I honestly think Trump was just talking out his ass when he made the “calm before the storm” remark. Trump’s a guy who’s been the boss of his own business for so long, and the star of a reality show about being the boss on top of that, that he thinks everything that comes out of his mouth is smart, witty, clever, funny. He’s that boss who doesn’t know people laugh with him because he’s the boss, not because his jokes are funny. (They’re so not funny.)
He shows up for a photo op with a room full of generals. He has to make small talk. He can’t just stand there. “You know what this represents?” Of course we do. They’re soldiers. Whenever there are soldiers around, it’s politically correct to acknowledge them as heroes or thank them for their service. It’s small talk.
But the press doesn’t do small talk. They always want to drill all the way down to some deeper meaning. “No, what does it represent?” one of them asks. At this point, it’s not chit-chatty small talk any longer. To a guy like Trump, who’s used to his minions chuckling at his every pronouncement whether they understood what he was talking about or not, it’s like calling a bluff. He has to say something now, but it was small talk. He doesn’t have anything to say. Not that that has ever stopped him from making small talk. He’s pretty good at saying something vague and noncommittal. “Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” There you go. Doesn’t mean anything, but sounds like it just might. “What storm?” everybody asks, and he just smiles that Cheshire-cat smile because now he’s got the upper hand again.
Almost twenty-fours hours have passed and nearly every single person on the planet with an opinion about Trump has speculated on what he meant by “the calm before the storm,” but nobody knows, not even his own press secretary. But it’s no mystery. It didn’t mean anything. Idle chit-chat.