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After Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, the most incisive analysis concluded that “his critics had taken him literally, but not seriously, while his supporters took him seriously but not literally.” It has become clear that neither view is correct: Trump must be taken both seriously and literally, regardless of the consequences of his thinking. The new president said he would challenge and defeat the “Washington establishment.” While his commitment to “draining the swamp” can be questioned, his readiness to disrupt the status quo cannot. Trump thrives on chaos and sees advantage in it. The world must prepare for four years of disruption and disorder.

In his first week, the new president laid out a vision of his country that was darker than any previous inaugural address and rejected many of the principles that had guided U.S. foreign policy throughout the postwar era, embracing an unapologetic “America First” position. He followed that with a public fight over reporting of the crowd size at his inauguration, a speech at the CIA that made little or no sense, a TV interview that was virtually incoherent and a diplomatic spat with Mexico that resulted in the cancellation of a visit by that country’s president.

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