Summer’s almost gone, but romance is still in the air over Pennsylvania Avenue. Nancy Pelosi’s dancing the night away with the devil at the White House, and Chuck Schumer, the chaperone, is making himself right at home on Donald Trump’s sofa. That’s Mitch McConnell sitting off to the side by himself, trying to figure out whether to look chagrined or cheery. Or at least not as superfluous as he feels.
Fresh from cutting a deal over DACA, which he says was not a deal before he agreed that yes it was a deal, the president wants to move on to a tax-reform deal, which, like DACA, could be a deal before it is not a deal. Nobody ever said the Donald is not flexible.
He may even one day be a Democrat again, and “Chuck and Nancy,” as the Donald calls them now, will have to take back a lot of nasty things they’ve said about him. Nancy might take the lead from a San Francisco constituent, who told the Los Angeles Times, “if Democrats can work with him to accomplish something, they should, even though I think he’s an idiot.”
Some Republicans who feel trifled with are not happy with the president’s warming himself at the enemy’s fire. If flirtation blossoms into a romance, who knows where it could go? Since there’s no one on the Democratic horizon for 2020, could fusion beckon in the Donald’s imagination? Big fantasies, as we know, grow there.
What a kick in the pants that would be for everyone. The romance recalls a conversation Winston Churchill had with Joachim von Ribbentrop, the Nazi ambassador to the Court of St. James as Europe was beginning to darken in the 1930s. “This time,” the German ambassador said, “we’ll have the Italians on our side.”
“That’s only fair,” Churchill replied. “We had them the last time.”
As unlikely as a Schumer-Pelosi-Trump menage might be, it’s not difficult to see how attractive it could be to all three. Nothing the Democrats have thrown at the president has landed with effect. Democrats still argue that he’s unfit to be president. With nothing to show for his celebrated deal-making, he has not even a single piece of legislation accomplished. His campaign was in cahoots with the Russians, but Robert Mueller, the gunslinger brought in from Cheyenne, seems to be inquiring into everything but cahootery and is ranging as far afield as to ask tenants whether the plumbing works in his rental real estate. The Donald’s a Klansman in his heart of hearts, hooked on the ghost of Robert E. Lee, and he lets his wife wear heels to a hurricane.
None of those spitballs worked, and contempt for the president least of all. His approval rating is edging upward, not by much but a little, and if there’s a landslide building for next year the side of the mountain should be trembling by now. The goodies the party elders have held out to tempt the masses — free college educations, a $15-an-hour minimum wage, and now Medicare for everybody — aren’t moving anyone. Pollsters are learning, in fact, that there’s exhaustion, and maybe a little boredom, with the incessant sniping at the president.
The pollsters tell Politico they’ve been shocked by how many voters are telling them that they’re fatigued by the chaos in the wake of the pursuit of the president. Worse for the Democrats, the president is still shaking up the system, with the elites on the run, and voters like that. The economy is definitely improving, the stock market is enjoying exuberance, excessive or not, and the president is getting credit for it, deserved or not. “People do think he’s bringing about change,” says the Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who worked for Mr. Obama, “so it’s hard to say he hasn’t kept his promises.”
Anson Kaye, a political strategist who worked for both Mr. Obama and Hillary Clinton, agrees. “What you’re seeing is this thing the Democrats cannot seem to figure out, this notion that somehow if we just put the words together correctly that will be the winning message. That is the opposite of how the voters are behaving.”
For his part, the Donald just wants a little loving from somebody who understands him, and some congressional success to prove it. If Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan can’t come across, maybe Chuck and Nancy will. He’s confident, as reckless lovers always are, that he can get a little action on the side and still be welcome at home.
If his latest word about DACA is the truth, he gave up his border wall and all he got for it is a dance with Nancy. He may pay more than a dime for it.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.