Wednesday, August 21, 2019


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My new book, “How to Beat Trump: America’s Top Political Strategists on What It Will Take,” is available for purchase now here:

https://www.amazon.com/How-Beat-Trump-Political-Strategists/dp/1682451275



Peak Trump: Another News Cycle Chock-a-Block Full of the Shocking But Not Surprising

The Economy

Contradicts a day-old White House statement that a payroll tax cut is not under consideration….

…While he floats measures to forestall recession that don’t seem like to happen.

WashPost; “On Capitol Hill, Republicans and Democrats are scratching their heads at yet another Trump effort they say is likely to go nowhere.”

Denies weakness in the economy, while blaming the Fed for weakening the economy.

Faces criticism of his modus operandi from Establishment Republicans.

WSJ: “Veterans of previous administrations questioned the White House’s publicly floating various policy proposals to address the economy. ‘It’s not a particularly coherent economic and political strategy,’ said Douglas Holtz-Eakin, former chief economist for the White House Council of Economic Advisers under President George W. Bush. Mr. Holtz-Eakin, who doesn’t think a downturn is imminent, criticized the ‘sort of public floating of these weird ideas.’”

My take:  Politically weak presidents in divided government (who lack sway over the opposition party) don’t have very many tools in the toolbox or arrows in the quiver. 

New tax cutting, via legislation or executive action? From DOA to unlikely.

Getting a near-term China deal that creates an economic boom?  Hard to see.

Jawboning the Fed into submission? Possible but neither definite nor determinative.

Trump is beginning to look a bit like the president he least wants to emulate, Bush 41, the last incumbent to lose re-election.

*Struggling to talk about the economy in a way that balances optimism and a concern for those who are hurting and worried about the future.

*Floating policy ideas that are some combination of unlikely to help and unlikely to happen.

*Talking in a way meant to inspire confidence that in fact undermines the confidence of both consumers and business.

*Presiding over policymaking and re-election apparatuses in a way that lets factionalism and strategic differences lead to paralysis, instead of decisive action. 

*Seeking lots of advice, but in the end, relying on his own instincts and those of a small group of advisers.

*Believing that, in the end, the Democrats will nominate someone too weak to beat him, even if the economy is struggling.

Gun Safety

Lets the NRA set his gun safety legislative agenda.

Waffles on guns in a way that encourages congressional Republicans to downplay the prospect of Senate action.

Gets called wishy-washy, even by allies.

Politico: “’I don’t want to over-read this,’ said Michael Hammond, legislative counsel for Gun Owners of America, which opposes new gun restrictions. ‘He likes to make the person he’s speaking to happy, so he says what they want to hear.’”

My take:  The prospects of new, significant gun safety measures are at their low point since El Paso and Dayton.  Trump has never been afraid of letting the NRA flaunt its political influence over him.  History suggests that Republican presidents can get away with ignoring national public opinion in favor of gun safety measures.  There is no doubt that voters in California and New York support gun control more than voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan do.  Donald Trump is a lot more focused on the latter than the former, and the NRA knows that. 

The onus is now on congressional Democrats and the Gabby Giffords and Mike Bloombergs of the world to change the dynamic and force action.  That means either winning over Hill Republicans, including Mitch McConnell, who aren’t inclined to act unless Trump makes new gun safety measures his passion (and even then…), or making Republicans, including Donald Trump, pay a price in November 2020 for failing to act. 

History would not encourage wagering big on either proposition.  But history changes.  But probably not this time, on this issue.  The best evidence: Donald Trump is entirely craven on gun issues and has better political instincts than he is usually given credit for.   He isn’t beholden to the NRA as much as he is obsessed with getting re-elected.  He’s not standing on principle in backing off of new gun safety measures; he’s being briefed on polling data and seeking a route to 270 electoral votes.


Foreign Policy

Expresses a desire to help out the Russians by getting them back in the G-7/8.

My take: Still one of three biggest Donald Trump mysteries – why he HEARTS Putin so very, very much.

Cancels trip to Denmark because he can’t buy Greenland

My take: This episode is a mini-but-full lesson in how Donald Trump conducts foreign policy with countries ranging from the biggest and most powerful to those who are more modest players on the international stage.  Chaos, personal pique, unorthodox thinking, disregard for norms, comic appeal, head-scratching tweets, and actions that consume the Gang of 500 while being of no concern whatsoever to real Americans.

Says American Jews who vote for Democrats show “either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty”

My take: Insulting Jewish voters is one of those rare cases where the conventional wisdom isn’t off base.  The president is acting crazy on this, not crazy like a fox. Trump’s comments on American Jews were not only wrong and offensive but politically toxic.

Criticizes a Squad member — Rep. Rashida Tlaib — questioning the authenticity of her emotions when talking about her failed attempt to visit Israel.

Said Trump: “Yesterday, I noticed for the first time, Tlaib with the tears.  All of the sudden, she starts with tears, tears. . . . I don’t buy it for a second, because I’ve seen her in a very vicious mood at campaign rallies, my campaign rallies, before she was a congresswoman. I said, ‘Who is that?’ And I saw a woman that was violent and vicious and out of control.”

My take: The media is getting this one incorrect; criticizing The Squad is still smart politics for a president whose main twin goals are to stoke divisions within the Democratic Party and make the Democrats of his choosing the face of the opposition for 2020.  It might be ugly and wrong, but unfortunately, it is likely politically effective.

And/But

Benefits from an edge with rural voters, driven by cultural appeals.

Top sports story: His place in Dodgers history already secure, Clayton Kershaw eclipses Sandy Koufax
ESPN

Top business story: Walmart sues Tesla over solar panel fires at seven stores
CNBC

Top entertainment story: Apple Card Launches in U.S. With 3% Cash Back on Apple, Uber Purchases
Variety


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