There are two theories circulating in my head regarding the negotiation skills of President Donald Trump: he’s either way over his head and the Democratic leadership (Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer) are taking him to the cleaners; or he’s crazy like a fox. I’m not sure which one is true and it could be that the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
Over the past few days, President Trump struck a deal with the Democrats on the debt ceiling, which Democratic staff are calling a “dream deal” where Schumer and Pelosi got almost everything they wanted: a debt ceiling vote and no government shutdown in September. This all took place last week and just a few days ago the President sat down with Pelosi and Schumer again to discuss fixing DACA. This, too, left conservatives feeling on the defense and unsure as to whether or not the President had their back. Which plays to one of my theories: perhaps the president knew exactly what he was doing when he decided he would side with the Democrats. Could it be that he is fed up with leaders in his own party with their inability to repeal and replace and the Affordable Health Care Act? Could it be that in his mind he’s been loyal to them but they have not been loyal to him? Or could it be that he’s a Democrat and instinctively he is siding with the Democrats because he likes them?
One other take is that the President knows that the most conservative wings of his party will never go with the policy ideas he has, so he is going around them to form a new working majority of votes in the House? In other words, he is working around Speaker Paul Ryan knowing that he can pick up Democratic votes to get things done. Many political observers think I’m nuts, that the President is naïve and that the Democrats are playing him like a drum.
Or could it be that at the end of the day, the President just wants a deal and couldn’t care less how he gets one? Bingo! I think that’s the true answer. The truth is I do not think the President has one ideological bone in his body. As for what the President believes at his core on such issues as being pro life or pro choice, or gun control, I have never heard the President speak with any conviction on these topics, rather just in platitudes. He’s much more a pragmatist than someone who believes anything strongly. And at the end of the day, the only thing the President wants is a bill signing ceremony, an actual event that he and the American people can point to him being seen in action. That is what makes this President so unpredictable, and it is why Republicans and Democrats need to be careful, not only for their own short term survivability, but for the country as a whole.
It’s one thing to have a pragmatist who wants to get things done, but it’s another thing to have someone in the White House who only thinks of himself and not the country.
I’m not sure which camp the President falls into. But, I do think we all have to be mindful that a friend today can be our worst enemy tomorrow.
Robert Traynham is the vice president of communications for the Bipartisan Policy Center. He can be twitted at @roberttraynham.