On Sunday, in the midst of the final push for votes on President Trump’s tax reform bill — a bill that is vital to both Republican House chances in 2018 and Trump’s re-election effort in 2020 — Trump decided it was vital to lash out at Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ). Flake is a frequent Trump critic, and said over the weekend that if the future of the Republican Party belonged to Donald Trump and Roy Moore, the future of the party was dark indeed. Trump responded in classically Trumpian fashion:
This tweet was sandwiched between two tweets chastising LaVar Ball, the father of LiAngelo Ball, the UCLA player briefly detained in China following an arrest for shoplifting, whose freedom Trump secured. LaVar had refused to thank Trump out of some act of idiotic pique. Trump, in return, suggested that he should have left LiAngelo to rot in China for awhile:
This tweet paid deep and loving homage to Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, delivered the same day some century and a half ago.
So here’s the big question (the littler ones being “why does Trump use scare quotes this way?” and “is he really everyone’s favorite president?” and “why does he think Jeff Flake is on some guy named Mike?”): is this great political strategy?
President Trump assured us during the campaign that he was a master negotiator, that he’d make great deals. Making great deals involves getting those who disagree to agree. It usually doesn’t involve pre-emptively driving away the person on the other side of the table for mussing your sense of self-importance. And it certainly doesn’t involve distracting yourself with the nearest squirrel during a final legislative push.
Yet that’s been Trump’s consistent pattern. During the final health care push, Trump spent the week on Twitter blasting away at his own attorney general, Jeff Sessions. During the second round of closing negotiations on health care, Trump spent the week talking about kneelers in the NFL. Now, during the final health care negotiations, he’s actively alienating a potential vote he’ll need — and a vote who has no re-election to face, and therefore no need to please Trump.
Trump’s tweets may be hilarious fun for his base (I mean, Jeff Flake(y)?), but they’re not particularly smart for a guy who brags about his dealmaking expertise.