The first three weeks of Trump’s presidency have been a disaster. Every fear about Trump’s competence has been realized in the first 23 days of his administration: He is overmatched, surrounded by infighting lightweights, and seems to have no idea what he’s doing. Every day brings a new example of incompetence—on Sunday, for instance, it was reported President Trump discussed how to respond to a North Korean missile launch in a public dining room at his Mar-a-Lago estate.
But Republicans in Congress, however warily, are sticking by their man. Trump is still hugely popular among Republicans—despite being historically unpopular with everyone else—which means that crossing him could lead to a primary challenge. And Congressional Republicans have justified their support for Trump by suggesting that he will ultimately deliver regulatory and tax reform—freeing the GOP’s wealthy constituents to make more money—and a conservative Supreme Court nominee. So they may as well grin and bear it.
Now they even have a slogan. Here’s The New York Times on Republicans’ “accomodate—not confront” strategy:
After three weeks in the White House, Mr. Trump has made clear that he is going to continue promulgating conspiracy theories, flinging personal insults and saying things that are plainly untrue. And the Republican-controlled House and Senate seem to have made a collective decision: They will accommodate — not confront — his conduct as long as he signs their long-stalled conservative proposals on taxes, regulations and health care into law.
“There’s a widely held view among our members that, yes, he’s going to say things on a daily basis that we’re not going to like,” said Senator John Thune of South Dakota, the third-ranking Senate Republican, “but that the broad legislative agenda and goals that we have — if we can stay focused on those and try and get that stuff enacted — those would be big wins.”
Republicans have moved the goalposts again, eroding ethical and political norms in the hope that Trump will deliver the kinds of reforms they’ve been dreaming of for years. Similarly, Thune’s quote also indicates that Senate Republicans, at least, think that they can enact their agenda in spite of Trump. To be fair, he signs whatever is in front of him. But with distractions coming from the White House on an hourly basis, the deal congressional Republicans made with Trump looks worse and worse every day.