President Trump’s decision to cuddle up with Democrat leaders to make a deal on the debt ceiling Wednesday was reportedly made because of Trump’s desire to be loved — after he came to the conclusion that “people really fucking hate me.”
Axios reports that Trump, who has spent much of his life seeking the adulation of Manhattan liberals, has fallen back on his weakness for flattery and desire to be loved. A Trump adviser told the outlet that he has realized “people” (presumably the elites he was so cozy with in his days as a real estate developer) don’t like him and he looked for a way to fix that.
This reportedly led to the deal he made this week with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), wherein he cast aside the advice of top Republicans and his White House aides and agreed to a three-month extension of the debt-ceiling tied to funding for Hurricane Harvey.
It is also possible that Trump is using the deal as a way of declaring his independence from the Republican leadership. Trump is frustrated with congressional Republicans for failing to repeal and replace Obamacare and has repeatedly expressed his willingness to work with Democrats if Republicans will not play ball. As Breitbart News’s Joel Pollak has noted:
By working with Democrats, Trump can bypass the Republican leadership, GOP moderates, and personal foes like Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). However, it also means that he can cobble deals together between liberal Republicans and the Democrat minority, leaving conservatives out in the cold.
However, referring to “Chuck and Nancy,” after the deal was made, Trump has struck a cozy pose with the two former rivals, reportedly calling them up to wax lyrical about the positive mainstream press coverage the move got. MSNBC’s Morning Joe has been particularly glowing about the deal, and is likely to have influenced Trump’s thinking as to how the deal was received.
He also sent out a tweet promising illegal immigrants who had been granted amnesty under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — which Trump claimed to have repealed Tuesday — that they had nothing to worry about. This tweet reportedly came at the request of Pelosi.
Axios reports that what it describes as a “bear hug” of Pelosi and Schumer opened his eyes to a solution for his need for affirmation: “Stop doing things that people hate, and start striking deals.”
Those close to Trump who spoke to Axios said that while Trump often drifts in his approach, this gives Trump an opportunity to blame Republicans for his past problems while pleasing “the kids and New Yorkers” — presumably a reference in part to Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Since the departure of former Chief Strategist Steve Bannon — now, once more, the Executive Chairman of Breitbart News — there are few in touch with Trump’s base in the West Wing. Instead those with Trump’s ear are likely to favor a more “moderate” approach and even a full embrace of Democratic policies.
Trump has often shown his willingness to depart from Republican orthodoxy, especially in areas such as trade, infrastructure, and immigration. However, his departures have normally been to embrace a more nationalist approach — not to snuggle with Democrats.
Yet for those thinking this may be some sort of “4D chess” Trump is playing, the Axios report splashes cold water on those hopes, saying that this was no ideological move but instead a move to pick up positive media coverage.
“He just wanted to do something popular,” a senior administration official told Axios. Yet it remains to be seen how long Democrats are willing to work with Trump, and how long such a honeymoon can last.
This comes just a few weeks after it was reported that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly is restricting the flow of conservative media reports to Trump — such as Breitbart News and the Daily Caller — where coverage of the debt ceiling deal is somewhat less euphoric.