Cathy McMorris Rodgers, the GOP House leadership member from Washington state, finally uttered the words I’ve been waiting to hear with respect to Donald Trump’s march on the nation’s capital. In an NBC News interview with my pal Luke Russert, she said that Trump is a “disrupter,” and we have to learn that that’s a good thing.
Perhaps because she’s from Washington state, home to so many fabulous tech companies that disrupted the economy (Microsoft in its heyday, the all-powerful Amazon, and a laundry list that’s too long for this column), she may understand the phenomenon more than anyone else in the GOP leadership.
New tech explosions create winners and losers, but overall are remarkably positive for the country, middle-class folks, the economy, jobs and wages. The trouble is, we haven’t seen many disruptive tech breakthroughs lately. And maybe that’s one reason why the economy is so sluggish.
But hats off to McMorris Rodgers for being the first member of the Republican leadership to understand that Trump, the ultimate outsider, is going to be a very disruptive force when he gets to Washington. And that’s a good thing. It will finally re-launch America in a positive direction.
Now, I don’t know if the Republican establishment is ready, but Trump has just had a very good week.
A bunch of polls show him running virtually even with Hillary Clinton nationwide and in key swing states, such as Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio. Polls are not perfect, and it is still early in the November-election game, but the anti-Trump argument that Trump and the Republican Party will be victims of a Hillary Clinton landslide is being put to rest.
And I think that’s one reason why Trump’s recent trip to Washington was such a success. The GOP may be breathing easier.
For Trump it was almost a listening tour. For the GOP leadership it was a get-to-know-you moment. And for Speaker Paul Ryan it was a chance to finally talk policy with the presumptive GOP nominee.
What I think I saw is that senior Republicans are deciding that it is better to help Trump than to harm him. Save the harm for Hillary Clinton, and help guide Trump to becoming an even stronger candidate.
Perhaps the major figure in all this was Ryan — one of the brightest of the bright and the biggest policy wonk of the wonks. He’s also a classy guy, and he adopted a gracious posture toward Trump, even though he was not ready to endorse.
I wasn’t in the room during that first meeting between Ryan and Trump. But reports suggest there was a good policy discussion. I’m going to guess that supply-side Ryan is fine with Trump’s tax-cutting plan, designed to get the country out of a 15-year quagmire. And I think Ryan doesn’t have much disagreement with Trump’s deregulation instincts, though this plank has not been fleshed out. (I don’t know if King Dollar currency stability came up.)
I also suspect Ryan will disagree with Trump on trade, where Trump has taken a hard line with China, Japan and other rule-breakers. And I gather Ryan has trouble with Trump’s immigration plans to build a wall and deport illegal immigrants. Ryan has always been a free-trader and an immigration reformer, even while those positions are not so popular with the GOP anymore.
Finally, I’m going to conclude that Ryan has a problem with Trump’s opposition to entitlement reform, including benefit cuts for Social Security and Medicare. Ryan of late has become a deficit and debt hawk, and apparently he came equipped for his Trump meeting with budget charts and slideshows. And while Trump shares Ryan’s fears about future deficits and debt, he thus far is opposed to going after the big entitlements.
The gracious Speaker Ryan told the media that he can’t decide everything in one 45-minute meeting. But he suggested the GOP “unity” process is advancing nicely. Ryan’s lieutenants in the House — Kevin McCarthy, Steve Scalise, and Greg Walden — have endorsed Trump, as has Mitch McConnell in the Senate. And Trump himself insists that his policy plans could be amended.
So I foresee an entente cordiale, which Webster’s defines as a friendly understanding, especially between nations. (Of course everyone remembers the entente cordiale between Britain and France in 1904, mainly due to the diplomacy of King Edward VII!) In other words, Ryan and Trump can have a friendly relationship even while they disagree on some policies.
But here’s the key point: Trump is not going to give up his economic populism or his America-first foreign policy. He has represented himself as the voice for the ailing American middle class. He is a disrupter. He will always be the outsider. And when elected he will follow through in Washington. Count on it.