over, most candidates never want to speak at a political rally ever again, making it all the more striking that Trump has set out to show his appreciation to the states that voted for him. Fortunately for him, he lost Hawaii, sparing himself a serious flight.
2. An Exceptionally Public Search for Secretary of State
The process has been mocked as The Apprentice: Secretary of State. But Trump is considering an impressively varied list of candidates, including former presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani, former General David Petraeus, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, retired Navy Admiral James Stavridis, former Utah governor Jon Huntsman, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
By taking his time and considering people with such differing outlooks, Trump appears to be showing great concern for how America presents itself to the world. Then again, things got pretty reality show-ish when he made a point of publicly going out to dinner with Mitt Romney and declaring they had “a good chemistry.” Also, if Trump were really determined to learn as much about foreign policy as possible, he might not be taking…
3. A Curated Approach to Intelligence Briefings
Trump has so far declined to make it an everyday practice, often leaving those duties to Veep-to-be Mike Pence. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, in an otherwise upbeat interview about the next administration, observed, “If you’re president of the United States, you’d better be in touch on a daily basis with your intelligence briefers.”
4. Unprecedented International Calling
The relationship between the United States, China and Taiwan is a complex one. I wrote about it a little while relating how Taiwan imprisoned my father-in-law for a political protest. In short: China claims Taiwan is part of it. Taiwan says that it is not. (The natives of Taiwan are also still trying to reclaim power from the Chinese Nationalists who invaded and took over after fleeing Mao in 1949, but that’s another piece entirely.)
The U.S., aware that China’s population is more than 1.3 billion with a “b” and Taiwan’s is less than 24 million with an “m”, tries to avoid offending China over Taiwan, to the point they note only a “robust unofficial relationship” with the island. Trump’s already made it a little more official by becoming the first U.S. President to speak with a Taiwanese leader since 1979.
In response, China has complained, the American diplomatic community has bristled and Trump has tweeted, “Interesting how the U.S. sells Taiwan billions of dollars of military equipment but I should not accept a congratulatory call.”
He’s got his facts straight there: We sold them $1.83 billion worth as recently as December of 2015. Will this blunt-but-accurate approach ultimately improve relations between the three parties? Who knows, but all it took was a 10-minute phone conversation and a few tweets for Trump to force a new view of the arrangement.
5. Impassioned Television Reviews
Trump continues to uphold a duty shirked by our leaders since the Ford administration: offering Saturday Night Live constructive criticism on a near weekly basis. Lorne Michaels be damned, he’ll return us to the glory days of Belushi, Murray and Radner yet.