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Politics In The News: Trump's Deal With Democrats Catches GOP By Surprise


Let me turn us now from hurricane news to the stormy frontlines of national politics. Lots to talk about there, including the deal that President Trump has struck with Democrats. This is the agreement to provide billions in relief for victims of Hurricane Harvey. It also suspends the debt ceiling and government funding fight for three months. Jonah Goldberg of the conservative National Review joins me in the studio. Good morning, Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG: It's great to be here. Thanks.

KELLY: We are glad to have you here. I just called this a deal cut by the president and his new favorite Democrats, this Chuck and Nancy, Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. A lot of Republicans have reacted with horror to this deal. What's your take?

GOLDBERG: Yeah, I think part of the problem is, first of all, it's not really a deal, right? A deal...

KELLY: Why not?

GOLDBERG: Well, if you read "Art Of The Deal," it involves this thing where you, you know, go back and forth and negotiate. This is instead what my friend Seth Mandel of the New York Post called the art of the kneel, where basically in a sort of glandular, impulsive moment, Donald Trump just decided to take Chuck and Nancy's first offer. That is some fantastic negotiating there where you just take the opening bid at face value and agree to it. And I think that for a lot of Republicans and conservatives, the issue isn't so much the nitty-gritty of the policy, of a three-month delay. It's that it just shows his willingness to be so impulsive and not strategic and not think things through.

As a conservative who's a critic of Donald Trump, I always feared that he was sort of a Lonesome Rhodes in a better suit. It turns out he might be Chauncey Gardiner in a worse one. What I mean by that is Lonesome Rhodes was this populist...

KELLY: Yeah, I'm trying to get my head around that one.

GOLDBERG: Lonesome Rhodes was a populist demagogue in the movie "A Face In The Crowd" - wonderful movie - and a real threat. And Chauncey Gardiner was the hapless guy who didn't actually understand how Washington works in the movie "Being There." And so much of what Donald Trump has been doing has been sort of in-the-moment, impulsive things that he doesn't think through, and Republicans are now worrying that he just isn't someone they can deal with.

KELLY: Is it possible, though, that what he's thinking with this deal, you know, why he likes it, is that it opens the path to freeing-up time, freeing-up Congress to focus on some of the items of his agenda that he really wants to get done, like tax reform?

GOLDBERG: I'm sure he bought that argument from Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi. But the thing is he would have gotten Harvey relief anyway. And this puts the Republicans and the Trump administration in a more difficult position come December in negotiations because he just basically capitulated, and that'll make it much harder to do a debt deal in three months.

KELLY: Let me ask you about the second coming of Steve Bannon, or at least the post-White House Steve Bannon. He gave an interview to "60 Minutes" over the weekend. He made clear he's going to go after the GOP establishment in the 2018 elections. What's the strategy you see there?

GOLDBERG: I think the strategy is to get as much web traffic for his website as possible. I think we invest - this is supposed to be the grand strategist of the Trump administration, and he was fired because the Trump administration in part didn't get anything done. And he was taking too much credit for things that he did or did not do. Look, in 2010, in 2012, the Republican Party gave up some eminently winnable seats by nominating and primarying candidates and pick - and backing candidates that were embarrassing and not up to snuff. And if the Breitbart crowd wants to do that again, I just don't think that is going to translate into just, a lot of winning, as Donald Trump might say.

KELLY: In just a sentence, how much attention should we still pay to Steve Bannon?

GOLDBERG: A de minimus amount. (Laughter).

KELLY: (Laughter) OK. A de minimus sentence there. That's Jonah Goldberg of the National Review. Thanks so much.

GOLDBERG: Great to be here. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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