Trump is trolling conservatives. Here are 4 theories why.
Posted 11:34 a.m. Thursday
Updated 1:18 p.m. Thursday
The news that President Donald Trump appears to be nearing a deal with Democrats to protect those undocumented immigrants covered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program is the second time in the last week in which he has openly broken with the base of voters who got him elected.
Last week, when Trump cut a deal with Democrats that funded the government, raised the debt ceiling and secured funding for victims of Hurricane Harvey, conservatives grumbled. When Trump referred to the top two Democratic congressional leaders as "Chuck" and "Nancy," they harrumphed. But now, with Trump working with Democrats to extend a program that conservatives view as "amnesty," conservatives are shouting.
"At this point, who DOESN'T want Trump impeached?," conservative pundit Ann Coulter tweeted Thursday morning in response to a Trump tweet defending the so-called "Dreamers" that DACA covers.
"I think something is going to have to be reversed here with the President's policy or it will blow up his base," warned Rep. Steve King, an immigration hardliner, on CNN's "New Day" Thursday. "The base will leave him. They can't support him anymore."
Breitbart News, the media site run by former Trump aide Steve Bannon, hung the moniker "Amnesty Don" on Trump following Wednesday night's dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
What explains Trump's willingness to purposely poke his activist base in the eye -- particularly after he spent his first seven months in office seemingly looking to placate them at every turn? Here are a few theories:
1) He's sick of Republicans
Trump has made no secret of his frustration with Republican congressional leaders -- and their alleged lack of ability to deliver -- over his brief tenure in the White House. He has publicly attacked at least 11 GOP senators since he became a candidate for president in June 2015 and, as recently as this summer, Trump raised questions about whether Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should stay on if he couldn't get more legislation passed.
McConnell and Trump, stylistically, are oil and water. And Speaker Paul Ryan, a self-styled policy wonk, doesn't have much in common with Trump, either. Schumer, on the other hand, is a New York guy -- like Trump -- through and through.
2) He likes good headlines
Trump's guiding principle in all things is how the media is covering it. He cares deeply about how his speeches and policies are being reviewed in the media. And he likes good headlines more than any man who has held the White House before him.
Seen through that lens, last week was a huge moment for Trump. For one of the first times in his presidency, a move he made drew some laudatory press. Reports coming out of the White House late last week painted Trump as ecstatic with the press coverage he was receiving for the debt ceiling deal.
So he wanted more good press. More adulation for being a deal-maker. And he had a blueprint of how to do it. Which he followed.
3) He's basically not ideological
Trump rose to the Republican nomination by pitching himself as a hardline conservative. But anyone who spent five minutes with his public statements prior to his presidential bid knew that Trump was not then and is not now an ideologue of any sort. He is someone driven far more by the desire to make deals than he is in a certain set of beliefs.
Most successful politicians are fungible in their beliefs about lots and lots of issues. But, usually, they have a certain core set of beliefs on which they are unwilling to bend. Trump is not like that. Everything is negotiable. Everything.
4) He likes being unpredictable
Time and time again during the 2016 campaign, Trump touted his own unpredictability -- in contrast to what he said was politicians' tendency to be predictable in ways that made the US weaker.
Trump revels in the upsetting of expectations, zigging when everyone else expected him to zag. What could be more unpredictable than the man who went to war with his own party over building a wall on the southern border pivoting to cut a deal (or a potential deal) with Democrats to allow DACA recipients to stay in the US -- without any border wall money being attached!
Think of Trump as a reality TV star. What's good for ratings are unexpected twists and turns -- out-of-nowhere storylines that upend the whole show. And boy oh boy is this an unexpected twist.
Knowing Trump, it could be none of these reasons that is driving him. And/or by this afternoon, he could change the deal or scrap it entirely.
Stay tuned! The next episode is sure to be a doozy!