Stories

The other Trump

Trump slices the air with his hand at an immigration meeting
Photo: Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

President Trump enjoyed yesterday's episode of "The Trump Show": He played the president he sometimes fantasizes being — a post-partisan leader, bigger than Republican or Democrat, a celebrity dealmaker with no firm attachments, who’d overwhelm Washington through the sheer strength of statecraft and deal-cutting genius. A real Davos man. P.T. Barnum with a pulpit. 

His presidency hasn’t lived up to that vision. Trump’s victories have been partisan victories — unwinding regulations, appointing conservative judges, withdrawing from the Paris climate deal, passing a Republican tax bill and repealing the cornerstone of Obamacare. 

But Trump yesterday showed the side we often hear about from behind closed doors:

  • He opened an immigration negotiation session to reporters for 54 minutes. During the meeting, he floated that he wanted a comprehensive immigration deal — something that scares the living daylights out of the right wing of his party. (N.Y. Times lead story: "Trump Receptive to Working Out Citizenship Path ... 'I’ll Take the Heat,’ He Says, Seeming to Back a Broader Deal.")
  • He lamented about how the two parties don’t get along, and can’t cut deals like they did in the good old days.
  • He said that maybe Congress should bring back earmarks — a.k.a. “pork” — another Republican apostasy.
  • We learned that he'll attend Davos — the clubby globalist conference in Switzerland (60 heads of state or government, plus top CEOs and over 1,000 leaders from civil society, academia and media).

Why this matters: When Trump is in these moods, he’s at his most unpredictable (and therefore most dangerous, in the eyes of Republican leaders.)

  • Trump is in the middle of high stakes negotiations to avoid a government shutdown, and his lack of attachment to any ideology or principles means he could easily veer into Chuck and Nancy’s arms.