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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Are Trump’s course corrections a sign he’s finally listening to us?

Is Donald Trump hearing the whispers?

After last week’s omnibus spending disaster it’s safe to say Republicans and conservatives were mired in a state of stunned disappointment. Less than sixteen months removed from Trump’s invigorating victory over Crooked Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election, the “Make America Great Again” movement appeared to reach a fork in the road – one side looped back to the stagnant establishment swamp and the other heads towards a Trump and Pencefog shrouded unknown future fraught with possibility…but also political danger.

No doubt Trump’s “safe” choice would be to continue migrating towards the establishment side. Party leaders, consultants, lobbyists and ruling elites were heartened by Trump’s willingness to cooperate with them in recent times – for example, the president swore off the possibility of supporting conservative primary challengers to establishment incumbents, signed the omnibus bill (after a last minute schmoozing phone session with Speaker Paul Ryan) and now generally speaks nicely about his Republican colleagues instead of calling them out like he used to do.

Trump’s recent feint towards Republican normalcy made a lot of Washington swamp creatures very happy – but it enraged the grassroots. Thankfully there are new signs Trump may be seeking to bring back a little of his “old” unpredictability, starting with his actions on Monday concerning Russia. Where does the president really stand?

W. James Antle III of the Washington Examiner reported, “White House spokesman Raj Shah began Monday’s daily press briefing by extending the country’s ‘deepest sympathies to the Russian people’ for a fire in Siberia before pivoting to ‘the expulsion of dozens of Russian intelligence officers, and the closure of the Russian consulate in Seattle’ on President Trump’s orders.

“It’s symbolic of the delicate dance the White House has done on Russia. The Trump administration is full of Russia hawks and has frequently taken a hard line against Moscow on substantive policy matters — bombing a Russian client in Syria, arming Ukraine, securing commitments from NATO allies to increase their defense budgets, and adding new low-yield nuclear weapons programs...

“Yet Trump has often seemed like an outlier inside his own administration, reluctant to criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Russia and frequently tepid when doing so. This extends from Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election to the recent attack in the United Kingdom to congratulating Putin on a tainted election victory despite reported advice to the contrary.”

Antle says Trump’s seemingly contradictory orientation towards Russia has Democrats accusing him once again of being in cahoots with Putin. Democrats’ charges aren’t exactly new – it’s what they’ve been harping on for months/years. Whenever Trump does something that could be interpreted as friendly towards Russia – like calling Putin to congratulate him on his reelection win – Democrats cry foul and break out their “collusion” rhetoric.

By contrast when Trump gets tough with Russia – as he did this week – Democrats claim it’s simply meant to distract from the fruitless and never-ending Mueller investigation. Democrats love advancing the falsehood that the Russians possess embarrassing and compromising information on Trump – and they’re using it to blackmail him. There isn’t a shred of evidence to support their crackpot theories but Democrats show no signs of letting up.

Politically speaking – and Democrats never do anything that’s not political – the minority party can’t drop Russia lest they literally run out of things to talk about.

Contrary to Antle’s assertions above, Trump’s policy towards Russia seems crystal clear to many of us. If Russia behaves, Trump is open to better relations between the longtime nuclear adversaries. But if Putin crosses the line, punishment ensues.

Trump’s latest punitive action stems from Putin’s purported attempt to poison a former Ruskie intelligence agent (and his daughter) in London using a chemical agent that only the Russian government would realistically have access to. The evidence against Putin is strong – though as Pat Buchanan pointed out last week the Russians officially denied it and it would be incredibly politically damaging for them to risk lying about it.

Regardless, Trump heard the whispers of the American public and acted accordingly. In actuality the “diplomats” he expelled were spies or infiltrators rather than officials on a diplomatic mission. Russia is an international competitor and in some ways an enemy; Trump’s moves were intended to preserve America’s national security as well as punish the Russians.

A political move? Absolutely; but Trump was also performing his job as president. Likewise, when Trump acts diplomatically towards Russia he’s doing what he views as advancing America’s interests. Warmer relations with Russia makes the world safer. Is that concept so difficult to understand?

In the American system the president sets policy with foreign nations and Congress provides oversight. In this realm Trump hasn’t done anything (in regards to Russia) out of the ordinary since he’s been president.

Another area where it’s apparent Trump is listening to his critics is dealing with the border wall with Mexico. The media made much hay last week when Trump signed the awful omnibus which all-but denied the president any money for his long-promised “big beautiful wall.” According to reports (and Trump’s own tweets), he’s now considering another option – using the increase in military funds to erect a physical barrier.

Such a move would be entirely defensible too. Roger L. Simon wrote at PJ Media, “Given Hezbollah's activities just to our south (and everywhere), a solid case can be made for building the border wall out of the military budget for national security reasons. The drug trade cum terrorist funding cum actual terrorism should easily suffice.

“Of course this won't mean much to the bien pensants of the Ninth Circuit, etc., but to the rest of us who remember world history the ties between Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, Russia, North Korea, and, alas, China constitute a dire warning.

“Trump has received considerable blowback from signing the omnibus budget bill.  Some may be justified, some due to his having been poorly served, but whatever the case, he may be getting the message where the wall is concerned.”

As Simon included in his piece, Trump tweeted on Sunday, “Because of the $700 & $716 Billion Dollars gotten to rebuild our Military, many jobs are created and our Military is again rich. Building a great Border Wall, with drugs (poison) and enemy combatants pouring into our Country, is all about National Defense. Build WALL through M!”

Of course it appears this hasn’t gotten past the idea/tweet stage but if Trump’s able to pull off a wall with military bucks it would be sheer brilliance (but how would Mexico pay for it?). For years conservatives argued border security goes hand-in-hand with national defense. Democrats and liberals made building the wall all about combatting illegal immigration but the evils associated with a porous border go much deeper than the human/welfare problems.

Perhaps even more important than the wall itself is Trump’s willingness to use all available and legal means to fulfill a campaign promise that’s reflective of his entire presidency. Whereas Obama went outside his constitutional authority to decriminalize millions of illegal aliens using his “phone and pen” in 2013, Trump can legitimately get his wall and build it too.

Images of the completed wall would grace every single Trump 2020 campaign ad along with happy military members who got a pay raise for serving their country.

Building the wall as a national defense exercise would also extinguish much of the negotiating leverage from Democrats on other immigration-related issues. All Trump would need to do is instruct Attorney General Jeff Sessions to enforce the existing laws and it would become increasingly difficult for aliens to remain in this country. Mitt Romney once talked about “self-deportation” – that’s exactly what would happen if jobs dry up for “undocumented” immigrants.

Dangerous (unproperly vetted) Muslim immigration is also being curtailed by the Trump administration and refugee admission into the U.S. is down by three-quarters from record high levels under Obama.

Uncontrolled spending remains a serious problem under Trump but there is some hope that maybe the president “hears the whispers” on this matter as well.

Kurt Schlichter wrote the other day at Townhall, “This [the omnibus] was a bump in the road, a road that includes Justice Gorsuch, defeating ISIS, Keystone, regulatory rollback, tax cuts and many other conservative achievements. Our enemies would love for us to throw that all away because we got a case of the madz. But that would be stupid.

“There’s another spending fight coming. Trump says he won’t sign another flaming pile of garbage like this. After the reaction he got the other day, it’s likely he’ll keep his word. He should demand that he receive the next bill in final form 30 days before the deadline – no more 30 minutes to read 2,200 pages nonsense. This will give real conservative leaders a chance to disinfect it with sunlight, like Senator Rand Paul did highlighting the flotsam and jetsam in the last one.”

It’s sound advice. Trump remains hostage to the incompetence and outright defiance exhibited by Republican establishment congressional leaders in dealing with the budget. Trump can emphasize the problems in September ahead of this year’s midterm elections – and force GOP kingpins to come around or risk losing their positions entirely.

Such threats don’t need to be realized via text, either. If Trump is smart he’ll continually pound on the 60-vote filibuster threshold in the Senate and call out those vulnerable Democrat senators by name who refuse to go along with meaningful spending restraint. Earlier this year Democrats took the blame for the shutdown because they wouldn’t contribute the votes to pass a budget.

The fact is GOP leaders shouldn’t even allow spending bills to reach Trump’s desk for a veto (if they’re that bad). Will they get the message?

There’s still plenty of time for Republicans to turn things around ahead of the 2018 midterms. Perhaps they should take a page from Senator Marco Rubio’s book. Rubio was the main target of the leftist “March for Our Lives” gun-grabbers last weekend yet he’s taking it in stride.

David M. Drucker reported in the Washington Examiner, “Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Monday shrugged off barbs from gun control advocates disappointed with the Florida Republican for not doing more to crack down on access to firearms...

“’I’m a U.S. senator; I can defend myself. But a lot of people can’t, and the message to them is: If you don’t agree, you need to be quiet or go away or we’ll turn on you too,’ Rubio told the Washington Examiner. ‘When you’re involved in politics at this level, you get attacked every day. So, I’m not worried about me. But I am worried about how all of this sort-of narrative and rhetoric, in politics in general and this in particular, affects other people whose views might not align with the people that you see on TV.’”

Hardly anyone would suggest Rubio is especially principled but he’s at least keeping perspective on this issue.

Trump would benefit by doing the same. At a point in his presidency where his approval ratings are slowly improving it’s time for Trump to listen to conservatives who provide sound advice on the best path forward. A lot of it will depend on Trump’s ability to avoid making the same mistake twice.

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