By Josh Dawsey
Image Courtesy of Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
Friends say President Donald Trump has grown frustrated that his greatness is not widely understood, that his critics are fierce and on TV every morning, that his poll numbers are both low and “fake,” and that his White House is caricatured as adrift.
So on Monday, the consummate salesman — who has spent his life selling his business acumen, golf courses, sexual prowess, luxury properties and, above all, his last name — gave the Trump White House a Trump-sized dose of brand enhancement.
With both the Roosevelt Room and the Rose Garden as backdrops, he mixed facts and mirage, praise and perfidy in two head-spinning, sometimes contradictory performances designed to convince supporters and detractors alike that everything’s terrific, moving ahead of schedule and getting even better. His opponents were cast as misguided, deluded or even unpatriotic.
It was the latest instance of Trump bypassing his own communications staff to speak directly to the press, and the public, after weeks of blistering criticism and as White House aides struggle with the increasing possibility that they may end the year without accomplishing any of their grand legislative goals.
Senate Republicans, Trump said, had let him down and hurt his agenda.
“I’m not going to blame myself, I’ll be honest,” the president said.
The Washington Post
By Dan Batz
Image courtesy of Evan Vucci/Associated Press
Nine months into his first term, President Trump is perfecting a style of leadership commensurate with his campaign promise to disrupt business as usual in Washington. Call it governing by cattle prod.
It is a tactic born of frustration and dissatisfaction. Its impact has been to overload the circuits of government — from Capitol Hill to the White House to the Pentagon to the State Department and beyond. In the face of his own unhappiness, the president is trying to raise the pain level wherever he can.
The permanent campaign has long been a staple of politics in this country, the idea that running for office never stops and that decisions are shaped by what will help one candidate or another, one party or another, win the next election.
President Trump has raised this to a high and at times destructive art. He cares about ratings, praise and success. Absent demonstrable achievements, he reverts to what worked during the campaign, which is to depend on his own instincts and to touch the hot buttons that roused his voters in 2016. As president, he has never tried seriously to reach beyond that base.
The president has proved himself capable and willing to start controversies and policy confrontations. That’s what being a disrupter is all about. But there is more to the presidency than initiating conflict, and on that measure, Trump has much to prove.
House Speaker Paul Ryan could not have been more clear.
After meeting with his Republican caucus Wednesday morning on the first day back from their long summer break, he declared at a news conference that Democrats’ call for a three-month extension of the government’s borrowing limit was “ridiculous.”
“That’s ridiculous and disgraceful, that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment,” he repeated. He called it “unworkable,” said it would jeopardize hurricane response and called out Democratic leaders by name for promoting what “I don’t think is a good idea.”
About an hour later, Ryan and other GOP leaders sat in the White House with President Trump, who told them he wants . . . a three-month increase of the debt ceiling, just as Democrats proposed.
Such chaos and confusion at the highest level of American government hadn’t been seen since, well, the day before.
What does the president want? Nobody knows — not his advisers, not his fellow Republicans in Congress, and probably not Trump himself.
Republicans once hoped that if the GOP controlled Washington, a shared focus on legislative goals—and the power of the White House political office—could defuse the intense factionalism that has fueled nasty primaries for the last seven years.
Instead, as voters head to the polls to vote in Alabama’s hotly contested primary on Tuesday and other GOP primary races take shape across the country, it’s apparent that party divisions in the Trump era are only widening.
Republican lawmakers offered some of their most pointed criticism of their president this weekend after President Donald Trump failed to directly blame neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead.
But they had already been starting to lean away from him. In the span of a month, Trump has found himself at odds first with Republicans in the Senate as he publicly berated one of their friends and a former colleague, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and then with the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell himself, over health care. This weekend, Trump faced pushback from the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cory Gardner, who called on the president to explicitly condemn white supremacists. (Trump still has not directly done so, instead sending a message through a spokesperson 36 hours after protests erupted.)
The president seems convinced that he can survive whatever comes his way as long as he keeps his much-celebrated political base with him. But this is not as easy as it sounds for either Trump or his party because his base is fundamentally divided.
Nothing illustrated this more dramatically than the health-care showdown. Trump’s rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act during last year’s campaign should have been a tipoff to the dilemma both he and conservative politicians confront now. On the one hand, he roundly denounced Obamacare, which made right-wing ideologues happy. But he also regularly promised an alternative that would be more, not less, generous in helping Americans of modest means.
Trump is so hungry for “wins” that he is still pushing the Senate to pass any bill to repeal Obamacare. But enacting proposals along the lines of those that failed last week would be the worst possible outcome for Trump because they effectively break the promises he made to nearly 40 percent of his own sympathizers.
Senate Republicans who want to back away from repeal, at least for now, seem more attuned to how disruptive this issue is. But the looming battle over deep tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy will also split the alliance Trump is counting on for survival.
Political leaders trying to hold diverse groups together need to demonstrate finesse and both the appearance and reality of successful governance. Finesse, needless to say, is not a Trump long suit. And every day that brings a new Trump revelation, new questions about Russia or sheer craziness puts increased pressure on a rickety alliance that can only bear so much. When Trump most needs that base of his, it may no longer be there.
The authorhad written half of a relatively silly column when he stopped and read these words online:
“The predators and criminal aliens who poison our communities with drugs and prey on innocent young people — these beautiful, beautiful, innocent young people — will find no safe haven anywhere in our country.
“And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife, because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected any longer, folks.”
That’s a story the president of the United States told at a rally in Ohio on Tuesday night. It’s a creepy story, one that mixes unnecessarily detailed savagery with the image of “a young, beautiful girl.”
There’s no mention of the anecdote’s origin, no specifics on when or where a “beautiful, beautiful, innocent” young person was sliced and diced and put through “excruciating pain.” There is just the violent imagery, and the repeated reference to “animals.”
That’s weird. It’s intentionally dehumanizing an entire group of people, but it’s also just weird. Weird in a way that if someone at a bar told you that story you’d excuse yourself and walk away as quickly as possible.
The Washington Post
By Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa
Image courtesy of Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels.
Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents.
The intensifying fights threaten to derail efforts to overhaul the nation’s tax laws and other initiatives that GOP leaders hope will put them back on track. The party remains bogged down by a months-long health-care endeavor that still lacks the support to become law, although Senate GOP leaders hopes to vote on it soon.
With his priorities stalled and Trump consumed by staff changes and investigations into Russian interference in last year’s election, Republicans are adding fuel to a political fire that is showing no signs of burning out. The conflict also heralds a potentially messy 2018 midterm campaign with fierce intra-party clashes that could draw resources away from fending off Democrats.