Could be a Smart Move on Trump’s Part

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.

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Maybe the Republicans Don’t Want to Run the Country, Just the States?

Doug Mills/The New York Times

Doug Mills/The New York Times

New Orleans   President Obama predictably in his last State of the Union address made the case for unity, change, and a new politics.

Makes sense. For the Democrats there is a bedrock belief in the future, demographics is destiny. Change is a friend. All things will come to those who wait.

How do we understand the Republicans though now that they are caught in their great divide? Building a higher fence at the border and deporting millions guarantees them little support in the Latino community? Cutting federal taxes, export-import banks, the federal budget, squeezing infrastructure investment, and free trade agreements alienates them from their corporate sponsors and even if there may not be many votes there, it’s their money that has filled their coffers? What’s up with all of this?

Eventually I have to wonder if the Republican base and a lot of their financiers and even key leaders even want to run the country on a national basis. Sure, there’s no rehab program for the ambition addiction of individual politicians, but I’m talking about the rest of the gang and the people behind them.

It seems for the Republicans the bedrock belief is in the past, demographics is defeat. Change is not a friend, and waiting means that the window could close on them forever.

Most of them probably believe there is no way to ever realistically achieve their ideal of no government, since it’s still a big, bad world out there, but for many it is hard for me not to conclude that they’ve given up on governing the complex, massive behemoth of a federal government. It’s hard not for me not to start think that all of this national stuff and chest beating is a smokescreen: they’ve decided not to be a national party, but to make their last stand state by state.

It can’t be just coincidence. Too much evidence is piling up. It’s all about division.

· Take healthcare, 31 states now in with the Louisiana decision, and 19 out.
· Take guns, different rules in every state with no hope of federal action.
· Take land and they are doing just that, taking land, and claiming that the federal government should give over the land to the states so it could parcel the pieces out to mining, oil and gas, timber companies, and ranchers.
· Take environment, where the Senate Majority leader wanted states to rebel over the coal emissions standards and most of them would scuttle the EPA in a minute.
· Take the poor, and believe me they would love for us to take them, but from Speaker Ryan on down their answer is “block grants,” no matter how they’ve failed, and that means “money for nothing,” since the same 19 or more would take the money and let the poor run or try to pay for bus tickets to their neighbors on the Nevada plan.
· Take workers and their unions, or what’s left of them, where they are using the states to undermine any notion of federal protections for workers, wage increases, and semblance of union security.

The beat goes on and on. This isn’t just tactics, it’s becoming a clear strategy. Make the country ungovernable and hunker down in the states as a last stand at the Alamo and hope you can run the clock out and freeze time. The devil take the hindmost.

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Please enjoy Bonnie Raitt’s Gypsy in Me. Thanks to KABF.

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