After President Donald Trump struck a short-term deal with Democratic leaders in Congress to fund the government and lift the debt limit for three months, media figures and outlets asserted that the deal is evidence that Trump is an “independent” and “not an ideological president.”
Trump concedes to Democratic wishes on the debt ceiling, rejecting a Republican plan
Trump sided with Democrats to strike on a deal debt limit and funding the government. President Donald Trump struck a deal with Democratic congressional leaders House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on September 6 to increase the debt limit and fund the government for three months, according to The New York Times. The Times noted that by accepting the Democrats' offer, Trump “blindsid[ed] his own Republican allies” and “signaled that he was willing to cross party lines to score some much-desired legislative victories.” From the September 6 Times article:
President Trump struck a deal with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday to increase the debt limit and finance the government until mid-December, blindsiding his own Republican allies as he reached across the aisle to resolve a major dispute for the first time since taking office.
The agreement would avert a fiscal showdown later this month without the bloody, partisan battle that many had anticipated by combining a debt ceiling increase and stopgap spending measure with relief aid to Texas and other areas devastated by Hurricane Harvey. But without addressing the fundamental underlying issues, it set up the prospect for an even bigger clash at the end of the year.
In embracing the three-month deal, Mr. Trump accepted a Democratic proposal that had been rejected earlier in the day by Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin. Mr. Trump’s snap decision at a White House meeting caught Republican leaders off guard and reflected friction between the president and his party. After weeks of criticizing Republican leaders for failing to pass legislation, Mr. Trump signaled that he was willing to cross party lines to score some much-desired legislative victories. [The New York Times, 9/6/17]
Reporters and pundits declare Trump “independent” after short term debt ceiling agreement
Fox News’ Mo Elleithee: Trump is “not a partisan or an ideologically driven kind of guy.” Fox News contributor Mo Elleithee claimed that no one “should be all that surprised by,” Trump’s decision “to cut a deal with the Democrats," because Trump “proved during the campaign that he was not a partisan or an ideologically driven kind of guy.” From the September 10 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.’s Fox News Sunday:
CHRIS WALLACE (HOST): Mo, extending the debt limit and funding for just three months, how much leverage does that give Pelosi and Schumer?
MO ELLEITHEE: Look, I think Brit [Hume] was right in that the president has just lost a lot of leverage moving forward, and the Republican Party has just lost a lot of leverage moving forward. I don't think anyone should be all that surprised by what the president did for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is he proved during the campaign that he was not a partisan or an ideologically driven kind of guy. He was the kind of guy who was going to kind of look out for himself first, and here he was with the ability to cut a deal with the Democrats that would be completely antithetical to what his own party would want. And, frankly, antithetical to what he himself in the past had said. Right, it just wasn't that long ago that he was out there tweeting, attacking Republicans in Congress when they did a four-month deal to extend the debt ceiling difference, saying he was a terrible negotiator. [Fox Broadcasting Co., Fox News Sunday, 9/10/17]
Fox News’ Bret Baier: The president is “not dogmatic. He's not ideological. ... He is about the win.” Fox News anchor Bret Baier remarked that people should “not be surprised,” by Trump’s concessions to Democratic leaders because the president is “not dogmatic” or “ideological,” but rather, “he is about the win.” From the September 8 edition of Fox News’ America’s News Headquarters:
HARRIS FAULKNER (HOST): Are the Democrats more reliable than the people in your own political party for the president?
BRET BAIER: Listen, the president clearly has expressed himself on Twitter and in interviews and speeches saying that he's frustrated with the GOP leadership, with the GOP establishment. And that he’s -- and he suggested in the Cabinet Room yesterday that he's ready to change the dynamic, to shake things up. People should not be surprised about this. We've had a day and a half of kind of absorbing what happened in the Oval Office with the GOP and Democratic leadership. But he talked about this in his inauguration speech, that what matters is not what party controls government, but that the government is controlled by the people. He's not dogmatic. He's not ideological. He is about the W. He is about the win. And sometimes, day-to-day, it depends on which team you're going to turn to. [Fox News, America’s News Headquarters, 9/8/17]
CNN’s David Gregory: Trump is “not an ideological president.” CNN political analyst David Gregory argued that “there's always been the promise that Donald Trump … would buck his own party,” adding that Trump’s deal with Democrats in Congress is “evidence” that, “He’s not an ideological person, he’s not an ideological president.” From the September 8 edition of CNN’s New Day:
ALISYN CAMEROTA (CO-HOST): OK David, let's talk about this somewhat surreal new bond, newfound friendship between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. I mean, their names to Donald Trump's base, Schumer and Pelosi, are like synonymous with the bogeyman. But Donald Trump seems to be -- I mean, The New York Times this morning is reporting how much he's enjoying the media coverage, saying he's forging this new sort of bipartisan spirit. It's impossible, obviously, to ever predict what President Trump will do. But this is shaking things up in Washington in an interesting way.
DAVID GREGORY: Look, I think there's always been the promise that Donald Trump is so unpredictable that he would buck his own party, that he would make things uncomfortable for Democrats, he would make things comfortable for them, he'd work with them. He's not an ideological person, he’s not an ideological president. We're seeing some of the evidence of that. [CNN, New Day With Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota, 9/8/17]
NY Times: Trump’s is “in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system.” The New York Times suggested that Trump is “in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War.” The Times also wrote that Trump “abandoned Republican congressional leaders,” and showed that he “does not feel beholden to his party” by making a deal with Democrats. From the September 9 article:
Now in the White House, President Trump demonstrated this past week that he still imagines himself a solitary cowboy as he abandoned Republican congressional leaders to forge a short-term fiscal deal with Democrats. Although elected as a Republican last year, Mr. Trump has shown in the nearly eight months in office that he is, in many ways, the first independent to hold the presidency since the advent of the current two-party system around the time of the Civil War.
While some conservatives complained about the apostasy of cutting deals with Senator Chuck Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, others applauded his assault on establishment Republican leaders like Speaker Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky. By the week’s end, pundits speculated about whether Mr. Trump might seek re-election in 2020 as an independent.
But it showed that Mr. Trump does not feel beholden to his party. “I never viewed Trump as a strict adherent to Republicanism,” said Ned Ryun, a Trump supporter and founder of American Majority, which trains political activists. “He gave Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell almost nine months to get something accomplished, and all they accomplished was to really remove all doubts about their legislative incompetence.” [The New York Times, 9/9/17]
AP: Trump “now appears unbound by ideology and untethered by party allegiances.” The Associated Press alleged that Trump’s deal with Democrats displayed that he is “unbound by ideology and untethered by party allegiances.” From the September 10 article:
A president who spent months catering to the Republican conservative wing now appears unbound by ideology and untethered by party allegiances.
It’s not a complete surprise to his fellow Republicans. They long have worried that Trump, a former Democrat, might shift with the political winds. But Trump’s overtures to Democrats have left Republicans in an awkward and perplexing position, undercut by their leader and unsure of what’s next. [The Associated Press, 9/10/17]
Daily Caller contributor Brian Joondeph: “Trump is not a partisan ideologue. ... he is a deal maker.” Daily Caller contributor Brian Joondeph asserted that Trump’s deal with Democrats in Congress is evidence that the president “is not a partisan ideologue,” but rather “he is a deal maker and wants to get stuff done.” From the September 8 piece:
Trump is not a partisan ideologue. Once a Democrat, he is now a Republican. His beliefs and agenda are far more aligned with Republicans than Democrats but ultimately, he is a deal maker and wants to get stuff done. Executive orders have their limits. Legislation is the only lasting solution. The GOP Congress is not delivering and Trump has had enough.
The GOP chooses to snooze. And as Mitch and Paul recently learned, they will lose. Along with the Republican Party. [The Daily Caller, 9/8/17]
Wash. Post’s Robert Costa: “In spirit, Pres. Trump isn't a Democrat or a Republican. He's a freewheeling, transactional pol who looks for wins.”
In spirit, Pres. Trump isn't a Democrat or a Republican. He's a freewheeling, transactional pol who looks for wins. https://t.co/HAEfKyXJDT
— Robert Costa (@costareports) September 9, 2017
In reality, Trump is governing like a “conventional Republican president”
NY magazine's Jonathan Chait: Trump “has governed almost exclusively as an orthodox movement conservative.” New York magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote that while Trump “undermined his own party” in the debt ceiling negotiations, Trump “has governed almost exclusively as an orthodox movement conservative.” From the September 7 article:
Yesterday, an impatient and irritable President Trump undermined his own party’s negotiations and agreed to to a debt-ceiling increase on a timetable proposed by Democrats. At that point, all hell broke loose. The far-right wing of the Republican Party irrationally blamed Paul Ryan for the debacle. But just as irrational has been the response of the Republican Establishment, which has likewise used the deal as a pretext to unleash pent-up recriminations.
What made the debt-ceiling compromise so noteworthy is that it represents the first time Trump bargained with the opposing party in any meaningful way. He has governed almost exclusively as an orthodox movement conservative. Trump has done nothing on trade, has abandoned his plan to spend a trillion dollars on infrastructure, has thrown his support behind any repeal or rollback of Obamacare that Congress could pass (which turns out to be nothing), is trying to pass the largest regressive tax cut possible, and has diligently slashed regulations on business.
From the perspective of these conservatives, Trump’s fealty to right-wing orthodoxy was decidedly inconvenient. The debt ceiling presented a rare opportunity for them to present Trump as the figure they cast him as all along: the New York Democrat posing as a conservative Republican. The fact that they had to wait seven and a half months to find an example of his ideological heresy — and that the case they found was the picayune issue of a three-month debt-ceiling increase versus a six-month debt-ceiling increase — itself disproves their point. [New York, 9/7/17]
Political science professor Richard Skinner: “Donald Trump increasingly seems to be governing like a conventional Republican president—albeit one who is showing signs of incompetence.” In a post for Brookings, political science professor Richard Skinner explained that Trump “seems to be governing like a conventional Republican president--albeit one who is showing signs of incompetence and contempt for governing norms,” adding that Trump has “largely prioritized the most traditionally Republican items on his agenda.” From the May 3 post:
Donald Trump increasingly seems to be governing like a conventional Republican president—albeit one who is showing signs of incompetence and contempt for governing norms.
So far, Trump has largely prioritized the most traditionally Republican items on his agenda. His one major accomplishment has been the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. His greatest defeat has been the failure of the American Health Care Act—the ignominious outcome of years of GOP war against the Affordable Care Act. Trump’s budget was written by an OMB director taken from the House Freedom Caucus, and with its draconian cuts in domestic spending, reads almost like a caricature of conservative governance. His Cabinet is mostly filled with Republican stalwarts. His economic proposals are heavy on tax cuts and deregulation. His abrupt shifts on Syria, NATO, and China have been mostly in the direction of GOP orthodoxy. By contrast, his populism has been almost entirely limited to rhetoric.
But if Trump’s administration has been surprisingly conventionally Republican in his policies, it has also been notably incompetent. [The Brookings Institute, 5/3/17]