Sep. 15

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Trump and Democrats Confirm They Reached a Deal on the Dreamers

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) apparently made a deal with President Donald Trump on Wednesday to allow the dreamers to stay in the U.S. and eventually become citizens. When this news broke, conservatives pushed back very hard, so Trump rephrased what he had said earlier. But importantly, he didn't deny that in principle, he had a deal with the Democrats—without a wall, but with better border security. If the deal is that dreamers get to stay, they can apply for citizenship after x years, and Congress will spend some money to beef up the Border Patrol, that is something Democrats can live with and most Republicans can't. Such a bill could probably make it through Congress, albeit with mostly Democratic votes.

Conservatives exploded when they began to comprehend what Trump had agreed to: amnesty and citizenship for lawbreakers, with no wall. Breitbart News put it this way: "Dems declare victory as Trump caves on DACA." If the deal really happens, much of Trump's base will be seriously angry. One of his clearest promises during the campaign was building a wall on the southern border, getting Mexico to pay for it, and deporting all the undocumented immigrants. If he gives up on the wall and allows many of the undocumented immigrants to become citizens, this might be the one thing he could do to cause his base to desert him.

One chunk of the base is already gone: Ann Coulter. Coulter is not just any old conservative. She wrote a book entitled In Trump We Trust. But now, with two back-to-back deals between Trump and the Democrats, she's had it with him. as evidence by two of her tweets yesterday. First came this one:

"Put a fork in Trump, he's dead."

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 14, 2017

And then this one:

At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?

— Ann Coulter (@AnnCoulter) September 14, 2017

Huh? A person who was one of Trump's biggest cheerleaders and who wrote a hagiography of him is now calling for his impeachment?

A lot of the commentary about Trump's dealing with the Democrats misses an important point. He is not dealing with some abstract entity called "Democrats." He is dealing with Charles Ellis Schumer and Nancy Patricia D'Alesandro Pelosi, two very specific persons. Trump is from Queens and has lived his whole life in New York City. He is a big city boy through and through. So is Schumer, who is from Brooklyn. Pelosi was born in Baltimore, where her father (and later, her brother as well) was mayor. While she is now a liberal Democrat from San Francisco, like Schumer she has lived all her life in big cities. These are the kind of people Trump understands and has dealt with his entire life. If Schumer were in real estate, it is easy to imagine Trump making deals with him.

Now look at the other team. Mitch McConnell was born in Sheffield, Alabama (pop. 9,000), hard by rural Mississippi. He grew up in Athens, Alabama (pop. 22,000). He had polio as a child (= ore loser). He now represents a state full of coal miners and tobacco farmers and is a practicing Southern Baptist. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) was born in Janesville, Wisconsin (pop. 64,000, about 1% of New York). He went to a Catholic school there. At some fundamental level, Schumer and Pelosi are Trump's kind of people. McConnell and Ryan might as well be from Mars as far as he is concerned. The fact that Trump is comfortable with the Democratic leaders and not comfortable with the Republican leaders, combined with the fact that he was a Democrat most of his life, could explain in part why he can deal with the Democrats despite his party's hatred of them. (V)

Trump May Need a Couple of Democrats for Tax Reform

Axios is reporting that the dinner Tuesday to which Donald Trump invited three centrist Democratic senators—Joe Manchin (WV), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), and Joe Donnelly (IN)—had nothing to do with striking a bipartisan deal on tax reform. Instead it had everything to do with worrying that a few Republican senators—Rand Paul (KY) is always at the top of the list—might balk if they can't get what they want. Given the very narrow margin of error in the Senate, Trump thought that if he could sign up a couple of Democrats for the Republicans' plan, he could afford to lose a couple of wacky Republicans and still get the bill passed.

Trump's director of legislative affairs, Marc Short, essentially confirmed this view when he said he didn't think he could get tax reform done on a strictly partisan basis. Whether Trump can sign up Manchin is highly doubtful. West Virginia ranks 48th in median household income. Only Mississippi and Arkansas are poorer. It's hard to imagine that Manchin will get a lot of credit back home for cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires when his state doesn't have a lot of them. Indiana, at 35th, isn't a lot more promising. Only North Dakota, at 16th, is closer to the top than to the bottom, but that doesn't mean Heitkamp will go for it. (V)

Trump Administration a Tad Bit Dysfunctional

All right, you already knew that. And "tad bit" is probably underselling it. But, in any case, we learned two new things Thursday about the ongoing soap opera that is "As the White House Turns."

The first revelations have to do with Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The New York Times reports that, in the immediate aftermath of his recusal from the Russiagate probe, the President mocked and humiliated his AG, calling him an "idiot," and "disloyal," and telling him he should resign. As it turns out, Sessions finally did offer his resignation in late May, only to have it turned down. Did Trump have second thoughts, once there was time for him to calm down? No, it's merely that his advisors persuaded the President that jettisoning yet another high-profile member of the administration would look really, really bad, and that he might be stuck with an even more disagreeable AG (or acting AG). Sessions, meanwhile, has been unhappy in his job ever since, and is reportedly staying on because he thinks he has a real opportunity to toughen the nation's immigration policy. Given the news we've gotten in the last 24 hours about DACA, he might very well start to realize that is a pipe dream, and may start to think about throwing in the towel. Fox News pays very well, and its studios are even air conditioned.

Meanwhile, we also learned a bit on Thursday about the dynamics of Trump's two main economic advisers: Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. Trump very much likes Mnuchin, who is cut from the same New York cloth as The Donald. On the other hand, the leaders of Congress can't stand him, finding Mnuchin to be cocky, ill-informed, and phony. Cohn, by contrast, is in the President's dog house since Cohn criticized Trump's handling of Charlottesville. However, the leaders of Congress like Cohn very much, as he knows what he's talking about, answers their questions honestly, and projects an aura of competence. "He is just a heavyweight in these meetings," said one Republican official, who has been present for some of Cohn's visits to the Hill. Consequently, if there's going to be any progress on changing the tax code, Trump is going to have to keep Cohn around. And the chain of communication is going to be something like Trump to Mnuchin to Cohn to Congress. Not exactly a model of efficiency, but nobody said making America great again would be easy. Well, all right, Donald Trump said it, but he was the only one. (Z)

Why Is Trump Trolling Conservatives?

Donald Trump is no Ted Cruz. Or Jeb Bush. Or Marco Rubio. Or Even Chris Christie. In fact, his recent deals with the Democrats are making conservatives think he's not even a Republican. What's going on here? Chris Cillizza has four theories:

Are any of these theories correct? Who knows, but they are as good as any others floating around. (V),

Trump Still Believes Both Sides in Charlottesville Had Bad Dudes

On the plane back from Florida, where he inspected the damage from Hurricane Irma, Donald Trump talked with reporters. One of them asked about his meeting with Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), the only black Republican in the Senate. Rather than talk about how much he loves black people in general and Scott in particular, he brought up Charlottesville again and how there were bad dudes on both sides.

It seems increasingly clear that when he originally equated the neo-Nazis with the anti-Nazis, he really meant it. Only when members of his administration forced him to read some words that one of them had written, did he disavow this position. But freed from the tyranny of the teleprompter, he once again made clear that he sees the two sides as at least somewhat equivalent. Why did he do this, given that it will reignite the storm? Clearly because he believes he was right the first time and resents his staff making him retract what he actually believes and read some damn speech to make the media happy. Trump is obsessed with being right, even when it hurts his self interest.

Of course after saying this, Trump got off his plane and promptly signed Congress' joint resolution condemning white supremacy. Another case of being unpredictable (see above)? Does he think that some voters hear what he says, but don't read about what he does? Anything's possible, at this point. (V)

Trump Denounces Sanders' Single-Payer Bill

Donald Trump hasn't even had time to read Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-VT) single-payer health care bill, yet, especially since it's more than half a page long. Despite that, however, the President already hates it, taking to Twitter to call it "a curse on the U.S" and declaring that he will veto the bill if it ever comes to that.

This threat was completely unnecessary, and suggests—once again—that for the President of the United States, Trump knows very little about American politics. There is zero chance that a single-payer bill passes Congress before the midterms, and slim chance it passes afterward, given that it would require the Democrats to somehow manage to capture both chambers. No, Sanders is laying the groundwork for the 2020 presidential race, perhaps including a run by himself.

Further, if the bill did somehow pass, it would almost certainly mean that there was some level of bipartisan support, along with fairly wide support from the voting public. At the same time, it would be "not Obamacare." Is it really believable that Trump would choose not to sign such a bill, since it would be a "win," and something he could hold over Obama's head, and would be spinnable into "see, we did something about health care." The smart money says that, if that bill ever does cross The Donald's desk, he signs it. That would be a pretty big turnaround from his words on Thursday, but this is also the same man who killed DACA last week, and then saved it this week. (Z)

Roy Moore Suggested 9/11 Was Divine Punishment

At the moment, former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is the favorite to be the GOP candidate for Jeff Sessions' old Senate seat. And, if nothing else, he's going to be an interesting litmus test for how ultra-right-wing a person can be and still get elected to office. He's already tried to single-handedly put an end to gay marriage, to ram the 10 Commandments down the throats of those who visited his courtroom, consorted with talk show hosts who think LGBT Americans should be put to death, and has lent his wholehearted support to the Obama "birther" movement.

The latest news, as anyone and everyone in the media goes through Moore's past with a fine-toothed comb, is that he recently gave a speech in which he proposed that 9/11 was divine punishment, "because we've distanced ourselves from the one that has it within his hands to heal this land." Moore even had scripture at hand to back up his position, such as Isaiah 30:25: "In the day of great slaughter, when the towers fall, streams of water will flow on every high mountain and every lofty hill." That's right, the Bible uses the word "towers," so it must be talking about 9/11. Never mind all the other stuff immediately before and after that verse about oxen and donkeys going crazy, or about the sun shining seven times brighter than normal.

In any case, it seems clear that Moore has enough fans in Alabama that nothing he says or does will deny him the GOP nomination. The question is what will happen in the general election in December. Alabama's quite red, but it may not be that red, especially since the Democrats will be doing everything they can to get out the vote and steal a Senate seat. (Z)

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