Pres­i­dent Trump 2.0: No more ‘Crazy Max­ine’?

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - PERSPECTIVE - Clarence Page Clarence Page, a mem­ber of the Tri­bune Ed­i­to­rial Board, blogs at www.chicagotri­bune.com/pages­page. cpage@chicagotri­bune.com Twit­ter @cp­time

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.

ZACH GIB­SON/GETTY

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.

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