The op­tion play

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - OPINION - Cal Thomas Cal Thomas is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Con­tent Agency. Read­ers may write to him via email at tcaed­i­tors@tribpub.com.

What just hap­pened? Pres­i­dent Trump cut a deal with Democrats to pay for hur­ri­cane dam­age re­lief and raise the debt ceil­ing with­out get­ting any­thing in re­turn, ex­cept the tem­po­rary avoid­ance of a gov­ern­ment shut­down. How to de­scribe this? Was it a sell­out, or a prag­matic act?

It’s foot­ball sea­son again, so let’s call this deal the “op­tion play.” It isn’t used much by to­day’s pro­fes­sional play­ers, but the play is de­signed to give a quar­ter­back the op­tion of run­ning the ball, or, if he sees he can’t make it through the de­fen­sive line, toss it to a player trail­ing be­hind him in an ef­fort to gain yards.

Pres­i­dent Trump might con­sider these op­tions in an ef­fort to push through his agenda.

Ap­par­ently hav­ing grown tired of Repub­li­can in­ep­ti­tude for fail­ing to re­peal and re­place Oba­macare, or do much else with their ma­jori­ties in the House and Senate, other than to think up new ex­cuses for their fail­ures, the debt ceil­ing deal might give the pres­i­dent wig­gle room to de­mand con­ces­sions from Democrats. The dan­ger is that Democrats may not feel the need to com­pro­mise, if they be­lieve they can win con­ces­sions from a pres­i­dent who does not have an ide­o­log­i­cal core.

The se­cond op­tion might be to em­bar­rass Repub­li­cans suf­fi­ciently to force them to unify and pass a true Repub­li­can agenda. That used to in­clude lower taxes, smaller gov­ern­ment and re­duc­ing the debt through less spend­ing and eco­nomic growth. I’m not bet­ting on this op­tion.

Op­tion three would be to put in­cum­bent Repub­li­cans in such a bind that pri­mary chal­lengers next year could de­feat “mod­er­ates” and oth­ers who failed to live up to their cam­paign prom­ises. How many Repub­li­cans could suc­cess­fully cam­paign on a plat­form of “re-elect me, be­cause I ac­com­plished noth­ing and op­posed the pres­i­dent”?

There’s also an op­tion the Repub­li­can ma­jor­ity hasn’t tried. Rush Lim­baugh men­tioned it on his ra­dio pro­gram: “If just at any time in the past six months, or any time in the next six, if for just three months Ryan and McCon­nell would work with Trump to ad­vance his agenda, they would own ev­ery­thing for who knows how long. If they would have re­pealed and re­placed Oba­macare, if they would have then moved on to tax cuts and ... real tax re­form, and if they had built the wall . ... If those three things had se­ri­ous ac­tion with an ap­pear­ance of unity within the Repub­li­can Party on those is­sues, the Democrats wouldn’t stand a prayer for 25 years.”

Too many Repub­li­cans re­main em­bar­rassed that Trump won. He would never be al­lowed to join their in­ner cir­cle whose mantra ap­pears to be “when the go­ing gets tough, the weak sur­ren­der with­out a fight.” For these Repub­li­cans, prin­ci­ples have been re­placed by prag­ma­tism.

Trump’s deal with Democrats ex­cluded the chil­dren of “un­doc­u­mented” im­mi­grants. Per­haps the pres­i­dent could al­low DACA kids to re­main in the coun­try in ex­change for money to build the wall. But why should Democrats com­pro­mise when they get what they want any­way?

Democrats have a prob­lem of their own af­ter do­ing a deal with a pres­i­dent they have re­viled and ridiculed since he an­nounced his can­di­dacy. If the pres­i­dent is giv­ing them what they want, how do Democrats run against him in next year’s con­gres­sional elec­tions?

The deal Trump made with Democrats ex­pires in 90 days. Will Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi use an op­tion they have suc­cess­fully em­ployed in the past to win more con­ces­sions from the pres­i­dent? It’s called the Christ­mas op­tion and it is de­signed to smear Repub­li­cans as “heart­less” politicians who would harm chil­dren by not giv­ing in to Democrats’ de­mands.

Pres­i­dent Trump has bro­ken a leg­isla­tive log­jam. The ques­tion now is what hap­pens next? That ques­tion goes not so much to Democrats as to the Repub­li­can lead­er­ship. It’s their op­tion now.

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