Controversy of the week
Trump’s debt deal: The beginning of a centrist pivot?
“The pivot is real,” said Ben Domenech in TheFederalist.com, “and it’s spectacular.” When President Trump summoned congressional leaders to the Oval Office last week for talks on raising the debt ceiling, few expected much more than a photo op. Instead, Trump stunned Washington by striking a deal with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi that raised the debt ceiling for three months and provided an $8 billion aid package for victims of Hurricane Harvey. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell were reportedly “livid”; they had wanted a “clean” bill raising the debt limit for 18 months, so that Democrats couldn’t use a possible government shutdown as leverage until after the midterm elections. But Trump wanted to make sure a shutdown fight wouldn’t get in the way of his handing out hurricane aid, and like Bill Clinton, he will benefit from “triangulating” between the two parties. Remember—Trump was a New York City Democrat for most of his life, said Peggy Noonan in WSJ.com. He blames Ryan and McConnell for failing to deliver him any big legislative “wins,” and may look for more opportunities to work with “Chuck and Nancy,” as he now calls his new Democratic pals.
Don’t expect Trump to turn into a centrist independent, said Benjamin Hart in NYMag.com. Trump is not about to abandon the “tens of millions of aggrieved white people” who elected him, or the far-right agenda they elected him to enact. His deal with Democrats arose out of an impulsive quest for a few days of good press and revenge on Republican leaders, not from some brilliant long-term strategy. Besides, Democrats “are in no mood to throw Trump any lifelines,” said E.J. Dionne in The Washington Post. His anti-immigrant virulence and race-baiting have made the president morally radioactive, and his plummeting poll numbers and the gathering storm of the Russia probe have Democrats salivating at the prospect of regaining control of the House in next year’s midterms. Schumer and Pelosi will be willing to deal with Trump if he makes concessions on a few issues—such as lifting the threat of deportation from the “Dreamers.” But they won’t help him save his floundering presidency by reinventing himself as a centrist. If Trump does make concessions to the Democrats to get something done, said Cheryl Chumley in The Washington Times, Republicans will “have nobody to blame but themselves.” Their infighting kept them from repealing Obamacare, and they’ve made it clear they won’t fight to fund the president’s promised border wall. And yet they call Trump “treasonous” for cutting a deal to keep the government operating? Please. The president’s supporters “don’t care” how he puts some wins on the board, and “it seems only sensible that Trump might as well wheel and deal with the Democrats—because the GOP sure isn’t working with him.”
Congressional Republicans tried to work with Trump, said Michael Gerson in The Washington Post, but he’s provided absolutely no leadership on health care or any other legislative issue. That’s because this president “has no discernible political philosophy,” and navigates from one moment to the next by means of “instincts, reflexes, and prejudices” that are governed only by his own immediate self-interest. McConnell and Ryan reluctantly decided to support Trump on the gamble that his political inexperience would let them set the agenda. That was a huge miscalculation. He could care less what the GOP wants. If Republicans don’t now establish an “identity apart from Trump,” they will become “complicit in their own humiliation and irrelevance.”
Schumer, Pelosi: Now they’re ‘Chuck’ and ‘Nancy’