Houston You have to give the devil’s his due. For a change rather than being just crazy, President Trump may have been crazy like a fox.
The pundits seem not to know what to make of Trump’s shuffle step in making a deal with Senate Majority Leader Schumer and House Majority Leader Pelosi to raise the statutory debt and combine that with stopgap hurricane relief. If the reports are too be believed, he pulled this rabbit out of the hat virtually in front of his Republican Congressional leadership surprising them and giving them a bit of red bottom.
The pundits ask themselves and thereby us, “why did he do this?”
Reporters speculated that he might have acted because of his recent personal displeasure and disregard for the Republican leadership. We might applaud, if that were the case!
Other commentators opined that perhaps that was just the zany and impulsive way that President Trump likes to operate, essentially arguing that he had an itch for the ceiling and just scratched it without a second thought to the politics.
All of the observers agree that he is transactional, rather than ideological, and wanting a deal so badly that he didn’t care who he made it with or what the consequences might be.
Certainly he is transactional and impulsive. No argument here.
But, for a minute let’s think about the method that might be behind his madness, although I will warn you that if this is the case, it’s a very shrewd move.
Here are the facts. He has a Republican caucus that is divided. He went through a debacle in trying to gut the Affordable Care Act, where his Republican leadership couldn’t satisfy the few moderates successfully and also keep the hard right so-called Freedom Caucus together in the House or the ambitious libertarians in the Senate. He already knew that the Freedom Caucus had preemptively thrown in the towel on the border wall and the debt ceiling recognizing that they had to respond to the Republican base that was up to their necks in water along the Gulf Coast in the wake of Harvey.
Just imagine for a minute that President Trump wanted to reassert himself in the middle of these deals and had reckoned with the fact that his leadership was simply unable to deliver the troops now. What better way to fire a warning shot over the heads of Ryan and McConnell and to discipline the unruly fringes underneath them and around the margins, than by demonstrating his willingness to make a deal with the hated Democrats including Pelosi and Schumer who has continually maligned?
Trump just created a “threat of exit” for himself within his own Republican party. Where previously they had assumed he had no choice but to either parlay with them on their terms or sit and stew with Twitter back at the White House. By picking a pretty easy play with a 3-month extension and a slam dunk appropriate for FEMA and disaster relief, he may have just created himself some real leverage for future deals, if he becomes disciplined enough to know when to show and when to hold his cards in the future. By showing that to get the job done, he will reach across the aisle to the Democrats doesn’t just give the Democrats leverage for the end of year ceiling fight and some others, but significantly empowers the President where he had been crippled, giving him huge leverage in holding the Republicans together when he wants them to follow his lead.
Whether by happenstance or deliberate, this was the smartest move by Trump since his election, and therefore could be the scariest thing we’ve seen so far.