Paul Brandus: Trump’s taking a page from the Bill Clinton playbook

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US President Donald Trump passes former President Bill Clinton while leaving Statuary Hall in the US Capitol after the Inaugural Luncheon following Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, in Washington, DC, on January 20, 2017.

Quick: What do Bill Clinton and Donald Trump have in common? A: They’re both Democratic presidents who got off to lousy starts.

OK, OK, Trump’s ostensibly a Republican today—but he spent years as a registered Democrat and said more than a decade ago that “In many cases, I probably identify more as Democrat.” So why should anyone be surprised that he’s getting all chummy now with what he calls “Chuck and Nancy” (as in Senate Minority Leader Schumer and House Minority Leader Pelosi)?

Also read: Trump’s deal with ‘Chuck and Nancy’ may improve chances for his legislative agenda

Republicans are shocked. Really? Trump said he’d be disruptive, said he’d shake things up, said he’d do things differently. What’s more different, in this hyper-partisan political era, than a president elected as a Republican snubbing Republican leaders of the House and Senate to their faces in the Oval Office, cutting off his own Treasury Secretary mid-sentence—and then hoping into bed with the opposition? The MAGA crowd wanted a disrupter, and they got one.

Republicans are furious at Trump. How could he betray them and their party like that? Because he’s not one of them and never has been. Privately, it just fuels the contempt that GOPers have had toward Trump from the day he declared his candidacy. They didn’t want him to win, never expected him to, and deal with him now because he commands a base that would—by Trump’s own reckoning—forgive him if he went out on Fifth Avenue and shot the place up. That base appears to be fraying a bit on the edges, but the core remains solidly behind the president—and Republicans who can’t stand him know it.

Here’s why Trump bolted. Because he is like Bill Clinton in this respect: You make deals with whoever you have to in order to get stuff done. A quarter-century ago the word “triangulation” entered the lexicon when Clinton cut deals with Newt Gingrich, the bomb-throwing Republican House Speaker. Together they balanced the budget, passed welfare reform and were moving onto tackle entitlements—and then Monica Lewinsky and her blue dress came along and, well, you know the rest of the story.

Trump’s right: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan deserve contempt. Republicans spent the last eight years saying, gee, if we only had control of both the House and Senate, just imagine what we could do! We’re still imagining. Fact is these guys control everything and can’t get anything done. McConnell sneers that Trump’s new in town and doesn’t understand how Washington works. Trump’s no Einstein, but you don’t have to be one to know that Congress is incompetent and dysfunctional.

Here’s proof that Republicans put party before country—and why Trump is right to triangulate: On Friday, 90 GOP lawmakers voted against $15 billion in hurricane aid—including four lawmakers from Texas.Texas! Why? Because the aid was tied to the same bill that lifts the debt ceiling and keeps the government running into December. Republicans are so rigid, so inflexible, so obtuse, that they’d screw the hurricane-battered citizens of the Lone Star state in order to keep the debt ceiling (which covers spending that’s already been agreed to) down. There are lots of reasons why only 15% of Americans approve off the job Congress is doing, and this is one of them.

What happens next? Could Trump’s triangulation tactic work again with, say, tax reform? Infrastructure? Couple of things to remember: When people say the Republicans have majorities in Congress, they sort of do and sort of don’t. The collapse of GOP efforts to scrap Obamacare shows the party’s divided: It’s divided on tax reform, it’s divided on everything. Schumer and Pelosi, meanwhile, have done a good job of keeping their troops in line, so the congressional playing field’s actually more equal than people think. Along comes Trump, who has no fixed positions on anything, changes his mind all the time—and just wants to look like he’s getting stuff done.

But for Democrats and the “fake news” media that have praised Trump in recent days and are now intrigued at the possibilities of further deals with him, I’ll repeat the line above: Trump has no fixed positions on anything. He changes his mind all the time. He’s a political chameleon. He’s not loyal to any party or any person, other than the guy he sees in the mirror each morning. He flutters from one thing to the next, is susceptible to flattery, says one thing one day, another the next. It wasn’t too long ago when Trump was ripping “Lyin’ Chuck;” now they’re old New York buddies. Tomorrow? Who knows. That’s why no one should get too excited.

Ideology is everything to Republicans. To Trump, progress—or the illusion of it—is. He divides the world into winners and losers. Whoever can come to him with a deal—and a proven ability to close that deal—that’s the way to play this president.