Monday, March 27, 2017


The Donald Trump administration didn't come into office holding out an olive branch to Chuck Schumer and the rest of the Democratic Party, and The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt finds that baffling:
For weeks there has been [an] obvious question for Stephen K. Bannon and President Trump: Why are they driving Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer into the arms of the implacable opposition?

... Trump’s behavior from Inauguration Day on left Schumer no choice. More important, what’s bad for Democrats isn’t necessarily optimal for Trump — especially if his and Bannon’s goal was to blow up both parties and forge a new working-class, nationalist majority that can carry Trump to triumphant reelection in 2020.

... if Trump had begun his administration by seeking a bipartisan infrastructure bill, Schumer would have had no choice but to cooperate, and might well have welcomed the chance.
Hiatt just can't figure it out:
... Why didn’t Trump start with infrastructure and cooperation?

One possibility is that he didn’t because he couldn’t, temperamentally. He couldn’t control his jeers and insults, and Bannon couldn’t control them either, so before the administration could even choose its first priority, the decision was essentially made for it: Democrats had been alienated and Trump had to start with initiatives that he thought could pass with only Republican support....

Another possibility is that the more conventional Republicans inside the administration — Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Vice President Pence — argued for more conventional Republican goals and won.
Or maybe the notion that Trump and Bannon ever really wanted to "blow up both parties and forge a new working-class, nationalist majority" is completely specious.

If you really believe that Bannon is some sort of closet centrist, consider this Politico story about tensions between the Trump Treasury Department and the Bannon wing in the White House:
Conservatives inside and outside Treasury say the new secretary, former Goldman Sachs banker, movie producer and Democratic donor Steven Mnuchin, is assembling a team that is too liberal and too detached from the core of Trump’s “Make America Great Again” platform of ripping up trade deals, gutting the Dodd-Frank banking rules and generally rejecting “globalism” in all its forms.

On one side is a less ideological faction, mostly aligned with Mnuchin, that includes National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and deputy national security adviser Dina Powell — three former Goldman executives — alongside first daughter Ivanka Trump and to some degree her husband, Jared Kushner. All are seen as having a more favorable view of international trade deals and existing relationships with foreign counterparts and a more measured approach to revamping financial regulations On the other side are more populist and nationalist forces, led by senior adviser Steve Bannon and top policy adviser Stephen Miller.

Already, critics note that Mnuchin has selected another Democratic donor, Craig Phillips, for a top position within the department. He told senators at his confirmation hearing that he supports parts of the controversial Volcker Rule, which prohibits banks from making some bets with their own money — an anathema to conservatives who want to scrap stricter banking laws....

“For conservatives, Mnuchin is a missed opportunity because he is not conservative. He will not drive the kind of tax reform we want, nor will he be strong on fixing Dodd-Frank,” [a Republican] donor [said].
Did you follow that? It's true that Bannon's views on trade are neither liberal nor mainstream conservative -- but on changing the tax code, eliminating the Volcker Rule, overturning Dodd-Frank, and generally "revamping" (i.e., gutting) financial regulations, the supposedly "populist" Bannon is to the right of Trump's Goldman Sachs contingent. On these subjects, they're seen as liberals. Bannon doesn't just disagree with them, he disagrees with them in a mainstream conservative way -- i.e., a Paul Ryan/Koch brothers way.

So Maybe Bannon doesn't really give a crap about infrastructure, especially infrastructure paid for in a way Chuck Schumer might endorse. Maybe Bannon just talked about that because he assumed it was a stick to beat Democrats with. And when he found out that Republicans in Congress were lukewarm to the idea, he agreed to the (probably permanent) postponement of the infrastructure bill without complaining, without urging Breitbart to embarrass congressional leaders on the subject, and without trying to harm the leadership with leaks to the rest of the media.

Hiatt speculates that Trump didn't do outreach to Democrats because Reince Priebus and Mike Pence "argued for more conventional Republican goals and won." Well, maybe Bannon did that too. And maybe Trump responded to that because he's been a Fox News junkie for years and years.

Bannon's alleged post-partisanship is utterly phony. He's a "populist" because he's a racist, and because he believes "champion of the working stiff" is a good market niche for him (and for Trump). But all of Trump's top advisers are ultimately Republicans. Unless they believed they could negotiate the terms of a Democratic surrender, they were never going to do inter-party outreach.

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