Can't Overcome the DNA
by Deacon Blues
Nobody said Donald Trump wasn’t a quick learner. One thing he’s learned over the last two weeks is that a commander in chief has much greater freedom of movement in foreign affairs than a president does on domestic affairs.
For better or worse, Trump has learned through the Syrian missile strike and his face-to-face encounters with China and NATO that he can satisfy his impulses and be the Decider-in-Chief on foreign policy without Congress, which I think explains his recent flip-flops on several campaign promises or positions. He can size up a person or opportunity and pivot easily based on new information or exposure to people he previously had not encountered, whereas inside the Beltway he has institutional constraints that are exacerbated by his failings as an administrator in setting up his government.
It’s easier to lob missiles for purely political purposes and change your mind about people and entities (Russia, China, and NATO) than it is to get health care reform done before tax reform or infrastructure. But while I am glad that Trump is changing his mind and benefitting from his on-the-job training about foreign relations, his inability to get a domestic agenda off the ground and his self-inflicted wounds in lunging from one issue to another without effect will continue because those failings are in his personal DNA. And the political damage to himself from ditching his base and populist themes and going Wall Street won’t help him or his party much next year.
Case in point is the latest news that Trump reversed course yesterday on tax reform and has decided to try again to ram through blowing up the Affordable Care Act first, because he needs the budget savings from throwing millions of people off coverage to finance his tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy (as we predicted weeks ago). Trump also strangely thinks he can force Democrats to negotiate with him by threatening to kill the health benefit exchanges through his own actions, a belief that polls already indicate is a sure-fire loser.
Because Trump cannot handle losing, especially on anything with Obama’s name tied to it, he decides instead to squander whatever domestic political capital he has left to pursue something so clearly damaging to him and his party on the false assumption that his increased poll numbers from the missile strike give him cover to try again on health care. There aren't enough missile strikes out there to overcome failures on the ACA, tax reform, infrastructure, and his populist wish list. Yet Trump appears destined to learn this the hard way.
And right about now, the last thing the GOP needs is to be seen as a flailing mess with one-party control of Washington, because that is a recipe for disaster next year.