Axios's Mike Allen reports:
Exhausted by the Trump presidency? Brace yourself: White House officials expect Trump to be even more outrageous and cocksure in coming months.
What we're hearing: Officials tell us Trump seems more self-assured, more prone to confidently indulging wild conspiracies and fantasies, more quick-triggered to fight than he was during the Wild West of the first 100 days in office.
* Imagine Trump if he signs a huge tax cut into law, which seems likely, amid soaring stocks and rising economic growth.
* Imagine if Roy Moore wins in Alabama, which seems likely, too. It surely won't humble Trump — or hem him in.
Allen goes on to describe the last few days as "the most unthinkable 96 hours of Trump's reign." Really? They just seem like more of the same, although maybe cranked up to 11. How can Trump possibly become worse than he's been?
By openly embracing Nazism? By unleashing goon squads to beat up journalists and other critics? It could happen, but I remain skeptical. Trump still seems willing to push the envelope only so far. His administration is doing horrible things, but it's doing them using conventional levers of government -- pushing an unspeakably awful tax bill, putting up unqualified extremists for judgeships, politicizing the oversight of mergers. It's like a national version of the Scott Walker or Sam Brownback governorships. It's not Hitler, even though it's appalling.
Trump seems to have grasped his role in all this: He says and tweets outrageous things that mostly have nothing to do with the governing process, we all react, he gets ego gratification, heartland white voters get thrills up their legs and remain loyal to the GOP -- and Congress works with his White House team to radically transform America. It's taken a year, but the key players on the GOP side have found their niches.
Allen notes that congressional Republicans are acting happy now:
Elected Republicans, at least in public, seem fine with it all. They chuckle and say it's simply Trump being Trump. White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and his staff seem fine with, or at least resigned to, this reality. No one who matters is doing anything but egging him on.
* Case in point: Amid all of this, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) calls Trump "one of the best presidents I've served under."
* Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) gushed that he's never seen Trump in finer form than digging into the tax bill this week.
I suppose Hatch and Graham know that he loves flattery, but I also think they know that it's working now -- the tax bill is likely to pass. It's an untraditional way of getting the sausage made, but they'll take it.
Over at Politico, Rich Lowry Is also content:
... Trump’s presidency operates on a largely separate track than his Twitter feed and his other off-script interjections and pronouncements. His domestic policy is so conventional that it could have been cooked up by Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell—and, in fact, it was. He’s pursued a largely status quo foreign policy....
It’s possible that Trump sees Twitter—and his other provocations—as a way to stir the pot, entertain himself, stoke his base, flog his enemies, and vent his frustrations separate and distinct from decisions of government, undertaken under the influence of, by and large, impressive, well-meaning advisers.
Trump’s presidency is much better than his Twitter feed.
I don't believe he's calculating about this -- I'd say he's more intuitive. But it's working now. He'll keep distracting us with shiny-object tweets, not because he truly grasps how they affect the process but because they please him, and the country will be handed over to plutocrats and other interest groups on a completely separate track. It's working now.
crossposted from No More Mr. Nice Guy