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Opinion

Opinion: Take Trump seriously the second time around

Two weeks after Donald Trump's historic election victory one thing is already clear. All those who thought it would not be so bad were wrong.

One can find it disconcerting that President-elect Donald Trump continues attacking the media, protesters or the cast of a broadway play via Twitter with pretty much the same vigor he displayed when he was still a candidate.

One can find it disconcerting that President-elect Trump, again via tweet, suggests to Britain that he would like to see as that nation's ambassador to the US his Brexit bromance campaigner Nigel Farage.

One can also find it disconcerting that President-elect Trump, having settled three lawsuits against the now-defunct Trump University for $25 million, is still involved in dozens of cases pending in the courts.    

And one find it disconcerting that President-elect Trump still has not released his tax returns and that the planned separation of his business interests from his upcoming political office by way of putting his family in charge of his financial ventures appears, to say the least, dubious.

All of this is troubling as it defies the traditional conduct of a president-elect. It also serves as an indicator that so far there is no significant difference in the behaviour of President-elect Trump compared to that of candidate Trump. Of course, one can still hold out hope that this change will take place once Trump moves into the White House.          

But the odds of that happening don't look very promising because Trump has not just ranted on Twitter - he has also already made some key decisions. And those decisions hint that Trump is willing to turn a lot of what he promised during the campaign into political reality, even though he has now rhetorically backtracked on some of these issues in a New York Times interview.    

Michael Knigge Kommentarbild App

DW's Michael Knigge

Decisions made

That's because in a taped video message earlier this week, Trump not only circumvented the media, but declared that one of his first measures as president would be to start the withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). This is precisely what he had promised repeatedly during the campaign. Trump also said that he would eliminate regulations that impede fossil fuel production in the US, another promise he gave as candidate.   

The measures are a clear reversal of President Obama's policies in two central areas. While Obama advanced a free trade agenda and climate protection, Trump will chart a new course that is protectionist and places traditional domestic energy production over environmental concerns.          

This should not come as a surprise as he had already made his view clear well before the election campaign on what he considers connected issues - four years ago, he said that the concept of global warming was a Chinese invention meant to hurt American industrial production. Trump's agenda to unleash domestic fossil fuel production also means that the US won't be able to reach the goals set during the Paris climate talks - even though Trump said in the New York Times interview he was keeping an open mind on climate change.     

But at least as worrying as Trump's declared rollback on free trade and climate protection are his first personnel picks.

Shift towards the right

He made Steve Bannon, the former head of the right-wing Internet portal Breitbart, his chief strategist. To fully comprehend the meaning of this selection, it's important to know that a man who just declared in his first post-election interview that he is a nationalist will become the most influential adviser to the US president. Earlier Bannon had boasted that he had made Breitbart "the platform for the alt-right."

The choice of Michael Flynn, slated by Trump to become his National Security Advisor, also raises eyebrows. Flynn, a former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, made headlines earlier this year when he tweeted that "fear of Muslims is rational." His staunch support for Turkey's increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan as well as a paid speech in Moscow coupled with a photo with President Putin last year also catches the eye.

To be clear: Of course Trump will not deliver on all of his campaign promises and he also will not staff his cabinet entirely with questionable figures. But two weeks after his election, it is evident that he plans to make good on key election promises. It would behove the media and the public this time around to take him seriously from the very beginning.