Divorce papers were filed last week. Whether they ever are signed, sealed and delivered is a different matter.
The marriage between President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans already was strained when he cheated with Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. That came in the infamous Oval Office meeting with the Democratic leaders and the GOP duo of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan. After being wooed by both sides, Trump accepted the Democrats’ proposal — continue funding the government for three months, lift the debt ceiling for three months, and approve $15 billion in emergency aid for victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
Democrats exulted at getting everything for nothing, Republicans seethed amid their shock.
But they shouldn’t have been surprised. The unexpected is inevitable, given Trump.
Back in November, five days after Trump’s stunning victory, I wrote about delirious Republicans salivating at being able to finally push through their agenda and Democratic protesters taking to the streets in despair, and concluded, “Both sides are kidding themselves if they think they know what’s going to happen.”
Trump enjoys being unpredictable. In an arena populated with people assiduously pursuing long-sought goals, he’s a day trader eyeing the moment, and moments are mercurial. Just as important to Trump is his image as a dealmaker. And last week, confronted with prospective partners at war, he saw a path and made a deal.
Pelosi said Schumer was able to talk New York to Trump, and there’s some truth to that. Trump seems more simpatico with Schumer than McConnell or Ryan and that’s important for a guy who acts on feelings and relationships.
He also likes to dominate and humiliate, thinks McConnell and Ryan are weak and disloyal, and hasn’t forgiven them for the failure to repeal Obamacare. So Trump picked the blue door to: 1) get aid quickly for Harvey and Irma victims, 2) get a legislative win, and 3) embarrass McConnell and Ryan in front of their Democratic nemeses, right after Ryan called Schumer’s proposal “ridiculous.”
In this episode of world-turned-upside-down, the man the president labeled the “head clown” and “Cryin’ Chuck” and the woman he called “incompetent” — together, The Obstructionists — are now “Chuck and Nancy.” That’s what Trump now calls them.
And he accedes to Pelosi’s request to tweet reassurances to the Dreamers, one day after rescinding the Obama-era program that gave those child immigrants protection. And he says he wants to work with Democrats to legalize the program. And he shakes hands repeatedly with Schumer and praises frequent critic New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during a meeting with metropolitan area officials on the $30 billion Gateway project for a badly needed rail tunnel under the Hudson River. And insiders speculate that he might seek deals with the Dems on infrastructure, immigration and taxes.
A new normal? Schumer said he hoped their agreement was a “metaphor for the future.” But Trump isn’t much of a poet.
The left is mad at Schumer and Pelosi for abandoning even temporarily the 24/7 resistance. The right is angry that Trump gave Democrats all the leverage to press their issues come December, when their votes will be needed on the debt ceiling and budget. That could bring the dream-nightmare scenario: The holidays come and under Trump’s tree is a permanent lifting of the debt cap, new legal protections for Dreamers, more spending and a propped-up Obamacare.
But that’s three months away. Watching Trump is like watching a carousel. The little red horse you admired might have just disappeared. But wait — eventually, it’ll come back around.
Michael Dobie is a member of Newsday’s editorial board.