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On the roster: Why are Dems happy when Trump drops unpopular positions? - Trump floats plan to slash corporate tax rate - Poll: Blue team leads on midterms, but not by much - House, Trump in showdown over Russia documents - Dip-can ring costs extra
WHY ARE DEMS HAPPY WHEN TRUMP DROPS UNPOPULAR POSITIONS?
Democrats are cackling over the apparent walking back of the Trump administration on an initial demand that a stopgap funding measure due this Friday include some money for President Trump’s promised “big, beautiful wall.”
Do they really suppose that any large number of people would be upset by this? Don’t they understand by now that taunting Trump for reversals on over-the-top campaign talk is for, ahem, losers?
As we have discussed at length, Trump seemed for a time to share his political opponents’ and media critics’ obsession with his neglected campaign promises. So much so, that for a period of time a potentially protracted partial government shutdown seemed to be in the offing.
That scenario would go like this: Trump and his most loyal lieutenants in Congress would block funding for the government through September if it did not include money for the Great Wall of Arizona. Democrats would then be able to demand more and more lavish concessions from the GOP in order to prevent or end the shutdown.
But today, we hear that Trump’s pet project can wait for full funding in the budget this fall and that the president and his team can live with some non-wall border security enhancements – the same kind of technological and staffing improvements proposed by leaders in both parties in the past.
The increasingly likely scenario seems to be that while there might be a brief technical or symbolic shutdown this weekend, the chances of the real thing are fading.
Democrats cry, “Ah-ha!” Because Trump will back down on this, they say, he is betraying the people who elected him.
But remember a few things. First, Trump never promised a brick-and-mortar wall across the entire U.S. southern border. A good hype man always leaves plenty of wiggle room in his sales pitch. Second, no one paying attention ever thought that such a wall, or anything like it, would ever be built or that somehow, fantastically, Mexico would be made to pay for it. Third, the wall itself is not the point.
There may be some Trump supporters so credulous as to still believe that the federal government will spend tens of billions of dollars sealing off the U.S.-Mexico Border like East Berlin and West Berlin. And there may even be some so credulous who believe that Mexico will pay for such a structure.
This group would be so small, though, as to be politically irrelevant. Very relevant, however, are the large number, perhaps even a majority, of Americans who favor greater border security. There’s a reason the past two presidents have emphasized that issue.
We’ve seen this movie before. Democrats were also cackling when the president scuttled TrumpCare amid Republican divisions over his health-insurance program.
Was it wise then for members of the blue team to be happy that Trump was tossing over a campaign promise? Not if it was an unpopular one. As poll after poll shows, Americans have little appetite for the repealing and replacement of ObamaCare and would rather problems with the existing laws be fixed.
Democrats delight in seeing Trump drop that particular rock, at least for the time being, seems strange. Sensing danger, Trump scurried away from the poorly received plan. We are told that a replacement for the replacement will be arriving soon, but for the time being, at least, Trump has managed to not only avoid an unpopular promise he made to win his party’s nomination but also stick conservative Republicans with the blame.
If Trump can get increased border security spending, tout dramatic decreases in illegal border crossings and take credit for increased internal enforcement of immigration laws, who exactly, beyond those credulous few, would be upset? Furthermore, who would be upset by a delay or decrease to his much-vaunted but largely unpopular wall? And to drop it rather than cause a damaging shutdown? C’mon.
Democrats imagine headlines about Republican infighting. But instead, conservatives remain mollified by Trump’s Supreme Court pick and moderates are happy about his shifts toward a more traditional foreign policy, so the moment for GOP civil war is not yet upon us.
Instead, the headlines will look more like this: “Trump abandons crazy-sounding plan you hated.”
Politicians make the mistake of believing that somehow voters treat their promises and palaver with some greater respect than that of their competitors. Nobody likes to think of themselves as a huckster. So it is probably particularly painful for Democrats to come to terms with the fact that American voters are coming to look at Trump like they do most other politicians: a guy who says what you want to hear.
So the blue team ought to be very careful in taking any victory laps about Trump adopting more popular policies. Voters care increasingly little about hypocrites in politics given the electorate’s assumption that the condition is now universal.
THE RULEBOOK: ON THE MERITS
“The Union here was far more intimate, and its organization much wiser, than in the preceding instance. It will accordingly appear, that though not exempt from a similar catastrophe, it by no means equally deserved it.” – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 18
TIME OUT: YOUR GENIUS IS SHOWING
Nat Geo: “Who is a genius? This question has fascinated humankind for centuries—and it bedeviled us in putting together the cover story of this month’s issue. … Why is it that some people are so much more intelligent or creative than the rest of us? And who are they? That’s where the trouble begins. When editors here first gathered portraits to create a gallery of geniuses past… the uniformity was obvious—and unsettling. In the sciences and arts, statecraft and literature, philosophy and industry, those hailed as geniuses were most often white men, of European origin. … A study recently published by Science found that as young as age six, girls are less likely than boys to say that members of their gender are ‘really, really smart.’ Even worse, the study found that girls act on that belief: Around age six they start to avoid activities said to be for children who are ‘really, really smart.’”
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Trump net job-approval rating: -14.4 points
Change from one week ago: -2.4
TRUMP FLOATS PLAN TO SLASH CORPORATE TAX RATE
Politico: “President Donald Trump is expected to propose slashing the corporate tax rate to 15 percent on Wednesday, as the White House unveils its first stab at a tax plan … Cutting the corporate rate to such a low level would allow Trump to follow through on a campaign promise that has been months in the making – even if policy experts argue that getting to that rate is impossible to do without imposing a new levy like a consumption tax, or blowing a hole in the deficit. … A tax cut to 15 percent for corporations is likely to receive a mixed reaction from Congress, which must approve any overhaul of the tax code. Some Republican lawmakers will be thrilled to bring the corporate rate that low as a nod to helping businesses, while others will worry about the proposal’s potential to add to the deficit. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said Monday that a cut to 15 percent could be hard to achieve.”
Buuuuttttt… Conservatives wary on the details - WashEx’s
David Drucker writes: “Washington insiders hungry for tax reform are bracing for President Trump to unveil an agenda light on details and scaled back from the ambition of his 2016 campaign…. A White House turf war over tax reform has contributed to the confusion and uncertainty about the president's position. Soon after Trump won the election, he chucked the tax reform plan developed by his economic advisors on the campaign. A battle among his top administration aides ensued for influence over what form a new plan would take. Former Goldman Sachs executive (and Democrat) Gary Cohn, the president's chief economic advisor, eventually muscled out another Goldman Sachs alum, Steven Mnuchin, for possession… Mnuchin and other senior administration officials were scheduled to meet with Republican leaders in the House and Senate Tuesday on Capitol Hill to discuss what's next for tax reform.”
POLL: BLUE TEAM LEADS ON MIDTERMS, BUT NOT BY MUCH
NBC News: “A new poll from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal shows that 47 percent of registered voters say they would prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress after the next midterm elections, while 43 percent say they would like to see Republicans in charge. While Democrats have a four-point edge at this very early stage, their advantage still falls short of the double-digit lead they held on the same question shortly before their big electoral victories in 2006 and 2008.”
HOUSE, TRUMP IN SHOWDOWN OVER RUSSIA DOCUMENTS
The Hill: “The Trump administration has denied a request from the House Oversight Committee for more information on payments that former national security adviser Michael Flynn received from foreign governments, including from the Kremlin-backed television station RT and other Russian firms. Legislative affairs director Marc Short argued that the committee was requesting both documents that are not in possession of the White House because they involved Flynn's activity prior to President Trump’s January 20 inauguration and others that involved sensitive information. ‘It is unclear how such documents would be relevant to the stated purpose of the committee's review, which according to your letter is to examine Lt. Gen. Flynn's disclosure of payments related to activities that occurred in 2015 and 2016, prior to his service in the White House,’ Short wrote in a letter dated April 19, sent to committee leaders.”
Flynn’s payments from Turkey had Russia ties, too - Politico: “The Turkish man who gave Mike Flynn a $600,000 lobbying deal just before President Donald Trump picked him to be national security adviser has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin, according to court records. The man, Ekim Alptekin, has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri ‘David’ Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government, according to three people with direct knowledge of the activities. This unusual arrangement… raises questions about both the agenda of the two men and the source of the funds used to pay the lobbyists.”
Dems gripe about short-staffed Russia probe - Roll Call: “Democrats may be frustrated about the pace of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election… A congressional source familiar with the committee’s work noted in particular the reported concerns about the Intelligence panel not having a full time staff for the investigation. … The Daily Beast had reported that there were just seven ‘part-time’ staff members working on the Russia probe. … A source said there would be complications getting additional staff members the needed clearances and access from intelligence agencies to documents that had previously only been accessible to … the group of top congressional and intelligence committee leaders.”
Trump admin to impose 20 percent tariff on some Canadian lumber - WSJ
Don’t reporters carry notebooks anymore? Right-wing media complains about cell-phone ban for meeting with Trump - The Hill
In first foreign visit as U.S. representative, Ivanka Trump embraces “feminist” label and equality for “all genders” - Politico
Talking point alert: White House whispers emphasize harmony between Bannon and Trump family - The Hill
Controversial Trump advisor on Islamism Sebastian Gorka walks out on Georgetown forum - Bloomberg
GOP House members push Trump on religious liberty executive order - USA Today
Trump’s pick for trade representative advances to full Senate vote - AP
“I would rather convince the Republican Party to do a better job when it comes to all LGBT issues than to try to convince the Democrats to lower taxes and lower regulations and let our country thrive economically.” – Caitlyn Jenner said in an interview with Tucker Carlson on Monday night.
FROM THE BLEACHERS
“Considering that President Eisenhower's place in the pecking order of Presidents is going up every year, can he really still be considered a ‘caretaker’ President?” – Raoul Lowery Contreras, San Diego, Calif.
[Ed. note: What’s wrong with taking care?!? You’re referring, of course, to my answer to Marcia Stone on Monday about whether Trump will be successful or not. In our Presidents Day edition, we outlined four basic categories of federal chief executives: agents of change, captives, stewards and figureheads. The steward category includes some pretty good company: James Madison, Martin Van Buren, James Garfield, Calvin Coolidge and Harry Truman are all in that neighborhood. And being an agent of change also has to do with the moment. As we wrote at the time: “[Abraham Lincoln] is something of an anomaly since he sought to be a steward of the founders’ vision but threw himself into a remaking of the office – and the republic – when the Civil War began.” Change is only good when it’s needful and productive. Eisenhower showed courage, foresight and humility as a leader and a steady hand in an era where the world was being remade. I recommend highly the new Ike book by my colleague, Bret Baier, which puts in perspective Eisenhower’s lasting gifts to the republic. Remember always that historians, like journalists, tend to favor presidential activism because it is more interesting and dynamic. But that doesn’t mean that it is better.]
“[On Monday] you said ‘And remember, if Democrats win the House next year, they will almost surely impeach Trump.’ What would be their reasoning/excuse for this action?” –Connie McGrath, Wilmington, N.C.
[Ed. note: Well, that presupposes that they would offer a valid reason, or one that you would find valid, anyway. Democrats thought that impeaching Bill Clinton for lying about and covering up his assignations with a 21-year-old intern was more than a little specious. But the Constitution leaves wide latitude for the House in bringing impeachment charges, only that they be for “high crimes and misdemeanors.” That’s a wide enough berth for partisans to drive a truck through – if they have the votes. Who knows what outrages, real and perceived, will be on the ledger by the time Democrats could take control of the House? But certainly, we know that the hatred among Democrats for Trump is certainly at least equal to that which the GOP had for Clinton 20 years ago. In hindsight, though, I probably should have added a “try” to the sentence from Monday. Unless Democrats ride a huge wave, any potential House majority would be pretty slender.]
“You guys are right in that the 100 day ‘Window of Opportunity’ of whatever you want to call it has no bearing on the Trump Administration, and should never have been advertised as all important. … It is considerably more important for The President to get it right than get it fast at this stage of the game; and Congress must understand that, so when 100 days pass and The Donald's agenda is as yet incomplete, they can collectively sigh and say in unison... ‘So what!’” – James W. Herzog, Spartanburg, S.C.
[Ed. note: In legislating, like joke telling, timing is everything. And though they opened on a groaner, there’s no reason to think that like Democrats in 1993 and 1994, Republicans can’t straighten themselves out and put an agenda on the table. Then they just have to hope that what they do is more popular than what the Democrats did that led to their 1994 rout…]
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DIP-CAN RING COSTS EXTRA
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AND NOW, A WORD FROM CHARLES…
“People accept the barrier idea, but if you look at the polling on the wall, I think the Democrats have the advantage. I don't particularly understand why anybody would object to a barrier of any sort at the border, even if it is marginally effective.” – Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”
Chris Stirewalt is the politics editor for Fox News. Brianna McClelland contributed to this report. Want FOX News Halftime Report in your inbox every day? Sign up here.