Peter King on new Trump/Schumer meeting: "It was almost like a love-in at times"

Well, I should hope so. They’re big-government power players from Manhattan who’ve known each other for years. Besides, Trump’s donated thousands of dollars to Schumer’s campaigns. The least Chuck could do is be nice to him.

It’s silly to try to divine ideological clues from a Republican’s personal demeanor when schmoozing Democrats but we do it all the time with traditional RINOs. Why should Trump be spared, especially when this comes so soon after a meaningful concession to Schumer and Pelosi on policy?

“He and Chuck — both of them would interrupt each other at times — and they’d go back and forth and Chuck would say something and smile and the President would look at him and smile,” King told CNN Thursday evening. “This went on for the whole — let’s say the meeting was around 40 minutes or so? It was almost like a love-in at times.”…

“It was basically the President and Chuck. Even though there was somebody between them, they — face-to-face, they were pretty close a few times,” King said. “Chuck would lean over toward him, the President would lean over toward Chuck — I felt like I was back in the neighborhood.”…

Throughout the meeting, Schumer and Trump kept reaching across Cohn to shake hands, King said…

At one point, King complimented Trump and Schumer for reaching Wednesday’s deal, and Trump thanked him and he shook hands with Schumer again, King said. At another moment in meeting, King said Trump turned to him and asked if the deal was getting a positive response in the House, and King said he responded, “Absolutely.”

Axios frames the state of play starkly: “There’s a chance this Republican president, with a Republican Congress, ends the year with this list of accomplishments: increasing spending, permanently lifting the cap on debt, propping up Obamacare after failing to repeal it, and offering new protections to children of illegal immigrants.” And no wall! Don’t forget that. Trump’s new BFF will come under tremendous pressure from the left in December not to give Trump the policy win he craves most. They’ll allow some extra border security in the name of locking down an otherwise favorable deal for Democrats but Schumer’s not going to give Trump the wall. That’s the best reason to believe the “love-in” won’t last.

But … what if it does, at least for awhile? These tweets from this morning feel a bit like a “Dear John” letter from Trump to Ryan and McConnell explaining why he’s leaving them. They couldn’t knock out ObamaCare, and they can’t do much of anything in the Senate without Democratic help given the chamber’s commitment to the filibuster. He’s stuck in a dead-end relationship with his own party. It’s time for him to play the field a bit with Chuck and Nancy:

A Trump/Democrat alliance has always made some sense policy-wise since nationalists are more comfortable with muscular government than dogmatic conservatives are. If the left didn’t view Trump as an irredeemable villain, there’d be room for infrastructure, a DREAM amnesty, and other goodies. In particular, since Trump doesn’t seem to care much about the substance of many policies so long as he’s accomplishing big things (there are exceptions to that, of course, like trade), he’d theoretically have an easier time dealing with Schumer and Pelosi than with Ryan and McConnell. The guy has a 98 percent approval rating among people who voted for him last year in both the primary and the general election; they’ll follow him wherever he leads. With Chuck and Nancy bringing Democrats to the table and Trump bringing a sizable chunk of the GOP, Ryan and McConnell would be largely powerless to stop a Trump-led centrist agenda without igniting a Republican civil war. And if all goes well for Trump, conservative voters would be sufficiently demoralized next fall that Pelosi and Schumer would take back control of both houses, sidelining Ryan and McConnell all but completely.

Is Trump considering the full implications of that, though? Ramesh Ponnuru:

The model for this new phase of the Trump presidency, if that is what we are seeing, would be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s tenure as governor of California. Elected as a celebrity who transcended the political parties, he originally worked with the Republican party. After voters rejected conservative ballot initiatives that he had championed, he moved sharply left. The defeat of Republican legislation to modify Obamacare would be the equivalent event for Trump…

A deliberate strategy of cutting Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, and the rest loose, however, would have a serious disadvantage the White House should consider. If Trump has sometimes mused whether his life would be easier with the other party in charge of Congress, he would not be the first president to do so. But more than most presidents, Trump has a strong incentive to avoid undercutting Republicans — namely, the certainty that a Democratic Congress will have a lower bar for issuing subpoenas, commencing impeachment, and generally raising the legal bills of Trump, his family, and his aides. I suppose it is possible that Trump relishes the drama that would result from that kind of constant constitutional conflict, or he might think it would help him win reelection. But he should think long and hard about whether he and the party he heads should hang together, or separately.

Yeah, the story of the past few days may be less that Trump is schmoozing Schumer than that Schumer is schmoozing Trump. The “love-ins” may be convincing Trump that he potentially has friends on the other side of the aisle; a major compromise of some sort with Democrats over the next year that hands Trump a showy “win” will further cement that belief. There’s no way that Schumer or Pelosi will go easy on him, though, if either one of them ends up in charge of their chamber in 2019 and Russiagate is still burning. The left will demand that the full force of congressional power be brought to bear on Trump and his associates if Mueller turns up anything, up to and including impeachment. That’s not an insuperable obstacle to Trump/Dem cooperation *if* the Mueller probe finishes up before the midterms and none of Trump’s inner circle ends up in the crosshairs. But if they do, there’s no way the love-in lasts. And what will Trump do then, having alienated Ryan and McConnell as Chuck and Nancy draw their daggers?

Here he is yesterday talking about his first big joint project with Schumer.