Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 26, 2019
I heard the news: President Trump had caved, and federal employees were going back to work without a vote for a Wall.
Then I heard the president himself: Trump yesterday showed a remarkable, if upside-down ability to turn total defeat into a rally for his goal of more border Wall — and victory. He even called it a deal. Some deal.
In announcing his capitulation to the obvious need to put federal workers back on the payroll, he called a Rose Garden announcement to spend about a minute to say that and to thank the hurting 800,000 federal workers without ever really acknowledging that he had just put people needless through such financial worry that food bank visits had soared and that the nation’s air traffic was on the brink of shutdown.
Instead, he used the start of a three-week period of legislative negotiation to misstate just about everything he and opponents have said about the need for a Wall to make it seem as if he is leading the discussion. In reality, Speaker Nancy Pelosi just kicked his ass, but you wouldn’t know it from his content.
As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin noted, “Pelosi is getting what she wants. Trump has lost. The deal would reopen the government for three weeks to allow a conference committee to discuss border security measures — but not a wall. You cannot get thumped any worse than Trump did on this encounter with Pelosi. Each step along the way, the president stumbled.”
And yet, there he was, asserting that Democrats of all shades and sizes were now lining up to find a place at the Wall-building table. Somehow, he thinks, waiting three weeks will make a difference. As now, it will make a difference only if Trump is ready to accept something other than hundreds more miles of physical barriers.
To make matters yet more odd, the capitulation came on the same day as the indictment and arrest of Roger Stone, his long-time associate and campaign whisperer on charges of lying to investigators and witness tampering, all in furtherance of arrangements with Russian contacts and WikiLeaks to distribute illegally obtained emails in an effort to embarrass Hillary Clinton. Concerning the indictment, Trump managed to tweet out support that continued to argue that there has been no collusion when, indeed, the central idea behind the indictments focused on exactly what anyone would call collusion.
The language of the indictment showed that this was another significant tightening of tying the small circle at the top of the Trump campaign to wider cooperation with foreign forces in the campaign.
Usually, the complaint is that Trump, whether as businessman, candidate or president, lies through his teeth. Yesterday’s performance makes me just want to give him a gold star for an ability to see the absolute other side of truth.
Perhaps this is a central operating principle for an untreated, egomaniac narcissist like the president — an ability to see every story with himself at the center in a starring, heroic role.
Just to be clear here, Trump was thumped by Pelosi on delivery of the State of the Union address and again on the agreement to end the federal furloughs without legislation for a border Wall. He was all but fingered again as a bad guy by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III in the Stone indictment, which stated baldly that evidence showed that Stone “was directed” by senior levels of the Trump campaign to collude with WikiLeaks; in that small campaign “senior leaders” might include the campaign chair, the Trump family or the candidate himself. Trump even was thumped politically by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who clearly had told Trump he lacked the votes and the congressional will to do Trump’s bidding on the Wall.
Along the way, Team Trump showed a total lack of compassion for the 800,000 government workers going unpaid, an unrealistic assessment that an extended shutdown would not affect the economy or air traffic or even timely tax returns. As Rubin noted, “The remarkable Marie Antoinette moments won’t easily be forgotten.”
It was too easy for Trump to simply never acknowledge a political loss here, and to slip back into his unsuccessful sales pitch for a Wall to end crime, immigration emergencies and humanitarian issues that somehow never mentioned breaking up migrant families and keeping children separated from their parents.
“Ultimately, what may have convinced Trump to give up were all those polls he insisted that he was discounting. As Trump throws in the towel, a new Post/ABC poll underscores just how unpopular Trump has become during the Trump shutdown. “Public disapproval of President Trump has swelled five points to 58 percent over three months as a majority of Americans continue to hold him and congressional Republicans most responsible for the partial federal government shutdown.”
All I can tell you is that amidst his celebration of defeat, there was every promise that we will be right back on Square One three weeks from now.