President Trump 2.0: No more ‘Crazy Maxine’?
Did anyone expect at least a hint of humility from President Donald Trump after Democrats lost control of the House of Representatives? If so, they don’t know our transactional president. Almost lost in his occasionally hostile exchanges with reporters Wednesday at his first news conference after the midterms was the olive branch he offered to House Democratic leaders.
“In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats,” he tweeted that morning. “If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!”
What? No more “High Tax, High Crime” and “MS13-loving Nancy”? Those were the sorts of nicknames he attached to her in rally speeches. Now he was endorsing her return to the speakership, a position she held before Republicans retook control of the House in 2011.
Could this be Trump humor? Or sarcasm? It’s hard to tell when Trump says something favorable about Democrats. But, nope, he insisted at his raucous Wednesday news conference. His support was sincere. “She worked hard for it,” Trump said.
What a difference an election makes. Perhaps the president’s mood shift also has something to do with another of his Democratic targets, Rep. Maxine Waters of California. On the campaign trail, Trump sounded alarms that “Crazy Maxine” or “LowIQ Maxine” would be “put in charge of our country’s finances” if Democrats won the House. There was more than a little exaggeration in that statement, but Waters is the senior Democrat on the House committee that oversees financial regulation and housing finance reform.
More pressing for
Trump, perhaps, is the subpoena power her chairmanship would give her, which could ruin the days of Trump and his associates.
With that in mind, Trump did show a little bit of dagger beneath his love bouquet. Should Democrats decide to tie up Congress with investigations of Team Trump, he said, he is ready to work with Senate Republicans to investigate alleged leaks of classified documents and other issues among the Dems.
Message: Just play along, folks, and nobody gets hurt.
Here we see Trump as the Transactional President, the former Democrat and real estate developer whose ideology is best summed up as “Let’s make a deal.”
His lack of firm ideological beliefs has freed him, in essence, to give the customer what he or she wants.
He has won more than 80 percent support from self-identified evangelical Christians for his conservative judicial appointments, among other policy decisions, despite his reputation for having violated an eye-popping number of the Ten Commandments.
And there are areas on which both parties have shown enough agreement to begin fruitful negotiations. Both Pelosi and Trump have spoken of making infrastructure repair a top priority, as well as lowering prescription drug prices.
One presumes there also are tantalizing possibilities for reforms to save insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, for people with pre-existing conditions.
Focusing on that issue at Pelosi’s insistence provided so much high-octane power to Democratic congressional campaigns that Trump and other Republicans began to claim they were the true champions for saving the coverage, even after they voted repeatedly to abolish Obamacare or gradually defund it.
It remains to be seen whether Pelosi will receive as much pushback from her party’s left wing as Trump and other Grand Old Party leaders have received from the GOP’s congressional right-wingers. Pelosi herself had been demonized by progressive and populist Democrats calling for fresh blood almost as much as Republican candidates made her a target of right-wing wrath.
But I wouldn’t count Pelosi out. So far, no other House Democrat has come close to matching her ability to raise campaign dollars for House Dems or navigate legislation. The party does need to develop new talent, as Republicans have done over the past two decades, at the state and local level.
But for now, Pelosi is well-prepared for what she, too, has called a “transition” period to her party’s full recovery.
“No permanent friends, no permanent enemies, just permanent interests.” So goes an old, much-repeated slogan of pragmatic politicians. Voters have shown a preference for divided government in this midterm, but they also want to see real problem-solving through compromise. Now is the time for President Trump and his top adversaries to show they can make that work.
Democrat Maxine Waters is poised to lead the House panel that oversees financial regulation and housing finance reform, and gain subpoena power.
U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., holds a news conference in Washington on Wednesday, the day after Democrats won control of the House.