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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“Rigged,” What’s New?

2016-electionsNew Orleans   Headlines in both the local and national papers focused on Donald Trump’s unwillingness to commit that he would honor the verdict of the voters in a democratic election. Clinton responded in the debate that his position was “horrifying.” My question continues to be, “What’s new?” Am I the only one who wonders why this is such a flashpoint now, and hasn’t been for the last eight years or longer?

Part of this is both personal and political for me, as I have noted before. But at least I’m not alone. David Weigel writing in The Washington Post this week had a memory that was longer than yesterday’s news cycle, and began his piece this way:

According to the Republican nominee for president, his opponents were “on the verge of maybe perpetrating one of the greatest frauds in voter history.” In an ad, his campaign warned of “nationwide voter fraud” that could swing the election. His running mate worried, in a fundraising letter, that “leftist groups” were trying to “steal the election.”

 

The candidate was not Donald Trump. It was Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who in the final weeks of the 2008 presidential election embraced the theory that ACORN, a community organizing group previously embraced by Democrats and Republicans, was helping to rig the election for Barack Obama by filing fake voter registration forms.

Poor Weigel. He’ll probably be fired soon for pointing out that the emperors continue to walk naked in Congressional hallways and DC corridors. It also goes without saying, and time has proven this out, so I’ll bore everyone by saying, that no such thing happened, nor was there ever any evidence then or now to back up such nonsense about voting.

Even for McCain in 2008 this was an old saw, rather than something he was inventing. Such claims on voter fraud based on voter registration work have been part of the standard operating procedure on election tactics for Republicans for a number of cycles, certainly since the concept of “battleground” states became prominent and the George W. Bush election turned into a Supreme Court disputed umpire call after Al Gore won the popular vote. In Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania for a number of election cycles before 2008, ACORN had been the subject of similar attacks and fabrications with fake FEC complaints and state election charges all of which would be withdrawn by early the following year after the elections were over. Our assumption had been that McCain had wrongly assumed that the election might be close with Obama and was tactically hedging in order to prepare claims in some states and hope for a repeat of the Bush 2000 scenario. As it turned out, he was stomped by Obama, so none of that emerged, though thanks to McCain the target for conservatives would stay on ACORN’s back.

And, let’s be honest about all of this. Of the hardcore 40% base that is sticking with Trump and listening to all of this balderdash, I would put good money on the fact that a huge percentage of that base has still refused to accept the legitimacy of President Obama’s two election victories and the work of his eight years. The continuing drumbeat of the Republican faithful up until recently that ACORN stole both elections and was preparing to steal this one is more than sufficient evidence for such a bet.

Once the votes are all counted, the winner will be named, and whether Trump and his Trumpeteers accept it or not isn’t relevant come Inauguration Day, except that such schoolhouse door resistance to the choice of voters in our fragile democracy only assures even more polarization and extremist from Congress on down to the grassroots.

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