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Photo: Olivier Douliery, Pool / Getty Images

In this era of drones and driverless cars, President Trump often sounds and feels like a man from the bygone days of station wagons and smokestacks.

"He feels he’s the personification of the American dream. ... That means building things, going back to the era of his dad. He assumes the rest of the country pines for that. "
— A source close to President Trump

The source added: "He's not necessarily saying we need to go back to the past. He's saying we need ... the principles that made us successful in the past."

  • We see it in a "Mad Men" mentality that infuses his rhetoric, policies and personal life. 
  • We see it in his attention to coal over forward-looking international trade.
  • We see it in testosterone-tinged chest thumping, in person and on Twitter.
  • We see it in his focus on steel and aluminum, when the next great war may be cyber- and satellite-driven.
  • We see it in his push for a Pennsylvania Avenue military parade (with "a lot of plane fly-overs"), expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.
  • We see it in his response to #MeToo.
  • We heard it in Trump's wistful remarks about Route 66 when speaking last summer in Springfield, Mo., birthplace of the now-outmoded Mother Road: "For many decades, Route 66 captured the American spirit. The communities along this historic route were a vivid symbol of America’s booming industry."

Even his diet and health routine are retro: golfing as exercise (with a cart), and a diet heavy on burgers and thick steaks.

Be smart: Trump's instincts and measures of success look back, while our most fearsome competitor, China, is projecting ahead with an emphasis on artificial intelligence and globalization. 

  • But the nostalgia Trump evokes is a key part of his hold on his electorate —tapping into a lingering fear about a changing America that leaves many in his base feeling like strangers in their own land. 

P.S. The White House says President Trump will attend Friday's funeral for the Rev. Billy Graham in Charlotte, N.C.

Go deeper

DOJ cites discrimination in lawsuit against Texas over voting districts

Attorney General Merrick Garland. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Department of Justice on Monday filed a lawsuit against Texas, alleging Republican state lawmakers discriminated against Black and Latino voters and has "again diluted the voting strength of minority Texans" when they approved new redistricting maps.

Why it matters: A DOJ assessment of the new districts found that they violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, Attorney General Merrick Garland said at a press conference.

3 hours ago - World

Biden to warn Putin U.S. will add troops in Eastern Europe if Russia invades Ukraine

Putin meets Biden in Geneva. Photo: Peter Klaunzer - Pool/Keystone via Getty

President Biden will warn Russian President Vladimir Putin when they speak on Tuesday that if Russia invades Ukraine, the U.S. is prepared to increase its troop presence, capabilities and military exercises on NATO's "eastern flank," a senior administration official told reporters.

Why it matters: The administration believes it's increasingly likely that Putin will order an invasion.

4 hours ago - World

U.S. announces diplomatic boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

An Olympic-themed sculpture in Beijing on Dec. 1. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service via Getty Images

The U.S. announced Monday that it will not send officials to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics in protest of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party.

Why it matters: The diplomatic boycott — which won't prevent American athletes from competing — marks a major escalation between the U.S. and China amid already heightened tensions over the CCP's treatment of Muslim minorities, military threats to Taiwan and economic tariffs.