GOING TO THE BUSES:

THE TRANSITORY NATURE OF TRUMP’S ALLIANCES

When the mob prepares for war between rival gangs, if “The Godfather” and “The Sopranos” are to be believed, they call it going to the mattresses. When Donald Trump forms a new alliance they should call it going to the buses—as in the buses under which Trump will, all too soon, throw the people who are now his allies and will become his enemies.

I’m looking at you, Chuck Schumer. And you, Nancy Pelosi. Good on you, for striking at least temporary deals to raise the debt limit and maybe ultimately pull the whole debt-limit issue out of politics. And if you and President Trump expand your alliance to strike a deal to save the Dreamers—well, then good on you for that, too.

But don’t get used to the feeling. If the first seven-plus months of the Trump presidency are any guide, you may soon find yourselves under the bus.

What could happen? Almost anything.

Trump could simply renege on the deal. Maybe he turned to the Democratic leaders because the Congressional Republicans didn’t do what he wanted them to. Remember the scene in the Marx Brothers movie “Horsefeathers? We see Groucho, a college president, at the football stadium outlining a play to an attentive team, when his son (played by his brother Zeppo) comes running up. “Dad, Dad” he admonishes Groucho, “you’re talking to the opposing team!” “I know,” says Groucho, “but our team wouldn’t listen to me.”

Or maybe he reached out to the Democrats in the first place just to get back at Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, to punish them for the dismissive and insulting way they’ve treated and talked about him, and maybe he’ll kiss and make up and when the snit passes—as it seems to have in the cases of Rex Tillerson and Jeff Sessions.

Or he could launch one of his Tweetstorms over Schumer’s or Pelosi’s refusal to back his tax “reform” ideas whole-heartedly enough, i.e. with unstinting and uncritical support. What would their calumnious Twitter-optimized nicknames be, I wonder: Chuck the F__k? That probably would get censored by Twitter. Schumer the Shirker? Naughty Nancy?

The point is that it is a mistake to see any given Trump move as part of an overarching strategy or plan to achieve some immediate or ultimate goal. He cares nothing about bipartisan policy-making, the debt limit, the Dreamers, immigration policy, repealing Obamacare, coal or much of anything else except TV-news airtime, settling scores with rivals—i.e. everybody—and channeling resentment.

So, Sen. Schumer and Rep. Pelosi, to borrow another movie line, from Scorcese’s “The Departed”: Act accordingly.

And remember the fable of the frog and the scorpion, which I circulated a while ago à propos the discomfiture of Sessions, Tillerson, Mattis et al when they discovered what their boss was really like. Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi should remember it.

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream, and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog demurs. “How do I know you won’t sting me?”

“I cannot swim,” replies the scorpion. “If I sting you we would both drown.”

Reassured, the frog accepts and the pair set out. But midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. Quickly the frog feels the onset of paralysis from the sting and begins to sink.

“You fool,” croaks the frog with its penultimate breath, “why would you do that?”

“It is my nature,” says the scorpion, “I could not help myself. You knew that. How can you be surprised?”

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