I mean, there was no “deal.” The Democrats asked for a three-month debt-ceiling extension and Trump said “okay.” They wanted a short-term punt on fiscal-cliff issues and he gave it to them. It’s not a deal unless both sides are making concessions.
But it’s true that he got some preciously rare positive coverage from his frenemies in the press for it and that’s a bigggg problem for the GOP potentially. It’s exactly what I was worried about in this post. This is a guy, remember, who by all accounts started souring on Steve Bannon when Bannon landed on the cover of Time magazine as “The Great Manipulator.” He’s famously sensitive to how the media portrays him and the people around him, particularly when it comes to doling out praise. A president with a firm ideological anchor wouldn’t drift with the tides of Strange New Respect but a president without one may float along in whichever direction the current takes him. If he turns on CNN tomorrow and hears Jim Acosta gushing over his and Schumer’s plan to blow up the debt ceiling for good, what effect is that likely to have on him? Especially when you consider that the “right-wingers” at Fox News are likely to keep on gushing over Trump no matter what he does.
But in calls with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday morning, Trump raved about the positive news coverage it had received, according to people familiar with the calls, and he seemed very pleased with his decision.
Trump specifically mentioned TV segments praising the deal and indicated he’d been watching in a call with Schumer, two people said. And he was jovial in a call with Pelosi and agreed to send a tweet she asked for about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, these people said, while also mentioning the attention the deal had gotten. He indicated to both leaders he would be willing to work together again…
Another person familiar with the calls said Trump told Pelosi and Schumer their coverage was great, too.
The only thing that may keep Trump from drifting left as the “fake news media” warms up to the idea of him doing Democrats’ bidding is if populist outlets keep him honest by attacking him for betraying his base. Trump didn’t like Time’s insinuation that Bannon was some sort of populist puppet-master pulling Trump’s strings behind the scenes; ironically, Bannon may now be in a position at Breitbart to turn that dynamic the other way, accusing Schumer and Pelosi and the dreaded media of pulling Trump’s strings to try to turn him against them and back towards the right. But there’s a wrinkle to that: On some red-letter items, like infrastructure and tax hikes on the rich, Bannon and Democrats are aligned. If House conservatives are counting on Breitbart to rabble-rouse on their behalf when Trump turns left, they may be surprised to find Breitbart more sympathetic to the Pelosi position on some issues than to the tea-party position.
And that’s assuming that populists are willing to confront Trump at all when he strays. I’ve seen a dozen variations of the point below made on Twitter since Trump caved to Pelosi and Schumer yesterday because it’s obviously true and keeps occurring to people independently. Any establishment Republican who agreed to the sort of “deal” that Trump agreed to would be getting torn to shreds by the grassroots right. Because it’s Trump, though, all you get is some minor grumbling.
As I said @MSNBC, Boehner got pitchforked for not "fighting" when there was a DEM POTUS. Trump gives away the store; crickets from the base.
— Tim Alberta (@TimAlberta) September 7, 2017
It’s worse than “crickets.” Lou Dobbs went out of his way to do a touchdown dance over Paul Ryan getting owned by Trump’s betrayal. Not only does Trump not get attacked by populists for selling out to the left, populists instinctively dump on the GOP establishmentarians even after they’ve been neutralized. What political sin could Trump conceivably commit to get Dobbs or — gasp — Sean Hannity on his case? Anything? If not, he has no political incentive to appease the right. Might as well make a play for the center.
Pelosi, by the way, told reporters this morning that Trump had all but promised her that he’d sign a DREAM bill if Congress sent one to his desk: “Obviously it has to be bipartisan. The president supports that, he would sign it. But we have to get it passed.” That’s no surprise given the tenor of Trump’s rhetoric lately but it’s another reminder that he’s way out of sync with his core populist base lately. Here’s border-hawk extraordinaire Kris Kobach telling CNN yesterday that the proper rule-of-law solution to the problem of how to treat DREAMers is to deport them and their entire families. How will Kobach feel about the Trump administration come this time next year?