President Trump’s leadership style is unorthodox and often unsettling. His methods, derived from business and popular entertainment rather than politics, are in many respects unlike anything that has come before. Yet they are not entirely unprecedented.
He forgoes ideology for simple, cross-partisan principles: America First, safety from terrorism and violent crime, better jobs and schools for the poor and working class, defiance of self-serving elites. He has filled his cabinet with people of proven talent, including erstwhile opponents Ben Carson and Rick Perry, and named a diversified team of White House advisers. Mr. Trump cultivates independent sources of information and is unlikely ever to become captive to his staff. He is unpredictable and uses his talent for drama to keep allies focused and opponents distracted.
Most of all, President Trump is comfortable with controversy and dissent, indeed often incites them to advantage. His tweets and pronouncements can be outrageous and overstated—Up to a point, Lord Copper!—but they demonstrate a healthy skepticism toward ossified orthodoxy and, critically, are designed to stimulate debate rather than close it down.
For instance, global warming is not a “hoax,” as Mr. Trump has said. But the public and scientific debates over climate change have involved several hoaxes, one of which is the deliberate conflation of causation, degree, consequence and policy response. Several of the president’s officials are now propounding the more nuanced view and disentangling the critical distinctions. Deliberation on an important, complicated problem is opening up.