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100 Days of Trump: Has establishment creep become a chronic problem in the White House?

Is President Trump (literally) playing with fire in Syria?

Ask a hundred people for their opinions on what should be done in the Middle East – and Syria specifically – you might get a hundred different answers. The issue is complex to say the least; everyone seems to know Trump CEOswho the bad guys are – basically everyone but the civilians caught up in the crossfire – but it isn’t at all clear which side should prevail and what would happen if the corrupt and brutal current President Assad is removed.

Politically speaking, there aren’t any “good guys” in Syria.

Many have suggested it’s best to stay out entirely. Others, like the neoconservative contingent of Republican senators – John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio – commended Trump for his Syria bombing run last week and encouraged him to do more. They’ve been beating the war drum for years seemingly having forgotten about what happened next door in Iraq under George W. Bush.

The “stay out” side argues persuasively that any unilateral action by the president to intervene militarily in this situation is unconstitutional, since it lies outside his enumerated powers to strike first only when there is a grave threat to America’s vital interests.

That obviously wasn’t the case in Syria. Sad as it is to say, a chemical weapons assault against innocent Syrian civilians presents no imminent and direct danger to the people of Pensacola or Peoria.

Further immersion of the United States military in the conflict would need a say so from Congress. It’s not clear that such leeway would be granted, though Trump would likely get some Democrat support for the notion.

It’s perhaps a minor consideration but Trump doesn’t stand to gain much politically from his possible Syria policy change, either. Niall Stanage of The Hill reports, “The Gallup daily tracking poll that measures Trump’s job approval has remained essentially static throughout the weekend, though one more day of polling will be required before the full effects of the Syrian strike are seen. In the poll released Monday, Trump’s job performance was disapproved of by 53 percent of adults, while only 40 percent approved.

“Gallup also found that 50 percent of adults approved of the action in Syria while 41 disapproved. But its polling director, Frank Newport, noted that those figures were ‘historically low compared with reactions to previous U.S. military actions.’”

In his article Stanage offered a few other polls with similar findings. A majority of the public appears to feel positively towards the strike but there’s clearly an undercurrent of worry that Trump’s bold action could lead to a broader commitment that would not be popular.

In other words, Trump risks much but gains little by moving closer to sending the military into Syria. The people would have little stomach for such a move even when images of dead children flash across American TV screens. It isn’t a lack of compassion on their part; it’s a feeling of helplessness in actually being able to do anything to end it.

Perhaps “compassion” is what led to the strike in the first place.

Caitlin Yilek of the Washington Examiner reports, “Eric Trump thinks his sister Ivanka played a big role in their father's decision to launch a missile strike on a Syrian air base in response to the government's use of chemical weapons on its citizens.

“’Ivanka is a mother of three kids and she has influence. I'm sure she said 'listen, this is horrible stuff.' My father will act in times like that,’ President Trump's 33-year-old son told The Daily Telegraph.”

Wars have been fought over less, and the president is entitled to choose his own advisers, but taking into account Ivanka’s feelings when pondering an action that ended up costing the United States taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars with the potential for much more is a little troubling, even for those who support the president, his family and his agenda.

Ivanka tweeted the day before the strike, “Heartbroken and outraged by the images coming out of Syria following the atrocious chemical attack yesterday.”

Ivanka sums up what everyone was feeling that day. But there aren’t many folks who command the undivided attention of the president and Ivanka is one of a privileged few. The fact she now has an office in the West Wing lends credence to critics who argue she isn’t qualified to be offering opinions on national security matters.

In saying so above, I sincerely hope Eric was merely standing up for his sister. Otherwise the noise surrounding Ivanka will only get louder.

As for Trump’s traditional base of support, further intervention in Syria will not be greeted warmly.

Patrick J. Buchanan wrote in The American Conservative, “[A]s in most wars, the first shots fired receive the loudest cheers. But if the president has thrown in with the neocons and War Party, and we are plunging back into the Mideast maelstrom, Trump should know that many of those who helped to nominate and elect him—to keep us out of unnecessary wars—may not be standing by him.”

This is serious business. At a time when the president needs backing from his most ardent supporters at home he’s in danger of losing it because of events unfolding literally half a world away. Conservatives understand the president has a compassionate soul and doesn’t want to see anyone suffering, but there are limits to the things even he can accomplish.

Donald Trump ran on a platform of putting America’s interests first. The “forgotten Americans” in the places Trump frequented during the campaign (the upper Midwest) want more emphasis on addressing the economic and cultural problems that made America less than “great” in recent decades.

These people are patient and willing to wait for results but they won’t remain compliant forever. If they perceive a new war in the Middle East is taking the president’s attention away from the issues he campaigned on, they’ll turn on him. Donald Trump’s presidency would be over.

If making America “great again” means resisting the temptation to help everyone everywhere, then that’s what Trump needs to do. Otherwise, he’s playing with a fire threatening to burn out of control and take down his presidency with it.

The establishment is out for Steve Bannon’s scalp; will they get it?

Every president receives a lot of advice from a wide variety of sources. Therefore he must pick and choose wisely as to the voices he trusts most to provide him good counsel.

Steve Bannon came onboard the Trump operation last August when things were at their worst for the would-be president. Together with Kellyanne Conway, Bannon helped turn around the Trump campaign, eventually building it into a winning machine that pulled off the most unlikely of upsets, defeating the Washington political establishment and earning the presidency as a prize.

Now there are those who claim Bannon is responsible for Trump’s recent political missteps and are calling for the former Breitbart publisher to be sent packing.

Edward-Isaac Dovere of Politico reports on one of those detractors. “To [Elliott] Abrams, this is a president realizing, now that he’s in the job, that he’s a lot closer to conventional Republican foreign policy, and—much to Abrams’ delight—is picking sides against Bannon in the raging West Wing ideological war over America’s place in the world. Having served in the George W. Bush administration and under Ronald Reagan before that, Abrams probably would have been waging those internal battles himself had Trump not overruled Tillerson at Bannon’s behest…

“The other pole in the White House is Jared Kushner, and Abrams is glad to see him winning against Bannon, knocking back those who attack the president’s powerful son-in-law and adviser using the same names he was called himself when helping lead George W. Bush’s Middle East policy through Iraq and beyond: ‘I don’t view him at all as an empire builder.’”

Just like potentially getting deeper involved in Syria is fraught with danger for President Trump, listening to old establishment neoconservative has-beens like Elliott Abrams is a probable minefield of trouble for the outsider commander-in-chief.

Not only does Abrams all-but represent the banished and disgraced Bush establishment Republican foreign policy, he was one of many former Bush foreign policy elites who were the most ravenous of #NeverTrumpers.

These were the “experts” who sniped at Trump from behind newspaper op-eds and tweets, claiming that an outsider could not just come in from nowhere and govern effectively. The job is “too big” for a man like Trump whose temperament and impulsive nature would only lead to disaster, they argued.

A good many of them are still uttering the same things about Trump though Abrams appears to have come around – at least into Kushner’s orbit. From the sound of Dovere’s relatively brief profile, Abrams just wants a job in the Trump administration – any job.

And he blames Bannon for keeping him from it. If that’s actually the case conservatives owe Bannon another debt of gratitude in faithfully steering the Trump ship as far away from the establishment shore as possible.

All of these attacks on Bannon were wholly predictable. It’s only natural the elites would look to Trump’s most trusted “outsider” aide to impugn for anything that’s gone wrong thus far in Trump’s historic presidency. Bannon is an easy target because he’s openly hostile to the establishment and the media alike.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t gone unnoticed in conservative circles that Trump has been moving closer to the Republican establishment of late, first siding with Reince Priebus and Paul Ryan on the inadequate Ryancare bill and now with the neocons in the Syria matter. If this trend signals a switch away from the sound advice Bannon has been providing Trump it will definitely hurt the president politically because Bannon alone understands Trump’s voters.

Robert Barnes wrote in American Thinker, “Should Trump ever lose Bannon entirely, Trump is a lame duck.  Some media suggest that Trump could replace Bannon with Jared Kushner.  Jared Kushner is to Steve Bannon what Dan Quayle was to JFK…

“Lose Bannon, lose the country.  Lose Bannon, lose the presidency.  Trump needs to bet on Bannon, or it will be time to no longer bet on Trump.”

You can’t be president and govern effectively without public support. Trump absolutely must hang on to the backing from his unique and non-re-constructible base. Jared Kushner (Ivanka’s husband) no doubt cares about his father-in-law’s presidency and legacy. But if Kushner and people like Abrams are successful in dragging Trump away from conservatives and handing him over to the establishment, everything Trump originally campaigned for would likely be lost.

It’s safe to say most people were initially drawn to Trump because he poked a proverbial finger in the eyes of the Jeb Bushes and Mitt Romneys of the political world. It wouldn’t do him any good to cast off Bannon and join the elites now. Only political disaster awaits; people would drop Trump in droves.

Barnes is right; Bannon is arguably the key to Trump’s presidency. We can only hope Trump realizes it before it’s too late.

Trump likely won’t get far in appealing to Democrats to help him pass his agenda

President Trump has been saying it a lot lately – he wants to work with Democrats.

No doubt Trump must say something of that nature; it’s part of the job of president to at least give lip service to the notion of “working together” to benefit everyone. Heck, even Obama used to dribble about working with Republicans to get things done from time to time…but he never actually did it.

Is Trump serious? One of his top advisers says he is.

Kyle Feldscher of the Washington Examiner reports, “White House counselor Kellyanne Conway urged Democrats to come to the bargaining table with President Trump on legislative issues and thinks they may be key to getting Trump's legislative agenda passed.

“On Fox News Tuesday, Conway said bipartisan work on tax reform and infrastructure will be key to getting the administration's proposal through Congress. She said working with Trump could be key to some Senate Democrats' re-election chances.”

“Key” must be the operative word.

Conway also indicated the administration wants Democrat input on healthcare. Good luck getting that since not a single Democrat expressed a willingness to work with Trump a month ago when the healthcare battle was raging.

Needless to say I haven’t been too impressed with the Democrats’ efforts of late to provide political guidance to Republicans on Russia and the Gorsuch confirmation issues, so Conway’s advice to Democrats should probably equally be taken with a grain of salt.

It’s true, working with Trump on major issues would seem to be in the red state Democrats’ best interests. But since when have Democrats ever taken sound advice in the first place? Only three Democrat senators voted for Gorsuch last week – and he was about as “mainstream” as you’re going to get.

It should be noted Ronald Reagan had to work with Democrats to get elements of his agenda passed early in his first term. He was forced to; upon entering office Reagan faced a fairly sizable Democrat majority in the House. If conservative Democrats weren’t inclined to help him back then with issues such as tax cuts, they wouldn’t have happened.

But the days of the two parties working cooperatively together on certain issues are long gone. To borrow from the advertising slogan, this isn’t your father’s Democrat party. They’ve morphed into an ideologically leftist front group interested only in fundamentally transforming America.

As I’ve suggested before, there simply aren’t enough “moderate” Democrats around anymore to work closely with and there certainly aren’t any that would be considered “conservative”. Even West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin sides with his Democrat colleagues a good amount of the time.

It only makes sense for Trump to try and appeal to Democrats when he perceives his own party as being incapable of coming to agreement on certain items of his agenda. Whether the Democrats will lend a helpful ear is another matter entirely.

Trump would be better off leaning on the so-called “moderates” of his own party to get in line. There’s a much greater chance of success there. The fields are much more fertile in Republican-land; the crops die on the vine where Democrats are involved.

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