Politics, North America
The death of “Trumpism without Trump” seems greatly exaggerated.
For those hoping that President Donald Trump was marching toward a more conventional presidency, Wednesday provided the best day of news in months. Not only had former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon been excised by the president himself from the official Trump movement, but he’d also been defrocked from Breitbart News, an organization he’d overseen since before Trump’s rise to the fulcrum of American politics. To cap it off, the president appeared willing to completely backtrack on immigration pledges, telling Sen. Dianne Feinstein that he was open to guaranteeing DACA up front, and earlier in the week, he said he was willing to “take the heat”—absorb any incoming fire from immigration hardliners.
“Incredibly stunned,” is how one Democratic Hill staffer for a senior Democratic senator had put it to me, on Trump’s comments to Feinstein. “The president has no clue what his position is. She said something that sounded good and he reflexively went ‘Sure!’” The president was corrected by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy during the exchange, and some of Trump’s lines were scrubbed from the official administration transcript of the meeting. Says the Hill source: “When he said, ‘I think what Dianne meant… ’ you could hear her in the background go, ‘No it’s not, Kevin!’”
But less than a day of action has transformed the landscape of the debate. On Thursday, Sen. Jeff Flake was hailing the fact the Senate “Gang of Six” had a deal on the matter. By Thursday afternoon, that proposed deal was dismissed by the president, and by Thursday evening, the capital was embroiled in the fracas over arguably the most controversial remark by Donald Trump of his tenure. And Flake has quickly reverted to his role as the president’s foe, tweeting Friday morning: “The words used by the President, as related to me directly following the meeting by those in attendance, were not ‘tough,’ they were abhorrent and repulsive.”