July, 2017

Trump Will Start Selling Tax Reform This Week

Jonathan Swan: “Watch for Trump to take his tax reform sales pitch on the road in August — with some top aides looking to stage a series of speeches through the Rust Belt.”

“Trump was never authentically enthusiastic, or even particularly knowledgeable, about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Republican senators privately joke about Trump’s substance-free phone calls to pitch them. ‘It’s gonna be great,’ he’d tell senators, before riffing about how ‘the pools’ (risk pools) would solve everything. But the President is authentically excited about tax reform, so we’ll see if his salesmanship is more effective here.”

Secret Money Boosts Trump’s Agenda

“Groups spending millions in anonymous donations are leading the outside efforts to either defend President Trump or sell his agenda with voters and Congress, despite the president’s repeated calls to ‘drain the swamp’ in Washington of special-interest money,” USA Today reports.

“The political empire affiliated with billionaire Charles Koch has spent $2 million to date to advance Trump’s tax-cut blueprint and will hold events this week in Washington to kick off the next phase of its multimillion-dollar campaign to drive congressional support for a comprehensive tax plan to slice corporate tax rates and enact broader tax cuts.”

More Than a Management Problem at the White House

Jonathan Swan: “West Wingers are excited and nervous about what his arrival means, but one told me it won’t be enough for Kelly to fix processes and lines of authority; he needs to change the culture. For six months, White House officials have leaked unflattering anecdotes about the President and planted hit pieces on their colleagues. Officials wander freely in and out of the Oval, and some, like Omarosa, never worried about protocol, and used their personal relationships with Trump to subvert Reince’s authority.”

Said one White House official: “We’ve got a culture problem right now. Now you have Kelly come into this. Is it a new power center or someone without a dog in the fight? Is that level of respect that he comes in with, what it takes to have some kind of calming presence in the West Wing? Reince didn’t have the credibility to broker peace between anybody.”

Quote of the Day

“That has had a big impact. If you leave out a whole political party, and then you chasten them for not helping, well, that unites that party.”

— Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), quoted by the New York Times, on how Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) decision to cut Democrats out of the legislative process has unified them.

White House Wants No Votes Until Health Bill Passes

White House budget director Mick Mulvaney said that “yes,” it’s official White House policy that the Senate shouldn’t hold a vote on another issue — not even an imminent crisis like raising the debt ceiling— until the Senate votes again on health care, Politico reports.

Said Mulvaney: “You can’t promise folks you’re going to do something for seven years, and then not do it.”

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Conway Not Sure Who She Reports To Now

“Kellyanne Conway, whose official title is counselor to the president, declined on Sunday to say whether she and all of the White House staff would report directly to newly-installed Chief of Staff John Kelly after a shakeup in the White House last week that included Reince Priebus’ ouster,” NBC News reports.

Said Conway: “I will speak with General Kelly and the president about that, as will Mr. Scaramucci.”

Anthony Scaramucci has previously said that he reports directly to the president.

A Party of One

Tim Alberta: “This no longer seems accidental. Trump has, since taking office, consistently referred to Republicans as though he is not one himself—it’s invariably ‘they’ or ‘them.’ Unlike past presidents of his party, Trump entered the White House with few personal relationships with prominent Republicans: donors, lobbyists, party activists, politicians. This liberated him to say whatever he pleased as a candidate, and by firing Priebus, Trump might feel similarly liberated. The fear now, among Republicans in his administration and on Capitol Hill, is that Trump will turn against the party, waging rhetorical warfare against a straw-man GOP whom he blames for the legislative failures and swamp-stained inertia that has bedeviled his young presidency. It would represent a new, harsher type of triangulation, turning his base against the politicians of his own party that they elected.”

“Things have not yet escalated to that point. But some, including officials in his own administration, took the dismissal of Priebus as a signal that Trump is willing to go rogue against the GOP… More and more, Trump talks as though there are Democrats and Republicans—and him, a party of one. If unchecked, this poses an existential threat to the GOP. But it’s not Priebus’s problem anymore.”

Trump Is Both Menacing and Impotent

Jack Goldsmith: “The Trump Presidency is a strange combination of menacing and impotent.  It is also fractured internally like no presidency in American history.”

“The menacing element is plain.  Trump sets everyone on edge with incessant verbal attacks and relentlessly indecorous behavior.  The maelstrom that is his presidency seems like it could at any moment push the country off the rails—massive pardons to kill the Russia investigation, a Justice Department meltdown as a result of firings and resignations, a North Korean miscalculation, or who-knows-what-other-crazy-thing.  Many people worry how the impulsive Trump will handle his first crisis.”

“As for impotence, Trump has accomplished nothing beyond conservative judicial appointments.  His administration is otherwise a comedy of errors in the exercise of executive power.  What is most remarkable is the extent to which his senior officials act as if Trump were not the chief executive.  Never has a president been so regularly ignored or contradicted by his own officials.  I’m not talking about so-called “deep state” bureaucrats.  I’m talking about senior officials in the Justice Department and the military and intelligence and foreign affairs agencies.  And they are not just ignoring or contradicting him in private.  They are doing so in public for all the world to see.”

Conscience of a Conservative

Out this week: Conscience of a Conservative by Sen. Jeff Flake.

“The Republican party used to play to a broader audience, one that demanded that we accomplish something. But in this era of dysfunction, our primary accomplishment has been constructing the argument that we’re not to blame. We have decided that it is better to build and maintain a majority by using the levers of power rather than the art of persuasion and the battle of ideas. We’ve decided that putting party over country is okay.”

Conservatives Warn the GOP Not to Move On

“Weary Republicans in Washington may be ready to move on from health care, but conservatives across the United States are warning the GOP-led Congress not to abandon its pledge to repeal the Obama-era health law — or risk a political nightmare in next year’s elections,” the AP reports.

“The Senate’s failure to pass a repeal has triggered a new wave of fear and outrage among the party. Conservative groups say senators who voted against the bill are ‘sellouts.’… Trump’s allies pledge to run conservative challengers against uncooperative Republicans. And party leaders are warning of deep disillusionment and cynicism among the most passionate GOP voters.”

For members: What Three ‘No’ Votes Had In Common

Donald Trump Can’t Close the Deal

National Review: “Trump is the political version of a pickup artist, and Republicans — and America — went to bed with him convinced that he was something other than what he is. Trump inherited his fortune but describes himself as though he were a self-made man. We did not elect Donald Trump; we elected the character he plays on television.”

“He has had a middling career in real estate and a poor one as a hotelier and casino operator but convinced people he is a titan of industry. He has never managed a large, complex corporate enterprise, but he did play an executive on a reality show. He presents himself as a confident ladies’ man but is so insecure that he invented an imaginary friend to lie to the New York press about his love life and is now married to a woman who is open and blasé about the fact that she married him for his money. He fixates on certain words (‘negotiator’) and certain classes of words (mainly adjectives and adverbs, ‘bigly,’ ‘major,’ ‘world-class,’ ‘top,’ and superlatives), but he isn’t much of a negotiator, manager, or leader. He cannot negotiate a health-care deal among members of a party desperate for one, can’t manage his own factionalized and leak-ridden White House, and cannot lead a political movement that aspires to anything greater than the service of his own pathetic vanity.”