Aug 18, 2017

New GOP fear: Trump slump legislatively, in stock markets

White House staffers sound dejected and deflated. They're not surprised; they're not mad. They just realize that President Trump, self-indulgent and self-destructive, has wound up in a cul-de-sac of his own making.

Their new fear: An erratic Trump — with few friends, and fires all around — will get nothing of consequence done legislatively and roil markets, thus undoing the one consistently good indicator of '17.

  • After folding its other two business groups, the White House on Day 210 threw in the towel on forming a President's Advisory Council on Infrastructure — giving up a key tool for building outside support for the legislative priority with the most prayer of drawing some Democratic support.
  • In the last week, Trump has attacked more Republican senators than Democrats — including the party leader.
  • Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was a possibility to be Trump's vice president, called for a "radical" White House shakeup, the latest sign of Republicans willing to go to war with their president.
  • Then Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican in the Senate, told Vice News that Trump's "moral authority is compromised": "I'm not going to defend the indefensible."

That's one day. When he's on vacation:

  • CNN's Steve Collinson: "Trump drives his few political friends away."
  • L.A. Times lead story: "Trump puts shrinking base before healing."
  • N.Y. Times, top of col. 1, "Volume Rising In Nativist Talk From President."

On the stock market's worst day since May (Dow off 274 points, or 1.2%), CNBC and Bloomberg TV speculated all day about whether economic adviser Gary Cohn might resign because of Trump's Charlottesville remarks:

  • Swan moved markets when he reported authoritatively that Cohn was staying.
  • The Cohn obsession is a proxy for doubts about Trump. One guru called Cohn "the security blanket for Wall Street … the alpha adult in the room": "There's this fear that if he leaves, there'll be a domino effect."

Sound smart: The markets are so fragile that the mere rumor of a senior staffer leaving rattles confidence and prices.

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