For the last few months I have found myself starting the day by checking CNN to see whether or not Donald Trump has launched America into war - possibly even nuclear war. It's as if I am reliving the 1960's where in school we did ridiculous "duck and cover" drills in the hallways and classrooms, except now the fear of a first launch lies with the White House. In short, Trump has brought a nightmarish element to daily life, and that's not even counting his war on LGBT Americans. Thus, it gives me some pleasure to think of things that may cause Trump his own nightmares and aggravations in the coming year. A piece in Vanity Fair looks at five issues that could cause Trump headaches - hopefully, far worse - in 2018. Here are article highlights:
The self-sabotage of the man [Trump] continues to astonish because it takes so many new and unexpected forms. Because Trump’s outbursts are unpredictable, so are many of his headaches. (For example, had he not impulsively fired James Comey from the F.B.I., he could have avoided a drawn-out investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller.) But some of his headaches for 2018 can be predicted in advance. Here are five to expect:
1. Democrats will be less open to deal-making. When Trump got into office, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats greeted him with a detailed infrastructure proposal, hoping to split Trump from Republicans and to get something passed on terms more favorable to them. Had Trump taken it up with a counterproposal and reached a compromise, he could have enjoyed praise for a bipartisan moment (one that wouldn’t have bothered his own base), played Santa Claus, and maybe even gotten a few miles of his border wall started. He likewise could have worked with both parties to fix Obamacare and called it “repeal and replace.” Republicans would have been no less eager to do tax reform later.
Now, however, Democrats will be less willing to negotiate. They see the midterm elections coming in November and anticipate winning back the House—possibly, despite long odds, even the Senate. So why not wait to cut a deal until they can get something better? . . . . a primary focus of Democrats this year will be on making Donald Trump and his allies look bad.
2. Robert Mueller sticks around. According to The Washington Post, people close to the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller say they expect Mueller to keep up his digging for another year.
If Mueller wants to get anywhere with making a case against Trump, therefore, he’ll need Democratic majorities in the House and, ideally, the Senate. As long as Mueller is eager to show something for his work, or if he’s filled with outrage over Trump, he has every incentive to move glacially in 2018. Congressional Democrats probably aren’t the only ones who are making calculations with the midterms in mind.
3. Someone has to blink on DACA. In March, immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children start to lose the protections offered by DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), which Barack Obama formalized by executive action in 2012. Between now and then, both Trump and the Democrats face a moment of brinksmanship, and each side is trying to figure out who has the upper hand.
Trump wants to legalize DACA recipients permanently in exchange for ending what is often called chain migration—meaning migration of not just spouses and kids but also of siblings, parents, cousins, and uncles—and the “diversity visa,” meaning citizenship by lottery for some 50,000 people. He also wants a border wall and further interior enforcement mechanisms such as “E-Verify” employment eligibility checks.
4. Paul Ryan wants to cut entitlements. Cutting entitlements has long been an obsession among a sizeable faction of Republicans, and House Speaker Paul Ryan is a sincere believer in the cause. Does Trump want to do this? No. He did not run on it—quite the opposite. But Ryan very much wants to do it.
Ryan seems to be willing to stake everything getting his priorities accomplished, which is surely a reason why he’s signaling that 2018 will be his last year in office. . . . . Trump would probably love to swat away Paul Ryan, but the speaker of the House holds a lot of cards, and Ryan seems to play them better than people think.
5. Confrontation with Iran and North Korea will be . . . unnerving. Nikki Haley seems to be leading a charge to ramp up conflict with Iran. She has the support of many hawks on this, including some in the White House.
North Korea claims it has become a nuclear power. Trump’s people claim not to believe it. If North Korea is allowed to keep arming up with nuclear weapons, then Japan and South Korea may follow suit. That would be dismaying, but killing millions trying to stop it would also be dismaying.
Those seem to be Trump’s choices on Iran and North Korea, and signs he’ll make the wise ones aren’t all that promising. But let’s pretend they are. For a new year, it’s a better note to start on.