We should find whoever has kidnapped the real Donald Trump and ask how much he’d charge to keep him.
Because the body double who has been standing in for President Trump these past several days has managed to do something we haven’t seen in years: bring bipartisan governing to Washington.
Twice in the past two weeks Trump has sat down in private sessions with Democratic leaders Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi to horse trade on issues that have defied compromise for decades.
Over Chinese food Wednesday night in the White House with “Chuck and Nancy,” the pair he once referred to as Cryin’ Chuck and Lyin’ Nancy, Trump apparently hammered out the framework of an immigration deal that would restore the the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections for immigrants who were brought to the country illegally by their parents.
The president had rescinded former President Barack Obama’s DACA executive order just a week ago. Now he is reportedly offering up a bargain that would set the so-called Dreamers on a path to citizenship.
Wednesday’s dinner comes on the heels of a similar nosh fest with the Democratic leaders that resolved the debt ceiling stand-off.
All Trump got in return for that bargain was dollars for hurricane relief, which he’d have gotten anyway. And on the DACA deal, he apparently got a player to be named later. Pelosi said they agreed to agree on an agreement.
Trump insisted nothing is final and, contrary to reports, he didn’t give up his demands for a wall on the Mexican border. But his nuanced references to strengthening existing barriers suggest he might settle for something short of what he promised on the campaign trail.
Listen to this quote from Trump:
“More and more we are trying to work things out together. If you look at some of the greatest legislation ever passed, it was done so in a bipartisan manner. So we’re going to give it a shot.”
This is the same Donald Trump who denounced Democrats as self-serving obstructionists just a few weeks ago and came into office wielding a broad ax with which to rive the nation in two.
It may be that Donald Trump, the self-described ultimate winner, got tired of losing. Other than the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Neal Gorsuch, he hasn’t had a single victory in seven months.
That’s largely because his Republican caucus in Congress has been too preoccupied with internal feuding to exploit the total control they have over Washington.
The president set up his “Chuck and Nancy” moment with weeks of increasingly harsh criticism of Mitch and Paul. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and House Speaker Paul Ryan were not at Wednesday’s intimate dinner, and were not consulted on the deal-making.
Since Trump’s swearing-in I’ve said that Schumer, Pelosi and their Democratic crew were missing an opportunity with the new president. Trump is not an ideologue, nor is he a traditional Republican or movement conservative.
He’s a deal maker who loves to have his ego stroked and brag about his big bargains.
Instead of resisting, Democrats should have been co-opting. Let the president put a few points on the board and score some yourselves.
In leaning toward the Democratic leadership, Trump is firing a warning shot at the GOP. If they don’t stop squabbling and drop some legislation on his desk, he’ll try to find an opening with the opposition.
This shift, if it indeed is one, also may be tied to the departure of presidential adviser Steve Bannon, who held Trump close to his base. Since Bannon’s departure, Trump’s tweets have been less inflammatory, and he has presented a softer image overall.
There’s risk for Trump in going too warm and fuzzy. Rep. Steve King of Iowa, a most loyal Trump acolyte, lost his mind when reports of the Wednesday deal leaked, accusing Trump of “blowing up” his base.
Trump still needs Republican lawmakers like King. Should special counsel Robert Mueller turn up anything to support the articles of impeachment Democrats have already drawn up, all that will stand between him and the door is the loyalty of a GOP-controlled Congress.
Pelosi and California Sen. Diane Feinstein may be hinting they’ll call off the attack dogs, and the media may have softened enough to praise Trump for his hurricane response, but they’ll be circling him again at the first trace of blood.
Still, Trump on Tuesday showed signs he isn’t done appeasing Democrats at the expense of his own party’s agenda, saying in Florida that he’ll only support tax cuts for the middle class and not the broader relief for everyone, including the wealthy, the GOP wants.
This new approach by Trump may be a feint. He is of such a volatile nature that tomorrow he could return to ripping apart Schumer and Pelosi and posing for happy pictures with McConnell and Ryan.
Or we could actually be witnessing an unexpected stroke of brilliance from the Trump White House.
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