Monday, October 23, 2017


Headline on the front page of this morning:

Really? Ya think?

The story reveals that legislators' now-keen grasp of the obvious still overlooks a few self-evident facts:
... senators said the president shares responsibility for this year’s turbulence and gridlock, observing that the glacial pace of writing and passing laws, complicated by fits and starts, has been a culture shock for Trump.

“He’s a guy who, you know, comes from the business world and he’s in a hurry to get things done,” Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune (S.D.) said. “Around here, that’s hard. You know, things take a while. So it’s a process — and sometimes, kind of a slow and painful one.”
No, it can take a long time to make a business deal, too. That may be one reason Trump has spent many years of his business career failing or trying to recover from failure.

Trump is impatient and distractible:
The president’s propensity to create diversions and follow tangents has kept him from focusing on his legislative agenda and forced lawmakers who might be natural allies on key policies into the uncomfortable position of having to answer for his behavior and outbursts.

For instance, Trump’s news conference last Monday with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), which was orchestrated to project GOP unity on taxes, instead gave birth to the self-inflicted controversy over Trump’s treatment of fallen soldiers, which set the White House on the defensive and dominated the national media for seven days.
Yup, and Trump also couldn't resist going after NFL national anthem protesters in a speech that was supposed to be about Alabama senator Luther Strange's primary campaign -- and then obsessing over the anthem issue as primary day approached, dominating the news cycle. Why does he do that? Well, it's obvious: The election was days away! Legislation takes days ... weeks ... months! Trump needs immediate gratification.

You have to remember that Trump came back from bankruptcy not because he's a great businessman, but because he's a talented self-promoter. In his comeback, he wasn't buying and selling real estate in an effective way. He was selling himself -- branding buildings he didn't build, licensing his name for steaks and ties, playing himself on TV. So of course he thinks winning headlines is more important than getting work done.

Some in Washington still think Trump is hard to work with because he doesn't really have a political ideology:
Trump’s lack of ideological roots makes him an unusual figure in Washington, where most lawmakers adhere rigidly to their party’s agendas. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) said Trump “feels much more comfortable working and talking in a bipartisan manner than he does trying to defend a partisan side.”

Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), who met with Trump and lawmakers at the White House this past week, agreed. “I think the Democrats are crazy to not try and deal with him directly,” he said. “Seven years ago, he was a Democrat. It doesn’t take any brains to realize that he’d be open.”
A Trump critic from outside Washington agrees:
Tony Schwartz, a longtime student and now critic of Trump who co-wrote the mogul’s 1987 bestseller “The Art of the Deal” ... said playing to Trump’s ego ... is an effective way to manage him. His advice to those seeking to make deals with Trump: Find the most persuasive way to portray one’s agenda as a personal victory for the president, and be the last person to talk to him.

“Trump is motivated by the same concern in all situations, which is to dominate and to be perceived as having won,” Schwartz said. “That supersedes everything, including ideology.”
But if you're a Democrat, you'll never be the last person to talk to Trump. A Democrat might have been the previous person who chatted Trump up, which must occasionally be frustrating for Republicans trying to get legislation passed, but the last person to talk to Trump will inevitably be someone on the right.

However, it might be someone on the right who's even more extreme than most congressional Republicans -- Stephen Miller, say, or Steve Bannon, who we know still talks to Trump regularly. It could be the hosts of Fox & Friends, who provide Trump's daily briefing through his TV set every morning. Or it could be Sean Hannity: According to Vanity Fair's Gabriel Sherman, "Trump calls him almost every night after Hannity’s prime-time show just to give him feedback and bat around ideas and gripe...."

The problem for legislators is that many of these people would rather have Trump creating chaos than signing legislation. Chaos is their stock in trade. They thrive on controversies in which they can portray Trump as the hero and liberals -- or "RINO" Republicans like (these days) Mitch McConnell -- as villains. It isn't just Trump advisers from Fox who'd rather have a controversy brewing than get a bill passed -- Stephen Miller might feel that way too. And we know Bannon does.

That jibes perfectly with Trump's keep-your-name-in-the-papers life strategy. So he's always going to be useless if you want to get a bill through Congress.

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