The Intelligence Briefing and the Humbling of Trump

I have a theory about modern presidents. It goes a little something like this...

The new president, fresh off of the campaign trail with all sorts of grandeur in his (and one day her) head about how his agenda will be implemented with authority, gets "the talk."

The talk comes from someone deep within the inside the government's military and / or intelligence community, and this person lets the new president know how things are really going to be. The new president finds out all sorts of wild and crazy things that you and I can only dream of, and then proceeds to spend the next 4 to 8 years aging disgracefully as they get hammered by their opposition every day on things they can't possibly do anything about. 

They've entered the machine. They realize suddenly just how cold and unforgiving the world truly is, and just how powerless they are to stop it. All of the sudden, they aren't so big anymore. They've been humbled. 

While admittedly not based upon any fact or evidence whatsoever, this theory makes for a great story inside of my head, and I don't believe that it's entirely beyond the realm of reality. 

It's with this theory in mind that I believe Donald Trump maybe, just maybe, got his first dose of the humbling that comes with being president. 

President Elect Donald J. Trump

President Elect Donald J. Trump

Donald, and all of his bravado, didn't want to admit that he won an election that the Russians tried to influence through hacking the Democrat's servers. He wanted to say it could have come from anybody - China or a 400 pound fat man in his bedroom - and have the world just move on. He wanted to remind you that the intelligence community got it wrong on Iraq.

He wanted to dismiss the intelligence community findings and convince you to look the other way, too. 

As Glenn Thrush at the New York Times pointed out the other day, however, the bravado used to dispatch people like Jeb Bush won't work with the entrenched government intelligence machine. How I would love to be a fly on the wall in the room when Trump finally sat down to get his intelligence briefing on the hack; the brash and dismissive Trump that entered the meeting wasn't the same one that came out. 

It was clear in Trump's post-meeting statement that he had been subdued, praising the intelligence community and acknowledging that countries like Russia do, in fact, try to infiltrate our systems.

“I had a constructive meeting and conversation with the leaders of the Intelligence Community this afternoon. I have tremendous respect for the work and service done by the men and women of this community to our great nation. 
 
“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines. There were attempts to hack the Republican National Committee, but the RNC had strong hacking defenses and the hackers were unsuccessful.

“Whether it is our government, organizations, associations or businesses we need to aggressively combat and stop cyberattacks. I will appoint a team to give me a plan within 90 days of taking office. The methods, tools and tactics we use to keep America safe should not be a public discussion that will benefit those who seek to do us harm. Two weeks from today I will take the oath of office and America’s safety and security will be my number one priority.”

Then, by Sunday, the President-Elect's Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, said on Fox News that he believes Mr. Trump accepts that Russia was indeed behind the hacks. 

It's a dramatic turn of events for a man who isn't one to admit that he's wrong. 

Welcome to the machine, Mr. Trump.

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