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Long IslandPolitics

How alienation became Trump’s theme of the week

President Donald Trump looks at an empty chair

President Donald Trump looks at an empty chair set for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer after the New York senator canceled their meeting at the White House on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2017. Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Jim Watson

Art of the snark

President Donald Trump was supposed to meet Tuesday with Democratic leaders in Congress in a bid to find the minimal common ground needed to avert a government shutdown Dec. 8.

But first, Trump chose to malign them on Twitter. Without citing facts, he charged New York Sen. Chuck Schumer and California Rep. Nancy Pelosi with seeking higher taxes, higher crime and illegal immigration, sniping: “I don’t see a deal!”

So Schumer and Pelosi canceled what they said would have been a “show” meeting. If the president has a strategy in mind with this alienation, no official was explaining it. One observer called it “zero-dimensional chess.”

Piling on later, Trump sat next to empty chairs and called his party opposites “all talk” before adding: “Now it’s not even talk. Now they’re not even showing up to the meeting.” Pelosi and Schumer said they’ll negotiate instead with GOP legislators.

Vague assurance

The president said the U.S. “will take care of” the latest challenge from North Korea — the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile that landed in waters to which Japan claims exploration rights.

“It is a situation that we will handle,” Trump said ambiguously. Whether he, the State Department or the U.S. military have a coherent plan to respond remains unclear, as before.

Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a meeting of his national security council. The new standoff comes as nuclear professionals question how effective Kim Jong Un’s systems would be if North Korea were attacked.

‘Needs to grow up’

Marty Thompson, whose great-uncle was among the Navajo veterans honored Monday at the White House, sounded not so much insulted as concerned about the lack of decorum Trump showed with his “Pocahontas” sneer.

“He can say what he wants when he’s out doing his presidential business among his people,” Thompson said, “but when it comes to honoring veterans or any kind of people, he needs to grow up and quit saying things like that.”

Trump chose the venue to renew his mockery of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who once laid a dubious claim to Native American roots. Trump critics found this a good time to recall that the president used to claim his old-country roots were Swedish, not German.

Separately, the president on Tuesday took new shots at the National Football League.

On the puzzle page

After Trump met with Republican senators at the Capitol, as reported by Newsday’s Tom Brune, the Senate Budget Committee voted 12 to 11 to advance a controversial tax-cut bill that includes a sharp reduction in corporate and business tax rates, and breaks for some individuals. A full floor vote could come as early as Thursday.

Changes are still expected before anything is signed into law.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said afterward it is a “challenging exercise” to pass the bill.

Concerns include how it balloons the deficit and hits low-income Americans.

“Think of sitting there with a Rubik’s cube, trying to get to 50 [votes],” McConnell said.

What else is happening

  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson defended his efficiency moves against those who see him as gutting his department.
  • Democrat Doug Jones is far outspending Trump-backed Republican Roy Moore in the hot-button Alabama special Senate election, with national implications for both major parties.
  • Trump has donated to Project Veritas, the political stunt operation that tried to punk The Washington Post with a phony Roy Moore story.
  • Demonstrators are expected to revisit the Head of the Harbor residence of billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer in a tax-related protest.
  • The White House won a decision in federal court in its bid to take over the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau.

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