Am I out over my skis with the headline? If POTUS is known for anything it’s for his magnanimity in accepting blame for setbacks to his team.
“It’s what leadership is all about,” as he likes to say. He doesn’t literally say it. He doesn’t literally mean it. But nonetheless, that message should be clear. (That’s for you, “Spinal Tap” fans.)
He’ll do a pro forma congrats to Pelosi, I assume, and allow that he bears “maybe some” responsibility. But most of the hour will be spent on the following buck-passing points:
1. Forget the House. The Senate is all that matters.
2. Losing the House is actually good news, as a lot of the RINO-cuck deadwood has been cleared away. Now the GOP can focus on building a permanent Trumpist minority.
3. If anyone’s to blame it’s House Republicans themselves for not embracing him more closely. (He’s already floated that idea, actually.) What Carlos Curbelo should have done in a district that’s 70 percent Latino is gone all-in on ending birthright citizenship.
4. It’s Paul Ryan’s fault, of course. Reportedly he was workshopping this one yesterday too:
Hours before polls closed on Tuesday, President Trump already was blaming retiring Speaker Paul D. Ryan for not doing enough to support his agenda and keep the House in Republican hands…
In those earlier private exchanges, the supporter said, Trump sought reassurance that a political setback for Republicans — in particular the widely projected loss of their House majority — couldn’t be laid at his feet.
That person, echoing Trump’s complaints that congressional Republicans hadn’t fought hard enough for him, pointed to party leadership resisting the president’s requests to finance his proposed wall on the southern border.
That makes sense. You know how, er, popular the wall is. Joe Biden predicted yesterday that Trump would question the legitimacy of the vote if Republicans got wiped out, saying, “He’s still looking for that million crowd that was there for his inauguration, for God’s sake.” Fair enough: A guy who blamed Hillary Clinton’s popular vote advantage on hordes of illegal immigrants voting in an election he won surely would have gotten crazy with the narrative cheez whiz in an election his side lost badly. But he didn’t lose, at least not in the Senate. That’s why POTUS is stuck with the four talking points above instead of the Biden option.
As we wait for the presser to begin I’ll give him sincere credit for this tweet, which is a superb troll:
In all fairness, Nancy Pelosi deserves to be chosen Speaker of the House by the Democrats. If they give her a hard time, perhaps we will add some Republican votes. She has earned this great honor!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 7, 2018
The chatterati on social media was puzzling over the point of that tweet but it seems clear to me. Trump knows that a lot of Democratic House candidates, eager to shed themselves of any association with the toxic Pelosi on the campaign trail, either said or implied that they wouldn’t vote for her for Speaker:
By my count, 10 of these 37 anti-Pelosi Dems have won & 5 more are in races that are too close to call. Dems could wind up w/ only a dozen seats over 218… https://t.co/17YPWe3kFA
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) November 7, 2018
*If* they were all to stick to their pledges to oppose her as caucus leader Democrats would have a potentially bitter leadership fight on their hands. So here’s POTUS delivering the kiss of death, an official endorsement from the left’s least favorite Republican. Might be enough to force anti-Pelosi Dems to stick to their guns or even to nudge a few waverers into the anti-Pelosi camp. He’s spreading discord in a trollish way. It’s his greatest talent.
The real news value that could come out of this presser, of course, is when he’s inevitably asked about cabinet turnover. With rumors of everyone from Jeff Sessions to Rod Rosenstein to James Mattis to Kirstjen Nielsen on their way out soon, he now has the numbers in the upper chamber to get virtually anyone confirmed, even without Collins’s and Murkowski’s approval. Does that mean a DOJ/DHS role for Kris Kobach, who got whupped last night in the Kansas governor’s race? A position somewhere, at long last, for Judge Jeanine? He has more latitude on presidential nominations today than he did yesterday despite the Democrats’ big night in the House. He might want to test just how much leeway by nominating someone off-the-wall, like one of his Fox buddies, to see how Senate Republicans react.
Anyway, no worse than 50/50 odds that when he’s asked today why he thought suburbanites preferred Democrats this year to Republicans he answers that they must “love crime.” Exit question for POTUS: Does he regret pushing so hard to oust Mark Sanford in the primary now that Sanford’s district — in South Carolina! — has turned blue for the first time in decades? Nah, of course not. “Never forget that Trump’s primary adversary has always been the Republican party, not the Democrats,” wrote Jonathan Last earlier today. “And the midterm elections went a long way toward completing his pacification of the GOP by purging the last few unreliable elements.” The mission of punishing Sanford for his anti-Trumpism was accomplished. The fact that Democrats will cast Sanford’s ballot for the next two years, and the question of what losing Sanford’s district might portend in 2020 for all but the Trumpiest districts across the country, is of no consequence.
Update: I think I nailed it with the headline.
President Trump lists Republicans who didn't embrace him and lost. "They did very poorly. I'm not sure that I should be happy or sad, but I feel just fine about it."
"Mia Love gave me no love and she lost. Too bad. Sorry about that Mia." pic.twitter.com/ZV7EKcWjLX
— CSPAN (@cspan) November 7, 2018
Update: Trump critics on Twitter are accusing him of instigating this exchange with Acosta to try to shift today’s chitchat from “Trump loses House” to “Trump versus media.” Meh. This is just who he is.
— NBC News (@NBCNews) November 7, 2018