Washington, DC. Many observers thought Trump had turned his back on his base in order to function among the total chaos in Washington since his inauguration in January. But as time goes by and on many issues, it is becoming clear that Trump is Captain of his own ship, he just is avoiding overly troubled waters at home. American strategy is to keep you guessing, not knowing what is really going on.

Donald Trump described Steve Bannon his political guru in a Wall Street Journal interview as just “a guy who works for me,” speculation then was rife that Bannon was on his way out of the White House.

Ah, but the former Wall Street investment banker and Breitbart News supremo, who said earlier this year the administration’s goal is nothing less than the “deconstruction of the Obama administrative state” put his head down and obviously has weathered the storm.

Here lately Washington is seeing President Trump turn back toward the populist, nationalist platform that underpinned his 2016 campaign.Trump’s recent embrace of populist positions has seen him announce an exit from the Paris climate accord. He unleashed searing criticism of NATO leaders in Brussels two weeks ago and is using the London terror attacks to renew his push for a travel ban on residents of a group of predominantly Muslim nations.

Straight out of campaign 2016 these issues were important themes in an election campaign in which Trump harnessed extreme dissatisfaction in the heartland over the political establishment and this new direction clearly fits in to the “America First” ideology that fueled his rise, and with which Bannon is closely identified.

Trump’s populist positions on issues like terrorism, trade and immigration long predated Bannon’s arrival on the campaign — just months before Trump won the White House. But here is the takeaway on the difference in Putin and Trump.

Putin keeps his positions close and rarely invests deeply in advisers, he listens to them-intently, and then develops plans for years into the future, incrementally working his way to success.

With Trump, he listens to his advisers and acts. He also uses the advisers as moving targets to deflect a hostile press and Ukrainian bought congress constantly trying to neutralize his position as chief executive. By pushing positions or policy off on a Tillerson, Bannon or Kushner, Trump keeps his opponents guessing while he gets the American ball of state down the field closer to Trump goals.

For now at least, Trump’s populist direction seems to invalidate notions popular in the Washington punditry that his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his daughter Ivanka Trump could exert a moderating influence on the improvisational commander-in-chief. All of this is a puppet show designed to distract as real policies move forward in ways few hear of, by design.

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