By Kenneth Tiven
American President Donald Trump held his country hostage for 36 days, but failed to force congress to supply $5.7 billion dollars for a partial border wall with Mexico. Consider that for three years with angry rhetoric he boasted that Mexico would pay to build it. So sad.
The government shutdown drama ended with a whimper not a boast. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told him there would be NO money and NO state of the union speech until government reopened. For weeks she kept the Democratic Party firmly behind that position. A big help came as the nation experienced massive airline transportation delays as unpaid security and traffic controllers began calling off sick.
On Jan 24 Trump folded like one of his own cheap suits and agreed to reopen government for three weeks, his price and his leverage in the situation evaporating along with his polling popularity. Of course in mid-February he gets to rant again about his “WALL.”
In admitting defeat he stretched reality once again claiming that the Democrats had “finally and fully acknowledged that having a barrier, a fence, a wall, or whatever you call it, will be an important part of the solution.” No, what they said was possibly a $5.7-billion spending package—matching Trump’s figure—for overall border security, making clear that this package would include NO money for a wall. The question is not where the Democrats will be on this, but how Congressional Republicans will vote.
For once friends and foes agreed on Trump’s leadership: He caved, and it was Pelosi, a woman resisting his charms as few have, who forced him to give up.
Ann Coulter, a right wing pundit, tweeted, ”Maybe the solution to the border crisis is not deporting 22 million illegals but one Jared Kushner.” The president’s son-in-law/advisor was among a throng of individuals issued security clearances despite
multiple objections from the security professionals who rule on these matters. This is a new and potential Congressional investigation.
Unhappy friends quoted
“[Speaker Nancy] Pelosi ordered everything off the menu and left Trump hanging with the bill,” one Trump ally texted.
“President Nancy Pelosi, she runs the country now,” said a former White House official. “We went from indefinite shutdown, to down payment, to cave — all within a span of 24 hours.”
Earlier, GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham predicted doom if Trump didn’t get wall funding. “He’s not going to sign a bill that doesn’t have money for the wall. … If he gives in now, that’s the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president,” Graham said
“FAA shutting airports is a losing card,” said a former Trump adviser “He doesn’t care about federal workers. But pissing off travelers — watch out.”
“I’m not sure allies are going along with it, more just letting it happen. It’s like watching a house completely engulfed in flames; there’s nothing you can do except watch,” a former campaign aide said.
Right wing provocateur Mike Cernovich wrote, ”Trump is a broken man. It’s over for him.” Another wrote of Pelosi saying that she’s the most effective house speaker of her generation— she got rid of a president in one month.
On the other side of the political spectrum there was a sense of triumph and relief that government agencies would now be fully back in action, including food inspections, the FBI, the Coast Guard, and Border Patrol. The president had suggested in various ways that furloughed staff were non-essential while everyone else was happily working without a paycheck, since back pay was all guaranteed. In America it is illegal for
federal employees to strike, but ok for government to make them work without pay. This of course leaves out millions of people employed as private contractors
furloughed from their government work.
It didn’t help perceptions when the aging billionaire and secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross, claimed in a TV interview he was bewildered that government employees did not just go get bank loans instead of going to food charities. This was almost as odd as when Trump said unpaid government workers should ask grocery stores for credit. Clearly Trump hasn’t shopped in food store in decades because “pay me later” credit no longer exists in 99% of America.
When Trump lost the popular vote but managed a win in the Electoral College, where it counts, his followers gleefully said it shows that elections have consequences. And the mid-term Democratic sweep does also.
Bad news keeps piling on Trump especially with the issue of contact or collusion with Russia. This week the Special Counsel indicted on seven felonyformer campaign friend Roger Stone, a dirty tricks man who started with disgraced former President Nixon in the 1970s. For perhaps visual effect the FBI sent an armed SWAT team at dawn to make the arrest.
The political gambit to watch is in the House of Representatives where Republicans are refusing to name members of the House Intelligence Committee. Under House rules this makes it impossible for the majority controlled Committee to convene hearings and conduct investigations.
It is difficult to imagine that Speaker Pelosi would let this go on for long. Having caused the President to cave on his hostages for money approach, she is likely to have a maneuver available to counteract such juvenile behavior. The memory of the
Republican-controlled Senate refusing to consider President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court still haunts Democrats and more than half of Americans.
—The writer has worked at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN. He also consults for Indian channels