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Two Reasons Why Democrats Should Smile About Trump’s Weakness

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Two Reasons Why Democrats Should Smile About Trump’s Weakness


Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

President Trump’s fragile ego was so tickled by his hurricane relief and debt ceiling agreement with Democratic leaders that he acted on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s sly suggestion that he tweet about the Dreamers’ program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).

Of course, no Dreamer or anyone else has any reason to believe Trump will keep his word about anything. But his tweet is a useful marker for congressional Democrats and Republicans now seeking legislation to save DACA. The message is, Trump is open to a deal that protects the Dreamers.

While Pelosi and Schumer beamed like Cheshire cats, House Speaker Paul Ryan managed to extract the knife that Trump inserted into his back Wednesday with a measure of grace. Trump’s decision to side with the Democrats on a three-month debt ceiling increase, he said, was an attempt to have a “bipartisan moment for the country.”

In contrast, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said little, grimacing as the presidential shiv remains stuck between his vertebrae.

In the words of one unidentified but candid Republican, “He f**ked us.”

Trump’s backstabbing of the Republican leadership could be an inflection point in his embattled administration. It has incensed Republicans who assumed the president would not abandon them, even as his presidency flails. Trump’s agreement with Schumer and Pelosi, notes Politico, “emboldens Democrats to push for immigration changes or spending priorities without giving an inch to the right.”

There are two upsides to Trump’s dalliance with Democrats, and just as many pitfalls.

1. Save DACA, kill the wall.

Trump’s sudden embrace of Pelosi and Schumer, writes Michael Tomasky in the New York Times“sets up the possibility of an even bigger deal: In exchange for making the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program permanent law, the Democrats would agree to maybe a couple of billion for the president’s beautiful wall on the border.”

Should the Democrats bargain?

“A part of me would like to say they should. Hey, it’s an actual compromise, just like Washington politicians used to make!” Tomasky writes.

But that would be the wrong conclusion. The Democrats have the leverage, he says, Now they have to use it—by not negotiating on the wall. Politically, DACA is popular with Democrats and moderate Republicans, while Trump’s wall is an expensive boondoggle that will not improve border control, curb illegal immigration or affect drug trafficking. And outside of Trump’s shrinking base, the border wall is not broadly popular.

Immigration activists fume that Schumer and Pelosi could have driven a harder bargain to protect Dreamers now, instead of somewhere down the road. Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin says legislation to save DACA doesn’t have the necessary 60 votes in the Senate yet—but it might in six months.

“As the six-month deadline approaches, the hue and cry will be thunderous,” Tomasky writes. “Republicans will feel enormous pressure. There will be other horses to trade then. But giving an unpopular president money for an unpopular idea is how a minority stays a minority.”

2. End hostage-taking politics.

Since taking control of the House of Representatives in 2010, Republican leaders adopted the rule that the House would only vote to raise the debt ceiling if it was accompanied by equivalent spending cuts and reforms. It was a way of holding the country’s credit rating hostage; if President Obama didn’t go along with demands for spending cuts, the nation’s credit rating would be damaged.

The result was regular confrontations that paralyzed the government and prompted Standard and Poor’s to downgrade the nation’s credit rating for the first time.

On Wednesday, Trump signaled he is open to ending the politics of hostage-taking. When Schumer floated the idea of eliminating the debt-ceiling vote, Trump welcomed it. “There are a lot of good reasons to do that,” Trump told reporters.

Trump is simply recognizing that the politics of hostage-taking no longer favor the Republican leadership now that they control all three branches of government. That’s why Ryan and McConnell wanted a deal to delay the debt ceiling vote until after the 2018 election, and why Pelosi and Schumer wanted a vote in December: to pressurize Republicans.

Writing in the Atlantic, Russell Berman says that abolishing the separate debt ceiling would “voluntarily relinquish the leverage they just exerted over Trump and the Republicans.”

But it might be worth it, if it means that President Warren or President Biden doesn’t have to beg a GOP Congress for debt-ceiling increases in 2021, as President Obama had to do in 2011.


The larger story here is that Trump’s excess of ego and deficit of principles—which enabled him to betray Ryan and McConnell with shameless ease—are part and parcel of his weakness.

In the president’s desperate search for a “win,” he can be manipulated into advancing the Democratic agenda, as Schumer and Pelosi demonstrated this week.

Jefferson Morley is AlterNet’s Washington correspondent. He is the author of the forthcoming biography The Ghost: The Secret Life of CIA Spymaster James Jesus Angleton (St. Martin’s Press, October 2017) and the 2016 Kindle ebook CIA and JFK: The Secret Assassination Files.



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  1. Aaron_of_Portsmouth September 11, 2017

    What a lovely predicament Trump provides. Being schizoid by nature, he can shift back and forth between Mr Hyde and Dr. Jeckyll as easily as a chameleon can change colors depending on the surroundings. And since the GOP is by nature dense and lack the ability to be introspective and wise about human nature, Trump is playing both sides of the political fence, frustrating the GOP.
    Not exactly what Mitch and Paul expected. And Trump, unbeknownst to him, is playing a role by One higher than Donald, leading Donald on like a puppet, by offering Trump many options which a narcissist is bound to choose from incorrectly.

    1. Dapper Dan September 11, 2017

      We’ve all seen the many different personalities of one Donald Trump. There have been moments when it appeared he could genuinely be charming but the narcissist in him soon overwhelms him and he reverts to being a total jerk. If he could’ve controlled his worst impulses and conducted himself like a statesman he genuinely could’ve done some good. Instead he acts like a petulant child seething at the fact more people likes his predecessor Barack Obama so like an upset child breaking the toys of the good sibling he tries to destroy the good works of President Obama like trying to weaken and ultimately get rid of the ever growing popular Affordable Care Act. People who voted for him either likes his conservative agenda and or the fact he’s a racist. Let’s face it, how many former presidents ever got the endorsement of the Klan ?

      1. dbtheonly September 11, 2017

        Trump can be quite winning when he wants something from you.

        We need to find the way to continue to channel his need for approval into actions truly beneficial to all.

      2. opinioned1 September 12, 2017

        “We’ve all seen the many different personalities of one Donald Trump.”
        Russia love`s the comrade trump version!!!

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  2. Richard Prescott September 11, 2017

    To the points of his article.
    DACA, no bargaining, no dealing off the wall with DACA. You want to cut a deal, try this.
    Choose between wall or disaster relief. For most that would be a no brainer, but for Trumpty Dumpty, it could well prove a schizophrenic breakdown.
    Hostage taking politics. Simple solution. Vote the damn Repubs out of office. Especially the Tea Party and Freedom Caucus ones. Idiots like Logan from OH. Ones who agree with less government like what happened in TX and now the people there are paying a steeper price than they should for Harvey.

  3. opinioned1 September 12, 2017

    DACA will pass making all these innocent children legal with a huge majority of both republicans, and democrats!! Then just like Mexico telling comrade trump we ain`t paying for your stupid wall, congress will do the same.

  4. stsintl September 12, 2017

    Here, is what Democrats should offer as a project plan for building this “Great Wall of America”, without getting us taxpayers involved in paying for it.

    1. Set up a not-for-profit corporation “Donald Trump’s Wall Inc.”
    2. This not-for-profit corporation to issue bonds for financing the project, like any other business entity would do.
    3. Sell the bonds to the Trump Administration’s Cabinet Secretaries with deep pockets and Wall Street connections, including the Trump Organization that owns buildings and golf courses around the world, and supporters in the Republican Party.
    4. Hire a design-consulting firm to develop three alternative designs for the project.
    5. Develop cost-benefit evaluation criteria to evaluate the three designs.
    6. Select the best design.
    7. Issue bids for the construction of the wall and issue contract(s) to the successful bidder.
    8. Send the bill(s) to the Mexican government for reimbursement.
    9. Meanwhile, sell the wall space to advertisers all along its length. Use the revenue for O&M and to pay dividends to bondholders.
    10. If the Mexicans pay the bill(s), liquidate all the bonds of bondholders. If not, transfer the wall ownership to Donald Trump Organization, to take over the responsibility for liquidating the bonds. If Donald Trump Organization fails to honor its obligation, then let the Donald Trump’s Wall Inc. file for bankruptcy, which President Donald Trump has plenty of experience to do.

    On the other hand, transportation civil infrastructures such as highways and bridges are critical to the growth of our economy and hence belong to the public domain, and should be funded by taxpayers. Prime Minister Nehru of India had come to visit President JFK in 1963. As they were riding in the motorcade, the PM told the President that America had such a strong economy that it could afford great highway infrastructure. President responded, telling him that America had a strong economy BECAUSE it had such a great infrastructure of highways, referring to the Interstate Highway System funded through the “Highway Trust Fund” from gasoline taxes. The ROI on these projects cannot match the ROI of other investments such as manufacturing facilities, and other business ventures. Taking funds away from civil infrastructure projects to build the wall should not be an option.

  5. Leftout September 12, 2017

    Trump is setting the trap. He does not need Republican olde Guard . His voters will win in the end


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