Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Trump Whisperer

Photo via Robert Costa.
A weird little sidelight to the discussion of Obama's meeting with Trump on Thursday: at the same time as it was taking place in the Oval Office, White House chief of staff Denis McDonough was out taking a walk on the White House grounds with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Last time Denis McDonough made news going for a walk on the White House grounds, it was with Obama himself, on August 30, 2013, when the president decided not to ask Congress for an authorization to use military force in Syria, so it sounds a little momentous.

Politico, focused as ever on handicapping the palace intrigue as it relates to titles and pecking orders, speculates that Kushner could be in line for the chief of staff job himself, which is of course completely wrong, because forbidden by Title 5, §3110 of the US Code, representing the Federal Anti-Nepotism Statute of 1967 preventing any federal official hiring a relative to a position the official supervises or manages. No cigar, Politico!

I can imagine something else, building on our own speculation on Thursday over here, that inside the Oval Office the president made clear to Trump exactly how desperate his situation was, how little he could trust the fools and ideologues by whom he was surrounded, and what he needed to do to escape from the next four years with some of his dignity intact, which would be to do whatever Obama tells him, or as Trump told the press after the meeting,
 I very much look forward to dealing with the president in the future, including counsel. He’s explained some of the difficulties, some of the high-flying assets and some of the really great things that have been achieved. So Mr President, it was a great honor being with you, and I look forward to being with you many, many more times in the future.
What was going on between Kushner and McDonough would have been another aspect of the same negotiations, with the same message, focusing on its mechanical aspect. Kushner won't be chief of staff, but he will be a very important unpaid adviser, Trump's link to the haut monde whose approval he yearns for and never gets, and he can serve this relationship as well.

Steve M today is noting that Trump's suddenly favorable views on parts of the Affordable Care Act seem to be connected to the Oval Office meeting, as I suggested might happen (he says parts, the provisions on pre-existing conditions and children on their parents' policies up to age 26, but as Jared Bernstein among others points out you can't have those without the rest, and I think President Obama knows that), and thinking about how susceptible he is to the advice of whoever speaks to him last before he makes an important decision, and suggests
that's how Barack Obama can save America, or at least salvage some of what needs preserving: He should make it his goal to speak to President Trump as often as possible, and be the last person to talk to him about every important issue.
He should be, Steve says, the president whisperer. I'd add there's some hope that this is already happening.

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