During Ronald Reagan’s 1966 California gubernatorial run, he frequently used what became known as his “Eleventh Commandment.” Quoth The Gipper: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
For his part, President Trump has chosen to stick with the original Decalogue handed down to Moses back at Mount Sinai. In fact, the commander-in-chief has worked with some diligence to chisel Reagan’s favorite commandment off of the stone tablets. Among the very long list of Republicans who have felt Trump’s wrath since he took office include Bob Corker, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake and Mitch McConnell. Even members of his own administration aren’t immune, as Jeff Sessions discovered.
In fact, given that The Washington Post noted in August that Trump feuds with GOP figures on Twitter more than he does Democrats, one could almost accuse the president of being a detriment to the party. However, according to Trump, there’s a method to the madness — its his way of getting a stuck Congress to work toward implementing the conservative agenda.
The president made the remarks during an appearance on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” Interviewer Maria Bartiromo noted that “even your supporters say you know, ‘he has fantastic policies, we want to see this through, but the bickering and the feuding actually gets in the way.’
“So obviously the feuding with Senator Corker, I think there’s a personal thing going on between you and Senator McCain, do you worry that this bickering and feuding gets in the way of your agenda?” she asked.
“No, and sometimes it helps, to be honest with you,” the president said.
“We will see what happens in the end. I think actually sometimes it helps. Sometimes it gets people to do what they are supposed to be doing and you know that’s the way it is. I just want what’s right. And I think, for the most part, they want what’s right too. So we will see what happens. But I do believe we have the votes for health care at the appropriate time. And I think that we’re going to have the votes for taxes.”
Watch below: (Relevant portion begins at 4:12.)
Now, whether or not this policy — an unusual one, to say the least — will work is anyone’s guess. Early returns have been mixed. Health care clearly didn’t go the way any Republican wanted it to, but part of that was because of the sheer unpreparedness of the GOP congressional caucus — something that the president seems to believe he can change through confrontation. Tax reform is in the nascent stages, but the effort seems more organized and focused than repealing Obamacare did. That is, I will grant you, a low bar, but it’s something.
Nevertheless, attacking Republicans going into one of the most crucial midterms in modern history isn’t just terra nova, it’s one of the riskier strategies we’ve ever seen from a president to get their agenda through.
If it works, you can plan on hearing another round of stunned silence from the media and 4D-chess references from the president’s supporters. After all, after years of controlling Congress, Trump would be the guy who would get the credit for spurring them on to do their job.
If it all ends in tears, however, Trump’s gamble against the “Eleventh Commandment” may be the one dispute with the GOP that the president can’t smooth over or recover from.
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