In the middle of the presidential transition period journalists are caught in a bind - what is known that can be accurately reported? The presidential campaign that ended on November 8th with Donald Trump’s victory only gave vague clues to his ultimate behaviour and the victorious tactic of using slogans, some planned and some off the cuff to attract voters, leaves us nothing on which we can understand what will happen.

The next step

The only date set in concrete is January 20th which will see Donald Trump inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States.

We have seen the preparations for the event hindered by the refusal of many artists to participate. In addition, we have seen the names emerge of the Secretaries to be nominated for the Cabinet and the top advisers who will be regular visitors to the Oval Office. As we approach the day there is still much hidden in the political fog of war.

The only thing we can say for sure is that one aspect of the campaign season has remained unchanged, or rather has become an ever more persistent presence in American political life. The daily storm of tweets on any and every subject that touches upon the President-elect and only confuses the issues even more. The spelling errors and phrasing often mean that they were spur of the moment decisions and confirm the impression of a man who reacts too quickly to any challenge to his image.

Trump rhetoric or true plans?

Yet the tweets are not the true measure by which we will be able to judge the next four years. Unlike his opponent Hillary Clinton, the incoming President had not given any real details on what he intends doing from the Oval Office once he is ensconced formally. This does not allow the bureaucracy, the politicians of the two Houses or the public to imagine the reality of President Donald Trump.

Some of the slogans have already been discarded. For example, we will not see an investigation and trial of the former Secretary of State, much to the disappointment of some of his electors. The constant changes in his language and intentions over the last few weeks has only meant that the country and the world can only speculate and second guess what the next developments will be.

In addition, his habit of crediting his personal intervention on decisions by third parties such as Carrier and Ford do not allow us to understand what role he is already playing in running the country.

Whether or not the lack of a true political agenda will be an asset or a hindrance will be tested in the Senate and Congress as the incoming President will be forced to understand that political decisions are not unilateral and that there is a formal process to be undertaken, the first of which is to ensure that any decision has the proper fiscal coverage required by law. There is no fall back on this and it will be up to both Houses, particularly the majority Republicans, to handle these requirements as they did with Barak Obama in the eight years of his presidency.

Foreign challenges

In addition, foreign governments may well use Trump’s inauguration to put his mettle to the test. North Korea and China, without forgetting Putin’s Russia, see the United States as their adversary and will not hesitate to try and embarrass him at the first opportunity. In one sense this has already begun with the allegations of Russian interference in the election and will undoubtedly be one of the first challenges President Trump will face.

They say a week is a long time in politics, therefore the next four years will seem an eternity for politicians and the public as they wait to see how much of Trump’s campaign rhetoric were indications of his true intentions in power and how many slogans were simply campaign tactics to win an election almost nobody predicted before November 8th. There will surely be interesting times ahead for all, let us hope that it will not be in the Chinese sense of the expression.