By Randy Myers
- Colbert I. King, Deputy Editorial Page Editor (retired), The Washington Post
- Gwendolyn King, President, Podium Prose
Washington Post Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist Colbert King has been observing U.S. presidents since he was young. As a Boy Scout, he marched past the reviewing stand at Dwight Eisenhower’s first inaugural parade in 1953.
King is a Democrat who is married to Republican Gwendolyn King, a businesswoman who served as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration for three years under President George H.W. Bush.
The Kings sometimes disagree about politics.
Not surprisingly, the Kings hold differing views of the newest occupant in the White House, and the likely consequences for the country. They shared some of those views during a joint speaking appearance at the 2017 SVIA Spring Seminar.
“Washington,” Colbert King told his audience, “has never seen the likes of Donald Trump.” He said Trump “tells his own story, and defines what he regards as success, whether or not it’s true.” He said the president “is running the risk of coming off, despite his pronouncements, as a wishy-washy leader who will change or bend his position.”
“Above all else,” King said, “he wants to avoid conflict and crisis; he is unwilling to take the heat when something goes wrong.”
How others see Trump, likely depends on where they are sitting. As a journalist observing a president with low approval ratings, a highly partisan and polarized Congress, and roiling hotspots overseas, King said he “has a difficult time shaking off a keen sense of peril.”
Gwendolyn King said that “even Republicans are a little bit nervous today,” conceding that Washington is an “unsettled” place right now with “some real strain between the executive branch of government and the legislative branch.” But while acknowledging the numerous distractions that have plagued the early days of the Trump administration—the quick departure of Michael Flynn as Trump’s national security advisor, for example—she also cautioned that circumstances aren’t as dire as her husband suggests.
Gwendolyn King said Trump’s decisions to bring a number of experienced people into his administration, such as Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster to replace Flynn, have been reassuring. And while Trump disparaged many members of Congress during his presidential campaign, she said, the good news for him is that many legislators have short memories.
Meanwhile, she noted, the President has a supporter heading the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which she suggested bodes well for Trump’s aim to rewrite the tax code. In the Senate, she added, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah “is a seasoned, reasonable politician who will give any tax reform proposal thoughtful consideration before it emerges from his Committee.”
Colbert King said he is not optimistic that Trump will be able to make good on some of his signature campaign promises, including tax reform and a big infrastructure spending program. Gwendolyn King wasn’t quite willing to predict that he will, although she expressed some optimism on tax reform. But she said she hopes the country can find a way to unite on a large-scale issue other than war. “There are a lot of things we should be doing,” she said, “and the longer we put them off, the more difficult they are going to be.”