The art of the small deal

The art of the small deal
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I have to admit President Trump has surprised even me recently with his willingness to reach across the aisle and work with Democratic leaders Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerData confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Democrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans MORE and Nancy Pelosi. Maybe he’s publicly castrating Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight Hillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans On The Money: Trump 'ready' for tariffs on all 0B in Chinese goods | Trump digs in on Fed criticism | Lawmakers drop plans to challenge Trump ZTE deal MORE, maybe he’s providing Republicans cover or maybe he just wants someone to like him. I’d be lying if I said I knew what was going on in Trump’s head. Whatever it is, I hope he keeps it up.

By successfully making deals that no other Republican has been willing to make, Trump is exposing the Republican Party and its leadership as frauds. He is exposing the ease with which politicians like Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanInterior fast tracks study of drilling's Arctic impact: report Dems unveil slate of measures to ratchet up pressure on Russia National Dems make play in Ohio special election MORE allow politics to be the enemy of progress and political expediency to be the companion of obstruction.

Say what you want about his character and his morals, but it’s clear Trump has repeatedly stared down his own self-inflicted abyss and managed to keep his grip on power. I don’t have to recount all of the scandals that would have ended anyone else’s career. If you are reading this, you are supremely aware. His newest survivable technique may be his most impressive and most predictable at the same time.

I’m not ready to call it a pivot or proclaim that this is the moment Trump became presidential. I’ll hold my applause until I see a sustained campaign of bipartisanship. What I will say is that if Trump masters the art of the small deal, the entire political process could be turned on its head. The man who began his career talking about “the art of the deal” looks to have been humbled by the bureaucracy of Washington and forced to adapt to “the art of the small deal.”

Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Dem senator ties Kavanaugh confirmation vote to Trump-Putin controversy Don't place all your hopes — or fears — on a new Supreme Court justice MORE made a similar pivot after his disastrous first year. While I’m by no means comparing Trump to Clinton, the latter famously saved his presidency by “triangulating” and working across the aisle to get legislation passed. Trump’s base may turn on him if they don’t get their red meat, but if he picks up some support from Democrats, Trump’s presidency could stay feasible.

The question we all have to wait to have answered, is how Trump’s Breitbart base responds to his Democratic outreach. His recent legislative agreements, including the Harvey aid package and debt ceiling raise look more like the political suggestions that I make on air than the policy prescriptions of his adviser Stephen Miller. Then again, we know the president watches a lot of Fox News, so maybe I wore him down.

The president knows that comprehensive tax reform and comprehensive immigration reform are off the table. He also knows that repealing and replacing ObamaCare has failed and that the wall on the Mexican border hasn’t been built. As Trump heads into the 2018 elections, the first real referendum on his presidency, he knows that he must have tangible results to show voters.

Deep down, I believe Trump knows that he is never going to get a physical wall built across our southern border. The problem is that his base does not, so what he must do is convince those voters that increasing the amount of troops on the border, combined with 21st century technology like virtual fencing and drones, is the functional equivalent. It’s a tough sell to make, but Trump sold himself as a populist, so it’s possible.

The Dream Act was twice voted down by Republicans under the Obama administration and skewered as another Democratic bill offering amnesty to illegals. Now that a Republican is in office and the GOP needs a legislative victory, the Dream Act is all of a sudden fathomable. Nothing has changed with regard to the language of the Dream Act. The only difference is that the hypocrisy and politicization by Republicans has been brought to light.

By combining the passing of the Dream Act with an increase in border security, Democrats get a big win, Trump gets a moderate win, and the president retains the ability to go after both sides for not giving him everything he wants down the road. Deep down, Trump is probably aware he will never be able to repeal and replace ObamaCare. Republican leadership certainly knew it. It’s why after eight years of saying they had a plan to gut it, Republicans were exposed as having no plan to repeal and replace it.

It’s why the only policy prescription by Republicans under this administration has been to sabotage ObamaCare through cruel administrative acts, such as not spending the advertising dollars to inform Americans when open enrollment is, not guaranteeing the cost sharing subsidies that stabilize the marketplace for insurers, and not convincing Republican governors to take the Medicaid expansion funds, which would have given 800,000 Floridians access to health care.

Reports indicate that the president may look to make “fixes” to ObamaCare, rather than move ahead with a full repeal and replace. These “fixes” would reverse many of the administrative policies sabotaging ObamaCare. This would be a small deal in terms of what he promised his supporters during the campaign, but it would have major implications for the health of Americans. Over time, premiums would decrease dramatically and marketplaces would thrive with a newfound sense of stability.

Trump ran on his supposed ability to make deals. He ran on a promise to shake up the status quo and transformationally change Washington. If he succeeds in passing incremental legislation through coalition-style governing, he could end his first year in office accomplishing all of his goals. As his first year comes to a close and the special counsel’s investigation threatens his legitimacy, the president’s only real option is to abandon majority-minority politics and focus on incremental progress.

He can’t stop the investigation, but he can turn public opinion. What we’ve learned about Trump more than anything else is that he is a survivor. He has survived multiple bankruptcies. He has survived several scandals. Trump’s political resilience may soon run out, but not without one last Hail Mary. In order to survive his current political storm, the president may have to make the most important sales pitch of his career, “the art of the small deal.”

Michael Starr Hopkins is an attorney and former member of the presidential campaigns of Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Trump was right to ditch UN’s plan for handling migrants Ex-White House stenographer: Trump is ‘lying to the American people’ MORE and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Anti-Trump protests outside White House continue into fifth night Opera singers perform outside White House during fourth day of protests MORE. He regularly appears on Fox News and CNN to talk about national politics. You can follow him on Twitter @TheOnlyHonest.