13 November 2017

In a recent NPR article, Strauss Distinguished Scholars Dr. H.W. Brands and Dr. William Inboden weighed in on how President Trump diverges from the traditional role of American presidents and how now, 10 months into his presidency, he is changing the presidency itself.

Brands, the author of numerous presidential biographies including Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan states plainly that Trump has not changed since assuming office. Whereas most candidates are transformed by the responsibilities of the office, Brands suggests that President Trump has not lived up to his campaign promise of being “more ‘presidential’ than anyone except Abraham Lincoln.” According to Brands, President Trump is still candidate Trump, and candidate Trump was simply a reiteration of his Reality TV persona. However, though Trump’s personality has not changed, he has drastically changed the role of the president, namely in regard to international affairs. In the post-WWII world, the President of the United States was the dominant figure in foreign affairs not only due to American military strength but also “’in terms of the moral authority of the President.’” According to Brands, “’Trump has largely abdicated that,” and thus no longer takes the lead on the international stage.

Inboden’s comments largely concur with Brands’. Inboden states numerous ways in which Trump is a vastly different president than his predecessors, including muddling the line between the Executive Branch and the Justice Department, as well as the FBI, and pushing his own agenda off on his party leaders in Congress while shirking the role of “Pastor in Chief” in times of national crisis. Inboden stipulates that this could have potentially long lasting effects on the presidency itself. Looking beyond Trump’s tenure, Inboden notes “President Trump thus far seems to be weakening the presidency primarily through neglect and indifference to the traditional roles of the presidency. And I do worry that whoever his successor is, in four or eight years, will inherit a diminished office.”

Read their full remarks here.