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UNG professors say Trump has ‘thin skin,’ ‘has thrilled most conservatives’

POSTED: February 27, 2017 8:14 p.m.
SCOTT ROGERS/The Times

University of North Georgia associate professor Glen Smith speaks Monday on the school's Gainesville campus during a panel discussion with students from Dahlonega and Oconee County on the Donald Trump presidency. A live video feed allowed the three campuses to connect during the discussion.

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President Donald Trump has shown himself to have “thin skin” and be more conservative than Ronald Reagan early on in his presidency.

Those were just some of the observations tossed out Monday at the University of North Georgia’s multicampus discussion of the Trump presidency one-third into its first 100 days. The Gainesville campus joined the Dahlonega and Oconee campuses in the discussion via a live video feed.

Associate professor Glen Smith, who teaches American politics at the Gainesville campus, said Trump could be headed for trouble unless he gets over taking things so personal.

“I think moving forward, a problem that’s already hampering him and probably will in the future is a personality quirk,” Smith said. “He’s got a thin skin, and I don’t think I’m going out on the limb by saying that … He doesn’t seem to take criticism and overreacts to that. I think that’s something he’ll have to correct over time or it’s going to keep bringing up problems for him.”

Professor Douglas Young, who also teaches political science at the Gainesville campus, observed that Trump is governing much more conservatively than he and others thought he would based on his rhetoric during the 2016 presidential election campaign.

“He was arguably the least conservative of all the (GOP) candidates,” Young said. “He was the most critical of free trade, he was the most populist, but I think so far, he has thrilled most conservatives.”

The American Conservative Union has given better than 90 percent approval to Trump’s Cabinet selections, according to Young.

“President Ronald Reagan’s Cabinet got a 60-something percent conservative rating from the ACU,” Young added. “I dare say that the Trump administration may have the most conservative Cabinet since perhaps that of President (Calvin) Coolidge.”

Participating in the discussion from UNG’s Dahlonega campus were political science professors Carl Cavalli and Maria Albo. They were connected by the video feed with the Gainesville campus and the Oconee campus, where professor Randy Parish moderated the exchange.

Students attended the forum at all three campuses, and they had the opportunity to ask questions at the end of the one-hour program

Albo said that what’s been striking to her about Trump’s presidency so far has been the amount of media attention he’s getting, as well as the amount of civic engagement that the president and his policies have aroused.

“A lot of people, various constituents called their senators in asking to not (confirm Education Secretary Betsy DeVos) ...,” Albo said. “Vice President Mike Pence had to cast that tiebreaking vote.”

Cavalli said there’s an “unpredictable quality” about Trump and his administration. Despite the many ambitious plans that the Trump administration is advancing, Cavalli said there are still a number of department secretaries to be confirmed, and about 90 percent of the appointments at the sub-Cabinet and lower level, which don’t require Senate confirmation, have yet to be filled.

“It’s tough enough to get your own people to act, and yet the Trump administration right now … for at least another two weeks if not months, is going to have to act with a conglomeration of civil service acting appointments and Obama holdovers who are still there.”

The forum was sponsored by the American Democracy Project — a national organization trying to increase civic knowledge and engagement on campuses across the country.



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