Trump walks into en­emy camp in bid to get things done

The Weekend Australian - - WORLD - CAMERON STEW­ART Cameron Stew­art is also US con­trib­u­tor for Sky News Aus­tralia.

Amer­i­cans are see­ing a new Don­ald Trump, at least for now. The Pres­i­dent has emerged from his sum­mer break with a bi­par­ti­san ap­proach to con­gres­sional deal­mak­ing which has seen him em­brace the Democrats he once scorned.

While this new strat­egy risks alien­at­ing his own sup­porter base, it is a cal­cu­lated em­brace of prag­ma­tism aimed at se­cur­ing the leg­isla­tive vic­to­ries that have eluded Trump in his first eight months.

“Some of the great­est leg­is­la­tion ever passed, it was done on a bi­par­ti­san man­ner. And so that is why we are go­ing to give it a shot,” Trump said as he hosted a White House din­ner where he sat be­tween the two most se­nior Democrats in congress, mi­nor­ity lead­ers Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi.

A day ear­lier Trump held a bi­par­ti­san din­ner for se­na­tors, which in­cluded talk of in­fra­struc­ture pol­icy, a stalled re­form prom­ise that Trump needs to ca­jole through congress.

This week he has said things that Democrats have ap­plauded. His tax plan, he promised, “is not a plan for the rich”. He has also all but re­versed his ini­tial po­si­tion to end pro­tec­tion for the so-called Dream­ers, the 800,000 chil­dren of il­le­gal im­mi­grants liv­ing in the US.

It is hard to imag­ine Trump speak­ing or act­ing like this in his first six months. Democrats, he tweeted re­peat­edly, were noth­ing more than ob­struc­tion­ists and block­ers.

But Trump is noth­ing if not a flex­i­ble deal­maker.

He ap­pears to have ac­cepted for now that the Repub­li­can Party is hope­lessly di­vided be­tween its con­ser­va­tive wing, headed by the in­tractable House Free­dom Cau­cus, and its main­stream wing. It was these di­vi­sions, rather than the pre­dicted op­po­si­tion of the Democrats, that doomed the re­peal of the Af­ford­able Care Act, dubbed Oba­macare.

With Trump now need­ing to gain con­gres­sional ap­proval for his big-ticket tax re­forms as well as in­fra­struc­ture and im­mi­gra­tion re­form, he ap­pears to have de­cided for now that he needs to play both sides of the aisle. By deal­ing with the Democrats, Trump also keeps the Repub­li­cans un­steady on their feet. It lets them know that if they con­tinue to ob­struct the White House’s agenda, then the Pres­i­dent re­serves the right to look to their op­po­nents to ne­go­ti­ate leg­is­la­tion.

This new ap­proach is a risky one for Trump. It has al­ready trig­gered a back­lash from his con­ser­va­tive base and if pushed too far it could gen­uinely hurt him. If so, this out­break of bi­par­ti­san­ship at the White House will be a short-lived flir­ta­tion.

But Trump seems to have de­cided for now that the art of the deal in­volves more than one side of pol­i­tics.

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