CINCINNATI — Susan Meyer becomes giddy as she explains just how excited she is for President-elect Donald Trump to take office. Her tone changes at the mention of “secretary of state.”
Meyer trusts Trump, but she simply doesn’t understand why he would put Mitt Romney on his shortlist to head the State Department. It’s not that she doesn’t like Romney; she voted for him in 2012 and considers him fully capable. But how could Trump forget the things Romney said about him during the primary? Why would he trust someone like that?
“He outwardly spoke against him in a malicious way,” said Meyer, a retired teacher in her 70s who once taught students for whom English was a second language. “Is he loyal? Is he going to be loyal to the president? I would question that.”
In the three weeks since Trump won the election, he has dropped or leaned away from a number of key campaign promises, puzzling some of his supporters. Appointing a special prosecutor to investigate former rival Hillary Clinton is no longer a top priority for Trump, who sympathetically said that Clinton already “went through a lot.” He has said he is now open to amending the Affordable Care Act instead of fully repealing it. And several of his Cabinet picks are longtime players on Wall Street or in Washington — the “swamp,” in Trump’s words, that he has pledged to drain.
Many of Trump’s supporters who showed up to his first post-election rally in this Midwestern city Thursday night said they completely trust their president-elect to make the right decisions for the country, even if they don’t understand his motives. And they were quick to come up with explanations for why he’s doing what he’s doing — like suddenly being buddies with Romney.
Meyer said that Trump is “trying to bring the party together” after the bruising election. The guy sitting behind her at the rally agreed.
“If he could be someone who could really benefit his Cabinet and be better for America, I say go for it,” said Joe Terry, a 54-year-old father of five who works in maintenance.
Terry said he has no problem with Trump’s pick for treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs executive and Hollywood producer who co-founded a bank during the financial crisis that foreclosed on thousands of homeowners.
“Let’s face it, he’s going to look out for corporations, to make things work for them, to bring jobs back home,” Terry said. “And as things trickle down — as they’re going to because it’s America — the little guy will get something, too.”
For secretary of state, Meyer said she hopes Trump will ultimately pick someone like former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who stood by Trump when few would, or retired Gen. David H. Petraeus, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified material and is still on probation.
“He paid the price,” said Meyer, who lives across the river from Cincinnati in northern Kentucky. “When you pay the price, then you’re forgiven. And he did a fraction of what Hillary did.”
Meyer’s favorite debate moment was when Trump told Clinton that if he were president, she would be in jail.
“He looked right at her, and I loved it,” she said.
But Meyer and her husband said that while they want to see Clinton held responsible for using a private email server while secretary of state, neither of them expected Trump to take on the issue himself.
“I know what he was saying, but the president can’t prosecute anybody,” said Robert “Bob” Meyer. “I think that’s out of Trump’s hands. He should leave it to the Justice Department, and she should be prosecuted.”
His wife agreed, adding: “It was a debate. . . . He doesn’t always think. He’s not a politician. He just says it.”
Still, at Trump’s first mention of Clinton during the rally that night, the whole arena began chanting: “Lock her up! Lock her up! Lock her up!”
Trump stood by and smiled.
Sitting one section over from the Meyers was another couple in their 70s who were convinced that Trump’s change in tone on Clinton is just a strategic act.
“I don’t think it would stick anyhow because Obama could pardon her,” explained Bob Knopp, 74, a retired civil engineer. “I think it’s really too early for him to really say a whole lot about anything. When Obama gets out of there, it might change again.”
For Susan Meyer, it feels like the country has already changed since the election — and she gave Trump credit for keeping open a Carrier furnace factory in Indianapolis rather than letting it move all of its jobs to Mexico.
“It made my heart feel good to know that these families will have a Christmas,” she said. “I felt so good when he did that. And that’s what I love about him. He didn’t wait until his inauguration. He did it. He’s a worker. He started calling up, and he’s Donald Trump, and they listened to him.”
The deal didn’t happen quite that way. Carrier agreed not to shift about 800 manufacturing and management positions south of the border, in exchange for a $7 million incentive package from the state. About 1,300 jobs will still move to Mexico, however.
Meyer and other Trump supporters shrugged at these details, saying that’s just how business works.
“At least he put forth the effort,” she said. “And he might not be able to do that with everybody. . . . But I want us to start producing things again. I want to buy a clothes item that’s made in the good ol’ U.S.A. I want to buy a sweeper that comes from the U.S.A. We don’t produce, and that really bothers me.”
Meyer is hopeful that Trump will ease environmental restrictions to allow factories to open more easily — and create millions of jobs, secure the border, protect the country from terrorists, reduce the influence of wealthy lobbyists and rebuild the inner cities. She told her friends that if Trump doesn’t deliver, they can “boot him out.”
“I want him to achieve,” she said. “He might not be able to do everything all at once, but as long as he progresses and shows that he’s trying, making an effort, okay. But I will hold him to some of those promises.”