The Beltway Briefing: Inauguration Preview

Blake Rutherford, Mark Alderman, and Howard Schweitzer, of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, give a preview of Donald Trump's Inauguration.

Blake: Very much, and thanks to everybody who has joined us today for another edition of the Beltway Briefing. We are 23 hours and 55 minutes away from the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump. My name is Blake Rutherford, and I'm joined as always by Mark Alderman, the chairman of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies, and Howard Schweitzer, the managing partner of Cozen O'Connor Public Strategies. Howard, Mark, great to be with you as always.

Howard: Thanks, Blake.

Blake: As I said, 23 hours, 54 minutes and counting down to the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump.

Howard: Blake, don't [crosstalk 00:00:42].

Mark: Don't sound so excited.

Blake: I realized after I said that that I was beginning to editorialize-

Howard: You're the unbiased moderator.

Blake: ... in the tone of my voice, so let me back up. Tomorrow we're going to inaugurate a new President.

Mark: I'll handle the editorial part.

Blake: Yeah, that's exactly right. Certainly, I want to get into confirmations. We've had a lot of activity in confirmations, certainly. More hearings taking place today. We've had some big developments over the course of the last week that I want to drill down on and get your thoughts on what it really means, and then look ahead to tomorrow, which is historic for a variety of reasons.

Before we do that, Howard, I thought I'd start with you. Just your thoughts on state of play as we really close the book on the Obama administration. What are your just general thoughts about the state of play in D.C.?

Howard: Blake, there's a lot happening. There's a lot that's been happening in the last several weeks, 11th hour type of stuff coming out of the current administration, some political, some because the bureaucracy is concerned that they're going to be unable to do anything after January 20th, after tomorrow. I think that piece of it is ill-advised, but I think it's a wait and see feeling here. There's a view that Trump will governed differently than he's campaign, and there's a view that he won't.

Mark: I'll take the view that he won't.

Blake: We'll get to all that.

Howard: We'll get to it.

Mark: Just placing markers.

Howard: D.C. still feels like D.C., still feels like home to me, but it's a wait and see. People are holding their breath.

Blake: Mark, you were there, and I loved the story about your first meeting with President Barack Obama, then State Senator Barack Obama, which I think is just one of those great political stories that just shows you what a strange, interesting world all this is.

Mark: You're saying that right.

Blake: Again, we are also less than a day away from the end of his Presidency, and it's hard not, I think at moments like this, especially when you've been as connected to it as you have been, not to get a little nostalgic about what's happened and what's taken place. What are your thoughts about that?

Mark: It is a very nostalgic time, Blake. There's a lot of saying goodbye going on right through breakfast this morning and some more this afternoon, because a lot of people are leaving. A lot of people are leaving government. A number of people are actually leaving leaving, leaving Washington, so there is the interpersonal turnover which is very emotional, and very important to honor. I want to also say that for me, there is a feeling of enormous pride, enormous pride in having been part of the history of the Obama administration but even more so, if I may say, apart from anyone's view of his place in history, footnote, he will be judged far more kindly by history than he has been in the present. I think there's already a growing nostalgia for the Obama years, and he I accept will be Reaganesque within the four years of the Trump administration.

I am extraordinarily proud of the way in which this man and his family are leaving office, extraordinarily proud of how they came to office, extraordinarily proud of how they conducted themselves in office, but I think that the President is setting an example for the entire country, Republican, Democrat, independent, agnostic, about how to handle with dignity and grace and integrity the constitutional transfer of power that is the most unique aspect of this or any other government in world history, for that matter, so a very heartfelt shout-out to the Obamas for showing us how to win and showing us how to leave.

Howard: They would shout back, but their tongues are bleeding because their tongues have been biting it so hard.

Blake: We've begun to hear from the President a little bit that he is certainly staying in Washington, which is just interesting in and of itself.

Howard: Weird.

Blake: That he probably will not remain silent if there's an opportunity for him to speak out. He's already I think telegraphed that immigration could be an issue where he might engage pretty substantively early on, if there's some moves from the Trump administration as I think many predict there will be, and then of course the issue of race, which he has said he wants to continue to engage on that issue as well. I think it'll be interesting.

Howard, I say a comment from someone that said, "Barack Obama, he's certainly a historic President but perhaps not a consequential President." I wanted to get your thoughts about how to ... Mark's argument that history will judge President Obama far more favorably than certainly he has been treated in office, which has been a difficult, difficult Presidency for him. I wanted to get your thoughts. How do you think history looks back on the Obama years?

Howard: My first personal reaction to that is based on where I was when they started, which was in the United States Treasury Building trying to keep the financial system afloat. He was exceptional under those circumstances. It's not that everything that the incoming Obama administration did at the time was perfect, and I think they threw some folks under the bus that didn't need to be thrown under the bus, but he was singing from the right song sheet and did the right thing by and large, and anybody that walked into office that had to deal with that, to me is a consequential President.

I think if people say that he's historic, but not consequential, I think they say that because frankly they're looking at it from a "racial" point of view, which I think is totally unfair. This is a guy who took office, inherited multiple wars, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. I was a Bush appointee, so I'm certainly not defending all the policies put forth by Barack Obama, but whether you like him or don't like his policies, he was a consequential President.

Blake: It is interesting, because you both had very unique vantage points with which to assess the man. We've now come to understand this as people now describe it as the Obama coup. Mark, you saw that when he was beginning this journey, and moments before that trajectory just sent him into orbit. I remember Charlie Cook, our friend on Meet the Press, when somebody said in 2006, 2007, "Will Barack Obama run for President?" He looked at him and said, "How could he not run for President?" It's so interesting.

Then we can contrast that with what we're experiencing and what we have experienced over the last couple of years now, as we think about the long Presidential campaign, to Trump. Before we pivot to that, Mark, I wanted to see, any final thoughts on the administration or anything you think that we ought to be on the lookout for as the Obamas exit the White House but don't exit Washington?

Mark: A couple of thoughts, sure. I want to thank Howard as not only a Republican but as a participant in the effort led by President Obama that did save the American and arguably the world economy, something for which President Obama gets far too little credit today. I am confident history will take care of that, and probably not too far off, but another aspect which I know Howard has observed, and also respects, is the scandal-free nature of eight years of the Obama administration. It's that word that I used a minute ago. Agree with him, disagree with him, you're for the Affordable Care Act, you're against it, no one can dispute that this has been as long a run of decent, honest, hardworking men and women, public servants of integrity, doing the best they could. You can think they came up short here or there, but I tremendously admire the way in which they conducted themselves as stewards of the country.

That's what you're going to see, I believe Blake, from Barack Obama out of office. Yeah, he's going to be living around the corner from Ivanka and Jared and whomever else. His daughter's in school here. That's his priority. That's why he's staying here. He is who he is, and always will be. He is not going to become the anti-Trump. He is not going to trash the President or the Presidency. He has far too much respect for that office that he held, but he is going to be heard on issues and ideas and policies, and I think that's the level on which he will engage and we need him to.

Blake: He's got a library to build.

Mark: He's got a library to build, a book to write.

Blake: Howard ... A book to write, no question.

Mark: A garden to plant, a golf game.

Blake: Golf game down, yeah, sure. All kinds of things.

Howard: First he needs to get into a country club, but that's a whole different issue.

Blake: That's a whole another story.

Mark: I've got a good hunch he can do that.

Blake: We are now thinking about and seriously beginning to understand the mindset of President-elect Trump. We have heard from ... This has not been a quiet transition. He has been vocal on a number of issues, but he's also put forward his nominees for cabinet posts, and we've experienced those confirmation hearings to a degree. Some have gone smoother than others, Howard, but I thought we might take stock of the confirmation process at this point. Anything, any particular hearing, anything surprise you, either in an expected or unexpected way, in the context of what's good or bad for the Trump team?

Howard: I think they've gone fairly well for the nominees. Nikki Haley was weak, and Betsy DeVos was weak.

Mark: Unprepared.

Howard: Unprepared, yeah, just not as well-prepared as they should be. Mnuchin's up there today. We'll see what happens there, but I think they've done by and large fairly well, and most if not all will be confirmed.

Mark: Yeah, I agree with that. I think most if not indeed all will be confirmed. It's arithmetic. The votes are there. I don't know that on some of the more controversial ones Schumer's even going to hold all 48 Democrats. He may pick up a Republican or two, but getting to 51 against is very, very unlikely, I think, with most of these. I think that most of the nominees have not only acquitted themselves well in the process, I've been very impressed by many of the nominees themselves, not just their performance in front of the committees, but these are men and women to a great degree of substance and experience.

There are outliers. Ben Carson is an outlier. Rick Perry didn't even know what job he was accepting. Unfortunately, it's a consequential job, but there are some men and women of tremendous substance and achievement who are going into this administration. What I wonder about is their relationship with the President-elect. That to me is what this is all about. Some of them have been clear that they disagree.

Howard: It's not what it's all about. The other thing that it is very much about is whether they understand government.

Mark: Right.

Howard: This is not ... They are a qualified crew in many respects. You would trust Ben Carson to open you up and operate on you.

Mark: No, I wouldn't.

Howard: Okay.

Mark: Let me be very clear, no, I wouldn't.

Howard: He does not understand the United States government. Wilbur Ross, obviously very accomplished, Steve Mnuchin, these are real people. They don't know the first thing about how the bureaucracy works, how the levers, what the levers of power are.

Mark: To that point, just on our theme of transition here, Blake, one of the early and I thought very legitimate critiques of the Obama administration eight years ago was who knows how to govern among them, and I think that the Obama agenda was impacted by the fact that it took him and his closest advisors a while to figure out exactly what Howard's talking about, but what I had in mind was not so much their inexperience in government, which I yield, Howard, is a significant factor, and as I say, we saw it in the early going with the Obama administration.

I have some real questions about what's going to happen when they go from their department or agency to the White House and talk to the President. That's where this is, to me, very unclear. I think the idea that Donald Trump the President is going to be a different person than Donald Trump the candidate, Donald Trump the nominee, Donald Trump the businessman, that to me is a naïve idea. I think we know with whom we are about to have the pleasure here, and I think the success of this administration is going to turn to a great degree on those men and women who are advising the President and their ability to influence his thinking, because left alone with his phone, this is not going to go well.

Howard: I would just back on the point about knowing government. I think that there's nothing wrong with coming into government from the outside and bringing that outside perspective. In fact, it's really healthy, and it takes any administration six months to get up and running even under the best of circumstances. One of the reasons I was asked to stay by President Obama in 2009, when he took office, was that they weren't ready for prime time and needed people who knew what they were doing.

By the way, they did announce today that they're keeping 50 Obama appointees for continuity purposes.

Mark: Which is encouraging.

Howard: Right, it's encouraging.

Mark: Again-

Howard: Here comes the but, from you.

Mark: What's going to happen when they get to the West Wing and say, "Mr. President, respectfully, here's how we think the government works"?

Howard: They aren't going to do that. They're going to say, "Mr. Vice President, respectfully, here's the issue. Help us make a decision." That's the way this is going to run initially.

Mark: Maybe.

Howard: It's not necessarily the way it should run. It may not be the way it runs in a year. In fact, I think it is not going to be the way it runs in a year, but it's going to be the way things run at the beginning.

Mark: What we have seen, Howard, to date is a half-validation of that theory of government, because what has been taking place ... We've talked about this before, but it continues, and it continues in an impactful way. There is a transition in Washington, D.C., of the government of the United States from the Obama era to the Trump era. It is a transition that is being led by Mike Pence. It is being executed by people that Mike Pence put in the responsible positions, and I think you're exactly right that at a certain level that's why we can have some optimism that there will be a functioning government at 12:01 p.m. tomorrow and that things will continue to operate.

There has also been a parallel transition is a word, there are other words, up at Trump Tower, with the President-elect himself, and the press conference, and the tweets, and the visitors. That has been unusual, I think. I think that that's all about to be put in the same place, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. It remains to be seen how that's all going to fit together and whether, in fact, there will continue to be the Pence transition and then whatever it is that's been happening at Trump Tower.

Howard: It's messaging.

Mark: That assumes that President Trump occupies the White House, which is unclear.

Howard: Of course.

Mark: I don't mean that as partisan as it sounds.

Howard: I'm sure you do.

Mark: It's unclear where ... Sure I do. Of I do.

Blake: We know his wife and son are staying in New York.

Mark: His wife and son are staying in New York. It's unclear to me where he is going to spend his time and what he is going to spend his time on.

Howard: I think Mark, the bigger issue frankly is not who makes the decisions when they go to the White House. The bigger issue is the rhetoric, because regardless of who makes the decisions, there's no doubt who speaks for the government, and that's Trump. The question is, is he going to continue to speak to his "base," or is he going to speak to the country and the world as a whole? How's he going to approach this? Is he going to trash his enemies?

Blake: We don't know, but I do-

Mark: We know how he's going to approach it, because we have, if I may just quickly Blake, we are now discussing the fourth or fifth, I have lost track, pivot for Donald Trump. He was going to pivot from being a birther to being a legitimate candidate for the nomination, then he was going to pivot from being the likely nominee to being the nominee of the party, then he was going from being a candidate to being the President-elect. He's O for four as far as I'm concerned, and he's not pivoting. He is Donald J. Trump. He is 70 years old. What you see is what you get.

That was part of his appeal, by the way, as a candidate, and I think the answer to your question is, sure, he's going to trash his enemies. He's going to tweet, and you're absolutely right, the tone of this administration has consequences.

Blake: Let's talk about those consequences in the context of politics, because Donald Trump is coming into office. Right now, it looks like his approval rating is going to be at 40%.

Mark: Is it that high?

Blake: It was 40 two days ago, so we'll see.

Mark: Yeah, it's dropping.

Blake: A disapproval rating of 54, so he's underwater. No President in the last 40 years has come into office with such low approval ratings. He gave a press conference which ... He stood in front of a podium and spoke to members of the press and lambasted other members of the press while he was there.

Mark: He had a lot of folders. Let's be fair to the record.

Blake: Right, a lot of folders.

Mark: He brought a lot of folders.

Blake: Howard, do you sense from what we've seen ... We've had rocky transitions before, and it's always bumpy, especially when you're shifting from Democrat to Republican.

Mark: It's worse than 1860.

Blake: Yeah, that's exactly right. Do you feel that Trump, and maybe we'll see some of this tomorrow, is rising to the moment yet? Mark says no pivot's coming, but he will be President of the United States tomorrow, and that dynamic is unlike any other dynamic, because every word carries potentially international significance. Do you sense he's going to rise to the occasion?

Howard: I think he is. I think he understands the enormity of what's in front of him. He is who he is as a personality, but I think he understands what he's gotten himself into, something he probably never really wanted in the first place, and I think he genuinely wants to succeed.

Mark: Where's the evidence of that? Let me interrupt myself to say, I'm rooting for him. He is going to be the President of all of us. He did give an election night speech that I hope he can emulate in his inaugural address tomorrow. He is capable of moments of that sort of vision and unity, and I'm rooting for him. He is a legitimate President of the United States. We may learn otherwise, but as of now, he is the legitimate President of the United States. I'm rooting for him. Where's the evidence? Where's the evidence that he is going to actually grow into the role?

I think there is a better chance that many around him grow into the role. I'm not sitting here predicting that we get a clown show out of the Oval Office. I'm dubious about the President-elect's pivot, but there are men and women around him who I hope and expect will grow into the role, and I hope and expect it will be a more responsible government than what you would expect coming out of Trump's temperament.

Howard: He has said that he understands that there is a difference between being President and running for President. Actions speak louder than words. His actions need to show that for sure. I think from a policy-

Mark: This is one of those don't listen to his words, look into his heart things?

Howard: For me, yeah, that hasn't gone too well, but from a policy point of view, this guy is not a Republican. We had Scott Walker here yesterday. We had Bill Scheutte from Michigan, the Attorney-General. Yes, Republicans, they're Republicans. Trump is a "Republican." It's just a label to him, and I think from a policy point of view, probably more than any President in my lifetime, he actually has the ability to bring the country together because he's not dogmatic. He showed us that time and time again. His rhetoric needs to shift to match that, I fully admit.

Mark: May I just say on that point, yes and no. I'm hopeful that his team can get things done, and I think that's what you're saying, that he is not favorable ... He's Trump, and the agenda isn't an establishment Republican agenda by any means, but what is interesting to me about that, moving away from the individual and the personality to the process here, there are as of 12:01 p.m. tomorrow I believe not two but three parties in Washington. There are the Congressional Republicans, who are not by any means unanimous, but they are all on one side of the thing. There are the Congressional Democrats, same story, not unanimous, but on the other side of the thing.

Then there's Trump, as you have said throughout, who is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. In that fact, there is potential for getting things done. There is also potential for nothing getting done. I'm rooting for getting things done.

Howard: Plenty will get done. As I've been saying for some time, we have here in Washington much more European-style governance than I think, more coalition governing, than has historically been the case. Even within the Congress, even within the Republican caucus, there are different groups with very different philosophies, and yeah, it's different.

Blake: I'm sorry, Mark. Go ahead.

Mark: I was just going to ask Howard, okay, great. What's going to get done? What are we going to do with the Affordable Care Act? What are we going to do with tax reform? What are we going to do with the wall? What's going to get done? Is it the same? This is my question. I don't mean to usurp your prerogative, Blake, but it's really interesting to me to think about what you just said. Is it the same coalition that is going to get these things done, or are we going to see strange bedfellows?

Howard: Totally strange bedfellows.

Mark: Depending on the field, you're going to have the Freedom Caucus and Chuck Schumer and the Trump White House working around Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan one day, and then another day it's going to flip.

Howard: It's going to be constantly shifting. I think there are things like infrastructure where Trump is going to line up with the Democrats, not the Republicans, and you're going to have the Freedom Caucus pushing back. I think it's going to shift depending upon what the issue is.

Blake: I think one thing that we'll have to pay attention to, and we've seen some of this, Trump likes to pick fights. He likes to do that in a public way, and he's also a trained counterpuncher, too. I want to certainly highlight the tension that we saw between him and Representative John Lewis, who on television said pointedly that he didn't feel like Trump was a legitimate President, which is an interesting point. We don't necessarily have to debate the psychology of that, but I did want to point everybody, there's a fascinating piece in Politico magazine. They sit down with all of Trump's biographers, and they raise this very question, and their opinion is that that's actually an issue that Trump cares a great deal about, that it matters a lot to him, this issue of legitimacy, which to me informs-

Mark: It has his whole life.

Blake: Right, and it explains a lot of where that comes from. We don't have to get into that on this call, but I did want to make note of that because he responded in a very direct and pointed way to Representative Lewis. That's just one example, but I wanted to A, get your thoughts about that, but consider it in the context of when Trump is President of the United States, is he going to get down in the weeds, pick these one on one fights, do you think? Does it matter? Does it impede his agenda?

Howard: I think the operative word in which you just asked is responded. He didn't pick that fight. Lewis picked it with him, and by the way he ended up losing in my opinion, because he didn't have his facts straight and because he was trying to out-Trump Trump. That's a guaranteed loser. As long as ... Trump is still going to be Trump, and I think he's got to rise above some of the pushback. He can't take the bait every time, and he's got to really, really, really carefully pick his battles, but I think Mark, your side of the aisle is being very foolish in the way they're approaching him. It is a strategy of trying to out-Trump Trump, just isn't going to work, and you're much better off ...

For example, on the Russia issue, for Congressman Lewis to go out and say he's illegitimate, that picks a fight. The Republicans are investigating the Russia issue. Let the Republicans use the process, and let them de-legitimize Trump if he deserves to be de-legitimized. He, Congressman Lewis, has no clue what happened vis-a-vis Russia, no more of a clue than those of us sitting in this room right now. Just because he's a Congressman, it doesn't mean he does, and he should have left it alone. He shouldn't have picked the fight.

Mark: Yes and no. Yes, John Lewis I think was ill-advised to call Donald Trump an illegitimate President. I think it was ill-advised as a tactical matter, as you are saying, in trying to out-Trump Trump. I think he is wrong because I believe that Donald Trump is the legitimately elected President unless and until, and I hope it's never, but it may be soon, we learn otherwise. I agree, John Lewis shouldn't have done that.

However, I don't think he lost. Let's say he lost the skirmish. The war's going to go on for four years. He didn't lose the battle, because the President-elect of the United States debased and demeaned himself in attacking John Lewis. Lewis was wrong, Lewis picked the fight, but this is the President-elect of the United States. For him to respond to something that a Congressman said that was ill-advised by burning down Atlanta again, this is like Sherman marching through Atlanta a second time, he burned down the whole city. He took on an icon who deserves ... Just as the office of the Presidency I believe deserves respect because it is the office of the Presidency, John Lewis deserves respect because of his life history and what he has contributed to the country.

Howard: He does.

Mark: I'm not here defending what John Lewis said, but I believe my answers to Blake's questions are yes, yes, yes. Is he going to continue to do this? Yes. Is it going to impede his ability to govern? Yes. Whatever the other question is, the answer's yes.

Blake: The answer's yes.

Mark: I just want to say one thing. Don't ascribe a Democratic strategy to John Lewis-

Blake: That was the question I was going-

Mark: ... in that mistake. I think Democrats ... Again I'm citing the President. I think the President, President Obama that is, I think Barack Obama has been heroic in not questioning the legitimacy of the Trump election given that Donald Trump started his career in politics questioning the legitimacy of the Obama Presidency. I'm going to stand up for the current President and at least some Democrats.

Howard: Because he's politically smart enough to know that there are processes out there working that will de-legitimize Trump if he deserves to be de-legitimized, and won't if he doesn't.

Mark: That's fair.

Howard: He's making the politically astute decision not to put his fingerprints on anything for purposes of his own legacy. He's doing a great job.

Mark: He appreciates having been there for eight years, the seriousness. That's my fundamental quarrel with what's been happening in Trump Tower. This is really serious. You know better than I. You were inside during the financial crisis. This is really serious. What people say and do matters.

Howard: Yeah, including boycotting the inauguration. If you're a member of Congress, you should not be boycotting the inauguration. There are some 60 some odd Democratic members of Congress that aren't showing up to witness the peaceful transfer of power. Whether you agree or disagree, loathe or love the man, you've got to show up. You've got to be engaged. It's what we tell our clients every day. You may not love the person that you have to go sit across the table from. You have to be engaged. For the Democrats to protest by not showing up, to disengage, all they're doing is decreasing their impact, decreasing their voice.

Blake: You're taking me right to where I wanted to go, which is the broader Democratic strategy for dealing with Trump. I wanted to get your thoughts about the inaugural boycott. By no means should anybody leave with the impression the Democrats are the only people ever to boycott an inaugural. I'm pretty sure some Republicans stayed home when Bill Clinton was sworn in, but be that as it may, Mark, the Democrats are trying to figure out what to do and how to manage through. We're starting to see in the confirmation hearings people beginning to test out some themes, raise their profiles. We talked about our friend Senator Cory Booker doing that, and we've seen Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders play big roles in some of these hearings, Tim Kaine on education. I wanted to just talk for a minute about the state of play for the Democrats, and what should they really be thinking about. We don't have a DNC chair yet. That process is working itself out. We really don't have a DNC. I think we have a political party. I think that's right.

Mark: It's still registered as a party at the state level.

Blake: Because of what President Obama, soon to be former President Obama, is going to go do, and I do think the politeness with which he will continue to engage himself, the party doesn't have a figurehead, although you wrote a great op-ed, which I thoroughly enjoyed, in Politico called Unleash the Biden. What does Joe Biden do now? In addition to your op-ed, which I would encourage everybody to read, there's also a story in the New York Times where his son Hunter is quoted as saying, "If it were up to me and only me, we'd be running for President starting on Friday." What do the Democrats do?

Mark: One thing the Democrats do, as I advocated in the Politico piece, is I do think we should empower Joe Biden to speak on our behalf in a very personal and very direct way, and to take on Trump and the tweets, literally the tweets, because leaving the tweets unanswered is I think normalizing a medium of communication that isn't worthy of the Presidency. I think it is also normalizing the fake news that I believe characterizes a lot of that communication. I think that the Vice President, soon to be former Vice President, is the right one to take that on, but beyond that one on one, mano a mano, Biden and Trump communication, I think to borrow on Howard's Parliamentary analogy, the Democrats need to be the loyal opposition.

The opposition, but the loyal opposition. When the Trump administration or the Republican leadership in Congress is doing something that we Democrats believe is wrong, is bad for the country, bad for the world, wrong, we need to fight it. We need to oppose it, and we need to oppose it vigorously, and I hope we can oppose it successfully, but when it isn't wrong we need to say so. We need to be the loyal opposition. We should not in my view adopt the Mitch McConnell scorched earth policy of allowing Barack Obama no success. That's bad for the country, and I don't want to be part of it, and I don't think the party should be part of it.

What I've been saying to myself, and to my Democratic colleagues-

Howard: You've had lots of conversations with yourself over the last few months, for the record.

Mark: The last 70 some days, I'm having one right now actually, in front of this microphone, and what we have been saying to our clients, and to ourselves in our group, is, "Let's just see what this thing looks like in a little while." He's still, as of this call, not even the President yet. Let's just see what this looks like in a little while, and I think most of the intergalactic conclusions that have been drawn from the election were wrong. I think that any conclusions that we draw now about the next four years will be wrong. I think everybody needs to go to work and oppose what should be opposed as Democrats, support what should be supported, and let's just see what this thing looks like, because there are those of us, while rooting for the country and for the success of the government, who think that this is going to look like a God awful mess in six months. That's a much better time to engage.

Blake: Howard, tomorrow it's inauguration day. Trump has put out a picture of him sitting at a desk, working on his speech, maybe with a magic marker or something. Be that as it may, he will give an inaugural address tomorrow and will join history in that regard. What are you expecting to hear from him?

Howard: Unification. I'm hoping and expecting to hear about bringing the country together, about economic growth, about U.S. power, the U.S. role on the world stage, and keeping the country safe. Those are the themes that I think he'll hit during the speech.

Blake: Then, after he concludes, although Mark he has said really that his first day is-

Mark: My favorite Trumpism, Donald Trump in his own words, my favorite Trumpism maybe since November 8th, but certainly this week, is when he declared that day one of the Trump administration is Monday because, and I'm not making this up, you can't make this up, because Friday is a half day and people will be partying over the weekend. He intends to get to work on Monday.

Howard: As you know, I was not on the Trump train throughout the election, but he's going to be the President. We got to give him a chance. He's put together so far a respectable administration, a respectable, serious cabinet, and yeah, we could talk about magic markers and half days, but we got to give the guy a chance. Part of giving him a chance ... He'll sink himself. We don't have to sink him. I think it's a matter of, to your point earlier Mark that you should oppose policies that you disagree with him on, yeah, all the magic, all the important stuff is in how you do that. I think taking him seriously, not treating him like he's from another planet, is part of that. Not mocking him is part of that. Respecting the office, even if you don't respect the man, is part of that, and going through the legislative process, the bureaucratic process, whatever it is, is part of that.

People here know far more about how to take down Donald Trump than he does about how to take them down. He has one thing. He has the bully pulpit. I think it's really important for people to give him a shot to govern the right way, and then we'll judge him.

Mark: I agree with that, and I've said repeatedly in this call that I believe he is the legitimate President-elect of the United States. I have repeatedly on this call that I'm rooting for him because he is about to be, in less than 24 hours, the President of all the people, and we have to show respect for the office that our country has elected him to, but he has to reciprocate that respect. I know Donald Trump is very unlikely, Blake, to be listening to this call. We'll check the list afterwards, but he hasn't so far. If anyone out there can get a message to the President-elect, mutual reciprocal symmetrical respect is what this country needs. The entire country needs to respect the incoming President of the United States and the incoming President of the United States needs to respect the entire country.

Howard: The thing is-

Mark: It hasn't been perfect on our side. It's been far more imperfect on his side. As Joe Biden, unleash the Biden, said at one point when the President-elect was mocking the President, President Obama that is, "Grow up." Really, truly time for this man to grow up. I've got my doubts, but I'll be the first to stand up and applaud if it happens.

Howard: He was more disrespectful to his "fellow Republicans" than he was to anybody. I understand, as you would say, it's character ... whatever your word is that he said.

Mark: Pocahontas and crooked Hillary, and a week ago the minority leader of the United States Senate's a clown.

Howard: Yeah, but he-

Mark: He's a non-discriminating trasher of people.

Howard: By all accounts, behind the scenes, when he's not on his Twitter feed, he actually can have a conversation with Chuck Schumer. He's not going to not be able to have a conversation because he called him a clown.

Mark: Maybe.

Howard: That's hopeful.

Mark: We'll see.

Howard: By the way-

Mark: That's what they've been saying for two years, or 70 years depending on how far back you want to go.

Howard: For all the nice things we said about Barack Obama earlier, he was not good at the behind the scenes stuff with people on the other side. I think he's obviously got to learn how to govern. He's obviously got to rise above some of the rhetoric, but from a policy and behind the scenes point of view, I think this is a much more hopeful time than it has been as far as the ability to engage across the aisle where it matters.

Blake: As we near the end of the call, I wanted to ask-

Mark: You may want to ask Angela Merkel about it.

Blake: Right. I did, Howard, want to follow up on the day one point. Who do you expect to be more aggressive, if you will? I don't mean that in negative connotations, just in terms of more activity. Are you expecting a large number of executive orders coming out on day one? Do you sense that Paul Ryan's going to rush out of the gate quick with a tax reform agenda? What's really going to happen when Trump walks into the White House?

Howard: I think a series of executive orders. I think it's going to be a review of some of the 11th hour Obama administration activity, of which there has been a lot, even more than I think you typically see coming out of an administration that's leaving. I think there are basic orders, executive orders, that all Presidents issue. Looking backward, dealing with things that have happened in the last administration is very typical. I think he'll do all that stuff. He'll freeze regulatory activity. He's going to do some things to make it look like, where we can, he's either doing away with or putting a freeze on Obama administration activity.

Legislatively, it's not ... He may make some announcements, but no, he's not reforming the corporate tax code on day one. He'll be lucky if he does that in 2017, really lucky. Nothing ... I think the things that we expect.

Blake: Mark, in 2009, with the Democratic Congress, there was a flurry of even legislative activity early in the President's tenure, really rushing to try and get as much done in that first 100 days period. They set out an agenda, a 100 days agenda. It sounds like we're going to be in a bit of a different posture here.

Mark: I think so. I think that the world's in a different place. Fortunately President Trump is not walking into the financial collapse that President Obama walked into. The first thing the President got done, President Obama, as Howard I know was part of, was the stimulus bill, which the crisis required. President Trump may be walking into, by the way, a scarier world, but not a scarier economy at least. I have over the last eight years had the privilege and pleasure of knowing and talking with many of the people who have been in and out of the Obama administration, in the White House in particular, and the one thing that to a man and a woman they all say, when you're talking to them about whatever it is, healthcare, foreign policy, the Chicago Cubs until this year, is, "It's way harder to govern than we ever thought." To a man and woman, including I am sure the President and the First Lady themselves.

I think that that's what the Trump team is about to experience in real time. I think they will try to do many of the things that Howard has said, and that's their prerogative. Reviewing 11th hour Obama administration actions is absolutely appropriate for the incoming administration. They're just going to find, I predict, that it's way harder to govern than they even thought.

Howard: Of course they are.

Mark: It's so much less of what was promised is going to get done any time soon, and that's when the politics start getting really interesting again.

Blake: Tomorrow is the main event, as they say. Speaking of main events, the Eagles and the Giants are not in the NFC championship game, so I'm sorry to both of you for that, but we do have two interesting football games. You guys are great at predicting. Tell me who's going to be in the Super Bowl. We have Packers, Falcons.

Mark: Matt Ryan, a Penn Charter grad, MVP this year in my opinion, 33 for two just like the last time they played. I'm flipping Scott Walker's prediction.

Howard: Packers. They're hot.

Blake: Steelers, Patriots. Mark, can you think outside your-

Mark: No.

Howard: Patriots, Packers. You got to go with the Patriots.

Blake: The Super Bowl everybody wants.

Howard: Yeah, you got to go with the Patriots.

Mark: We disagree.

Howard: Yeah.

Blake: There you go, yeah. Once again. All right, I think that brings us to the end of today's call. Thanks to everyone who has joined us. Certainly comments, questions are always welcome. Presidential analysis at This has been the Beltway Briefing, and we look forward to our next call soon. Thanks for joining us.

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