Trump’s self-de­feat­ing war

Tehran Times - - INTERNATIONAL - By Scott Jen­nings

The emer­gence of two new fronts in Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s war on the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment en­dan­gers his abil­ity to de­liver on his cam­paign prom­ises.

Last week­end may prove to have been a piv­otal mo­ment in the Trump pres­i­dency. It might de­ter­mine whether he suc­ceeds in en­act­ing his agenda -- or if his pres­i­dency will sim­ply be a series of re­ac­tions to weather emer­gen­cies and world crises.

Trump’s Twit­ter feud with Ten­nessee Sen. Bob Corker laid bare frus­tra­tions felt on both sides of the in­sider/out­sider dy­namic churn­ing in Wash­ing­ton. For the Trump out­siders, the Pres­i­dent’s tweets un­der­scored their frus­tra­tion with a lack of progress on health care and tax re­form. For Wash­ing­ton’s GOP es­tab­lish­ment in­sid­ers, Corker’s com­ments high­lighted their ex­as­per­a­tion with Trump -who they be­lieve is sab­o­tag­ing his own agenda and threat­en­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.

Trump needs Corker more than Corker needs Trump, es­pe­cially now that the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee chair­man has an­nounced his re­tire­ment. In fact, Trump needs all Se­nate Repub­li­cans (mi­nus two) to en­act tax re­form, which was al­ready on life sup­port be­fore the so­cial me­dia slap fight.

Add Corker to the list of Se­nate Repub­li­cans with whom the Pres­i­dent seems at war. Su­san Collins of Maine, John McCain of Ari­zona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Carolina beat him to it. Throw in Rand Paul of Ken­tucky who, though he ap­pears to have a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship with the Pres­i­dent, “... re­ally doesn’t help us on any­thing,” ac­cord­ing to one se­nior ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cial.

The GOP’s abil­ity

That makes six of 52 Se­nate Repub­li­cans whose re­la­tion­ship with the Pres­i­dent (or dis­dain for his agenda) has en­dan­gered the GOP’s abil­ity to keep its cam­paign prom­ises.

Mean­while, the Pres­i­dent’s for­mer top strate­gist -- Steve Ban­non -- is now con­duct­ing his own “full as­sault on the Repub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment,” ac­cord­ing to NBC re­porter Kristin Welker.

He’s re­cruit­ing pri­mary op­po­nents for Repub­li­can in­cum­bents, in­clud­ing those in six states: Ari­zona, Ne­vada, Ne­braska, Utah, Wy­oming, and Mis­sis­sippi.

The six GOP in­cum­bents who find them­selves un­der pres­sure from Ban­non must be won­der­ing what they did to fall out of fa­vor; this group has an av­er­age “Trump Score” vot­ing record of 93.5%, ac­cord­ing to Nate Sil­ver’s tracking. They are vot­ing the way Trump wants but will now face pri­mary op­po­nents who will ar­gue they are in­suf­fi­ciently loyal to the Pres­i­dent. All six of them voted for Trump’s Oba­macare re­peal leg­is­la­tion and are most likely solid votes on his tax re­form plan, too.

Only Ted Cruz is get­ting a pass from Ban­non, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, which is cu­ri­ous since he ac­tu­ally votes with Trump less fre­quently than Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Mitch McCon­nell.

That’s 12 of 52 Repub­li­cans who find them­selves in Trump World’s crosshairs in one way or an­other. And that doesn’t even count McCon­nell, who has voted with the Pres­i­dent 96% of the time, led the charge on fill­ing a Supreme Court va­cancy, tried might­ily to re­peal Oba­macare, and is now work­ing fever­ishly to cob­ble to­gether the votes on tax re­form.

The Pres­i­dent at­tacked McCon­nell this sum­mer and ap­par­ently holds him re­spon­si­ble for the times when McCain, Collins, and oth­ers on Trump’s naughty list didn’t go along with his pro­gram.

I sus­pect the Pres­i­dent’s re­la­tion­ship with these way­ward sen­a­tors has more to do with their vot­ing records than their re­la­tion­ships with

McCon­nell.

These peo­ple are sup­posed to be one big happy Repub­li­can fam­ily, although some are dis­tant cousins who have clearly never met and are now forced to sit next to each other at Thanks­giv­ing din­ner. To suc­ceed in pass­ing an agenda, this fam­ily must pull it­self to­gether sooner rather than later. Trump’s war on Corker and Ban­non’s war on the es­tab­lish­ment com­pli­cate mat­ters even fur­ther.

Mean­while, the av­er­age Repub­li­can voter, who cast a vote for sweep­ing change in 2016, must be think­ing: “What the hell is go­ing on here?”

The Pres­i­dent at­tacked McCon­nell this sum­mer and ap­par­ently holds him re­spon­si­ble for the times when McCain, Collins, and oth­ers on Trump’s naughty list didn’t go along with his pro­gram.

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