August 6, 2017

Sunday School 8/6/17

This Week,  I spent some time in the ABC classroom, hanging with George Stephanopoulos and the gang.

The guests this week included the unwatchable Kellyanne Conway doing what only she can do the way she does; and Senators Thom Tillis and Chris Coons, who put forward one of the Mueller protection bills I wrote about the other day.

The roundtable is where we'll focus today. Participating were Matt Schlapp from the American Conservative Union; Obama communications director Stephanie Cutter; Bloomberg Businessweek's Megan Murphy, and National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru.

Stephanopoulos started by asking what's going on with the Republicans, using the term 'divorce' to describe the situation.  Schlapp answered first.
Well, you're seeing a lot of division amongst Republicans that started in the primary season and is going forward. There's so much political change. Definitely I can tell you on the Republican side I actually see a lot of change going on, on the division on the Democratic side as well. 
But what you also see is a real constitutional disagreement between the legislative branch and the executive branch. Now, that's baked into the cake that they're supposed to have disagreements, but you see Republicans we run the whole show, yet there are real differences in these branches. And Donald Trump is kind of testing things that we haven't seen before.
Cutter chimed in next.
You know, I think Matt is the expert on the Republican party, but I think what's also happening is that there's -- people are losing confidence in him as the leader of the party.  And you can see people pulling away. John McCain's quote in that story is classic - that people smell weakness basically with this president. And I think the president understands this and knows that he's losing right now, which is why he goes to West Virginia to rally his base. 
 Stephanopoulos moved on to economic numbers, pointing out to Megan Murphy
No question that the economy is... you know, chugging along pretty well in the same fashion it did under President Obama. Yet the president - 61 percent disapproval.
Murphy noted that Trump's numbers were good, even if the jobs growth is slower than the last two years of Obama's presidency, and then reminded us of some nuance in the numbers.
Here's one really important fact for the president: among people without a high school degree who are over the age of 25, their participation and movement into the labor market is actually the strongest it's been since 2011. That's a huge factor for him, as we see people who voted for him get jobs and we see wages tick up. We see among lower income, lower wage earners, that is really starting to be more robust than higher income workers. That will help him. And that is what matters. So despite the chaos and the politics, among people's pocketbooks, it's possible -- it's actually possible - that we see the wage growth really helps him.
Stephanopoulos wondered if there was a bottom to Trump's ratings. Ramesh Ponnuru responded.
There has been no national crisis over the last six months. The president has achieved these sorts of approval numbers without anything external to the administration causing problems for him. And I think that has got to be a cause of serious concern for Republicans. 
One of the reasons he is not having the sway among congressional Republicans, and even among his --in his own administration that you might expect is that his popularity is so low. 
They talked about General Kelly - and seemed to think he was making progress, noting that the trick to being a good chief of staff is not to control the president, but to control what happens around the president. They talked about the transgender tweet, and the disagreement of pretty much everyone of importance at the Pentagon, and about immigration and how Trump's support of the RAISE bill plays to his white working class constituency, one of the few things he's done that targets them.

And of course they talked about Bob Mueller and the investigation; the most interesting part, I thought, was this, again from Megan Murphy:
Well, that's why this impaneling the grand jury is significant, not that it's any surprise. He has got 16 all-start prosecutors with him. We know this was a serious, complex investigation. But what's going to be interesting is we're going to see from the kind of witnesses, the kind of leaks we're going to get out of this, and the kind of material they're looking at, are they focusing it squarely on possible obstruction, possible collusion with Russia, or are they expanding their scope to look at some of the financial dealings that were made, possibly not even within the Trump family, but with broader people that are around him. That is what we are likely to see... These are prosecutors (Mueller has hired) who are the most sophisticated at looking at mob ties, looking at complex financial fraud that we have seen. Make no mistake - and it is within the scope of his investigation to look at that. 
On all fronts - Trump's agenda and ratings; immigration; General Kelly; and Mueller, things are starting to get pretty interesting as we head into the August vacations of Congress and the president.

See you around campus.

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