At a White House event yesterday, Republicans gathered on the South Lawn to pat themselves on the back. They'd just passed a regressive and unpopular tax plan -- their first meaningful legislative accomplishment of 2017 -- and GOP officials were eager to celebrate.
But first, they had to offer gushing praise to Donald Trump.
House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), for example, thanked Trump for his "exquisite presidential leadership." Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) soon added, "You're one heck of a leader." Vice President Mike Pence gushed to the president, "Thank you for your leadership."
But in practical terms, what does that mean, exactly? I realize that in any political achievement, a president will claim credit when something goes his or her way, but when it came to passing the Republican tax plan for the wealthy, what is it that Trump did to help make this happen?
The Washington Post published a fascinating piece overnight that shed light on the president's role in the process.
In the debate over the just-approved tax overhaul bill, President Trump saw himself primarily as the marketer in chief -- focused on pressuring Republicans to drop the jargon and sell the legislation in a way the public would understand.
So, for example, it was Trump who told Republicans to steer clear of the phrase "tax reform," because he considered it vague. The president rejected the idea of a border adjustment tax -- which was once a key component of the plan -- because he thought the name sounded funny. (The Post reported, "It is one reason the plan was scuttled, senior congressional leadership aides said.")
According to one senior GOP aide involved in the negotiations, when it came time to set tax rates under the party's plan, Trump "always wanted the individual rates to be multiples of 5," not for any substantive reason, but because the president simply thought those numbers sounded nicer.
At one point, Trump declared, for example, in reference to the corporate tax rate, "Twenty is a pretty number."