Here is what we know about Donald Trump with less than 70 days into his Presidency. He can spin some stories to take credit for keeping US jobs in this country, notably his tough-talking to US companies like Carrier and Ford. He can also spin a stock market boom into a Trump Bump. Good for him. Salesmanship is part of the job and his predecessor, Barack Obama, was not always up to that task. We also know that Mr. Trump can deflect blame when he needs to. Thus, where was that darned Jared Kushner during the health care debacle? And of course, the whole mess was Speaker Paul Ryan’s fault anyway (which is pretty true!)
We are also aware that the new President has a very thin skin, frets over satirical sketches, and does not seem to have any traditionally-accepted political skills. He tried his own formula of bullying, cajoling, and threatening members of Congress and they humbled him. Add to that his new administration is not heavily populated quite yet, his Secretary of State seems to have no portfolio, his other huge promise on immigration has been jilted twice by federal courts, and that he boxed himself into a corner by saying he could not get tax reform without Obamacare repeal first – then promises tax reform after is big loss on health care.
But here is what we are just learning about Mr. Trump: he does not accept defeat and he is flexible. Speaking on the Sunday shows, his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus – himself the former chair of the Republican National Committee – announced that perhaps “it is time to come together”, time “for reaching across” the aisle to moderate Democrats. I have to admit that I like that spirit. I will save any of my ideological rants about the end of the world and the victims of his proposals to the personal me. The analytical me is enjoying this very much. This is what we get when we elect an independent President who is not beholden to either party or any rules of engagement. Reach out to the Democrats. I love it.
Now this move is fraught with risks for the President. First, there is no assurance that any Democrats will want to play this game. On one hand it could breathe new life into this presently moribund party. How novel, making policy by appealing to independent middle class voters who simply want relief. But on the other hand, any attempt by some Democrats to accept the President’s apparent olive branch will be seen as treason by hard line progressives.
Secondly, this is the very thing that could brand the GOP even further as a do-nothing, incompetent, fractured, even hateful party. Talk about being a President without a party. Mr. Trump should read about Abraham Lincoln’s successor, Andrew Johnson – a man who was not above party but actually beneath party — to see how poorly that worked.
But just as folks think that President Donald Trump is finished, he comes out fighting. Just as he did when through late 2015 and early 2016 we all said his campaign would not last. To many this is not really funny. But is also is not dull either. I kind of like that. Let us remember that we have sold the 45th President short right along. Stay tuned.