Thursday, September 07, 2017


I can't fully explain why Donald Trump went for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi's three-month debt ceiling plan. The New York Times tells us,
... it remained unclear whether Mr. Trump’s collaboration with Democrats foreshadowed a more sustained shift in strategy by a president who has presented himself as a master dealmaker or amounted to just a one-time instinctual reaction of a mercurial leader momentarily eager to poke his estranged allies.
I think it's obviously the latter -- Trump is angry at Republican leaders because they haven't given him big bills to take credit for -- though if "instinctual reaction" means "spur-of-the-moment decision," I suspect that's not the case -- Trump also appeared in North Dakota this week with Democratic senator Heidi Heitkamp to promote his still-in-development tax plan, so appearing to side with Democrats has obviously been on his mind lately. But we're talking about Trump, so he could abandon this strategy within days -- hell, if he doesn't like the headlines and cable news chyrons this morning, he might have abandoned it already.

Another Times story on the debt ceiling decision is headlined "To Allies’ Chagrin, Trump Swerves Left." Wrong -- swerving left not what's Trump is doing. Trump's cabinet is still denying climate silence and deregulating like crazy. Today, Betsy DeVos is likely to announce that Obama administration regulations on campus sexual violence will be rescinded. And that tax plan Trump and Heitkamp promoted is going to be very, very Republican.

Trump does want to be seen as a magnanimous bringer of storm aid (he's not a deficit hard-liner on this issue, but neither are most Republicans, at least when a Republican is in the White House). Trump also seems to want DACA to be legislatively enshrined (a goal a number of Republicans share, although they want to attach strings to a DACA legislative fix, something that's now more difficult because the Trump-Schumer-Pelosi deal will probably result in a debt ceiling increase being linked to a DACA bill without strings).

Trump's deal made no strategic sense, but he isn't straying all that far from Republican orthodoxy. It's possible that, before this moment passes, Trump might also pay more serious heed to Democratic ideas on infrastructure (i.e., real government spending, not just tax breaks for developers). But Congress has so much to do in the next couple of months that infrastructure won't happen this year, if it happens at all, and Trump will be over this pro-Democratic phase long before then.

Trump is basically acting like a teenager who's mad at his girlfriend and responds by cheating with someone he finds unappealing. It's not going to be a long-term romance.

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