Deal Makers Make Deals

President Trump is a deal maker at heart.  After all, he wrote a book called The Art of the Deal.  So is it really a surprise to anyone that President Trump has reached out to the Democrats in Congress to make deals?

trump_the_art_of_the_dealLast week Trump reached agreement with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, the leaders of the Democrats in the Senate and House respectively, on an arrangement to raise the debt ceiling and provide hurricane relief funds.  Last night, Schumer and Pelosi announced that they had reached agreement with President Trump on a legislative solution to the status of the so-called DREAMers — children brought to America by illegal immigrant parents who have grown up in this country and who had been protected from deportation under Obama Administration policies.  According to the Democratic leaders, they and Trump agreed to pursue bipartisan legislation to protect the children from deportation in exchange for Democratic support of border security enhancements.  Schumer and Pelosi say the border security enhancements don’t include supporting Trump’s long-touted wall along America’s southern border; the White House says that excluding the wall was not part of the agreement.  It seems clear, however, that some kind of bargain was struck.

These recent announcements give some people the willies.  Rock-ribbed conservatives can’t stand the sight of Schumer and Pelosi, and the idea of actually sitting down and cutting a deal with them is anathema.  And lurking underneath the discomfort is a concern that, in the President’s zeal to make a deal, principles that are considered important to the conservative position might get thrown overboard.  And part of the subtext of that concern, I think, is the belief that President Trump isn’t exactly a master of the details who fully appreciates the significance of negotiating points, and as a result the President might be getting fleeced by savvy Democrats without fully appreciating it.

President Trump’s willingness to have these kinds of talks shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  Deal makers want to make deals.  In the real estate development world, deal makers always want to have some new project to promote, and part of the process is to create a feeling of momentum and movement.  The key goal is to get the deal done, and you commonly sacrifice on deal points and financing terms and other provisions to reach that goal.  Deal makers believe that nobody gets everything they want, but that ultimately the deal itself serves the greater good for everyone involved.

Of course, not every deal turns out to be a good one for all concerned, and politics isn’t quite like a big real estate development.  There are people out there who believe fervently in principles, and when those principles get casually tossed aside in the interest of cutting a deal they aren’t happy.  But polling results commonly indicate that the American people want their political leaders to get along and avoid things like government shutdowns because they can’t agree on raising the debt ceiling.  President Trump’s willingness to cut deals may test whether that polling data really means anything.  And if foreign leaders see evidence that just about any deal is possible, who knows what they might propose?

We’ve got a deal maker in the White House, folks, and deal makers make deals.

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Redefining “Presidential,” And Reconsidering Overreaction

In some way, Donald Trump is like the weather:  you’d like to ignore him, but you just can’t.  He’s like that blustering, loud summer thunderstorm that blows in on the day you’ve scheduled an outdoor party and requires everybody to change their plans whether they want to or not.

It’s pretty obvious, after only a few days in office, that the era of Trump is going to change how we look at our presidents, and what we consider to be “presidential” behavior.  In recent decades, we’ve become used to our presidents maintaining a certain public decorum and discretion.  Sure, there have been a few exceptions in the sexual dalliance department, but for the most part our modern presidents have tried to take the personal high road.  They leave the attacks to their minions and strive to stay above the fray.

Imacon Color ScannerNot President Trump.  He’s down there himself, throwing punches via Twitter.  His most recent activities in this regard involve lashing out at the federal district court judge that issued a temporary restraining order against Trump’s immigration executive order.  Trump referred to Judge James Robart as a “so-called judge” and said his ruling was ridiculous.  Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer immediately attacked Trump, saying his comment “shows a disdain for an independent judiciary that doesn’t always bend to his wishes and a continued lack of respect for the Constitution.”

I’ve got mixed feelings about all of this.  I personally prefer the more genteel, above-the-fray presidential model; I think it’s more fitting for a great nation that seeks to inspire others and lead by example.  I wish our President wouldn’t “tweet.”  But I also recognize that American presidents haven’t always been that way.  The behavior of presidents of the 1800s — think Andrew Jackson, for example — was a lot more bare-knuckled than what has come since.

I also think there’s danger for the Democrats in repeatedly overreacting to Trump.  If you argue that everything Trump does is the most outrageous travesty in the history of the republic (and that’s pretty much what you get from the Democrats these days) you ultimately are going to be viewed as the boy who cried wolf — which means the townspeople aren’t going to pay attention when you really want them to listen.  And in this case the reality is that, since the very early days of our country, elected politicians have been strongly criticizing judges.  Andrew Jackson famously declined to enforce a Supreme Court ruling, and Abraham Lincoln harshly lambasted the Supreme Court, and its Chief Justice, after the Dred Scott decision.  More recently, the rulings of the Warren Court became a political lightning rod during the ’60s, and President Obama saw fit to directly criticize the current Supreme Court, sitting right in front of him during a State of the Union speech, about their Citizens United ruling.

So Trump’s reference to a “so-called judge” really isn’t that big a deal when viewed in the historical context.  What’s weird about it is that it comes out in tweets — which makes it seem less presidential and, because it’s a tweet, less serious.  When Trump has these little outbursts I think if the Democrats simply shook their heads and said that what Trump is doing is “regrettable,” without acting like his every move threatens to bring down the Constitution, Trump’s Twitter act will wear thin on its own.

But they can’t help themselves right now, and neither can Trump.  So we’re going to have to ride out a few of those thunderstorms.

The GOP Targets Weiner’s World

You’ll remember former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who resigned from the House of Representatives in disgrace after his curious on-line conduct and later misrepresentations about it were disclosed to the American public.  His sordid tale dominated the airwaves in June.

Tomorrow a special election will be held to replace Weiner.  His New York City district formerly was viewed as safely Democratic — it covers parts of Brooklyn and Queens, and was the political springboard for current New York Senator Chuck Schumer — but now polls indicate that the Republican candidate may actually win.  Such a result would send shock waves through the Democratic Party and might cause more Democrats to begin questioning President Obama and his leadership of the party.

The old saying is that all politics is local, and local issues have been important in this race.  The district includes a large Jewish population, and Republican Bob Turner has urged them to send a message to President Obama about his policies toward Israel.  The polling also indicates, however, that President Obama’s general unpopularity may be a drag on the Democratic candidate, David Weprin.  The President carried the district by 11 percentage points in 2008, but a recent poll indicates that he now is viewed unfavorably by 54 percent of respondents, including 38 percent of Democrats and 68 percent of independents.

You normally can’t make too much out of a special election to replace a politician who resigned amidst scandal, but tomorrow’s special election could be an exception to that rule.  If a safe Democratic seat flips to the Republicans, it may be a sign of greater voter unrest, and larger political waves, at work in America.