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President Donald Trump is looking for a congressional leader he likes. Mitch McConnell has been found wanting, so now the president is flirting with Chuck Schumer.

Trump sided with Schumer and Nancy Pelosi last week on an agreement to extend the debt ceiling for three months. The Republican leadership in Congress wanted a longer extension, worried that a short-term measure would give Democrats more leverage when it expires at the end of the year.

The agreement — plus Trump’s warm words about “Chuck and Nancy” and his reported delight over the positive press coverage of the deal — has driven speculation that Trump will turn to the Democrats in a bipartisan “pivot.”

If a partnership with Schumer is indeed Trump’s plan for a new phase in his presidency, he should think again.

It makes sense that Trump is tempted. His frustration with congressional leadership is, from his perspective, understandable. These are the pros who told him when he showed up in Washington that they had a plan and that he needn’t worry. So far, there’s nothing to show for it.

Trump feels some freedom to maneuver. He has a firmer grasp on Republican voters than anyone in Congress. If Republicans didn’t hate their own leaders, Trump never would have won the nomination or become president in the first place.

Personal affinity surely plays a role. Trump speaks the language of his fellow outer-borough New Yorker Schumer more than Paul Ryan, the earnest policy wonk, or Mitch McConnell, the masterly tactician.

Finally, Trump might believe that he can boost his sagging poll numbers by reminding people he’s a nonideological deal-maker and by getting things — anything — done.

A Schumer alliance is, nonetheless, a siren song. The debt deal wasn’t really a deal. It was a case where Trump could see some advantages — securing Hurricane Harvey funding, gaining some breathing space for tax reform — by simply giving in to Schumer and Pelosi. How often is that going to happen?

Maybe there could be a deal over a codification of DACA, with Trump again largely deferring to Schumer and Pelosi, or some creative infrastructure package. But there are limits to what Ryan and McConnell, who have considerable legislative power, would be willing to bring to the floor; they aren’t going to shift to the left just because Trump does.

And Schumer has his own priorities. He isn’t going to bless a “tax cut for the rich.” He’s not going to repeal Obamacare. He’s not going to fund the border wall. He’s not going to support the RAISE act, cutting levels of legal immigration. He’s not going to roll over on another conservative Supreme Court nominee.

The idea that Trump, who has been too inept to help his own party in Congress, will team up with perhaps the most deviously shrewd Democrat in the country and come out on top is difficult to credit. Schumer will milk Trump for whatever he can get — every tactical advantage, every bit of new spending — so long as he doesn’t give away anything important and doesn’t materially boost Trump’s political standing.

The dalliance with Schumer comes in the midst of the Republican push for tax reform. It can only add another layer of distrust and dysfunction atop an already-fraught relationship with the GOP leadership at a time when it is grappling with an enormously complex legislative task.

Indeed, the ultimate appeal to Trump of an alliance with Schumer must be the hope of escape from the chaos of his own governing style, which has been a drag on his own party. But there is no escape, whether Trump’s wingman is McConnell or Schumer, or, for that matter, Ted Cruz or Bernie Sanders.

The Senate minority leader may look alluring now. Soon enough, he will be just as unsatisfactory in Trump’s eyes as nearly everyone else in Washington.

Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail:


(12) comments


Schummer is one of the biggest slime balls in Washington. Trump should totally ignore him.


There you have it. The guy who uses "Climatehoax" declares somebody else to be a "slime ball". Time for you to take a schlumber, Climate. Or at least schlump off to some silent place, where you don't keep calling attention to your inadequacies.


Lowry has it back assward. Schumer shouldn't fall for Trump's "allure". Trump can't be trusted under any circumstances. He's a radical rightwingnut. And a white supremacist.


@ Crusader: Ten/four and spots on, took the words right outta me mouth,
and furthermore , perhaps you heard about : the "mic" being on,
which was hillarious, "cos what Schurmer said :("he likes me" or something), was totally, jokingly, in
Seemed everyone thought he was serious.
Too funny.


I hope I am proved wrong, but I can't see Trump doing a pivot on anything. He charges straight ahead in all things simply to serve his own interests and no one else's. I have a pretty low opinion of Lowry as a columnist, and I think this column is but another example of how inept he is. But I would gladly eat crow if Mr. Trump proves me wrong and starts working in the interests of the working and middle class. "using" Democrats and moderate Republicans to get things done.


He's a human DUMP TRUCK. Filled with junk from the bottom to the top.


Trump is like a jilted lover,
the "better half", will always be the worst half ,
even before they start.
Can ya say narcissist ?


Let's see now... the Republican majority have done little for several years and the Democrat minority is willing to talk and wants a place at the dinner table? Any CEO would try to reach the people that want something? Isn't that why people voted for Pres Trump? Why do we pay these people to represent us if nothing gets done? Another stockholders meeting is in 2018, and I hope more show up to that meeting!

Tim Russell

But... but...but.....Obama.


Well played, Tim.


This column reminds me of the numerous columns written by E.J. Dionne ministering to the GOP about what they need to do to win election and be more like Democrats. Thanks for this helpful advice! [rolleyes] Mr. Lowry, do you suppose Trump and the people around him haven't seen Schumer in action enough to know all of this? Thanks, Mr. Obvious!


Well, crank, it is refreshing to see you describe Lowry as Mr. Obvious. Lowry for the last few months has relentlessly trashed Trump for the president's obvious short comings of being ignorant, uninterested, oblivious, narcissistic and rudderless in terms of direction and ethics. So can we assume that you agree how obvious it is to the majority of Americans that we have a dysfunctional president? I think it is a bit of a stretch, however, that you presume that Trump has noticed anything about Schumer and Schumer's methods of working toward an agenda. Trump is too bored by details to think about such things. Brilliant use of emoticons, but the way.

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