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Above: Trump said that he’s prepared for a partial government shutdown to last for months or years/Photo: UNI

Nearly a million US government workers are held hostage by President Donald Trump’s insistence on building the wall

By Kenneth Tiven

The impact of the shutdown has spread beyond 800,000 government employees and many more whose businesses support government. Many of those not getting paid live pay check to pay check. The biggest impact so far is at airports. The security screeners are not being paid and have started taking sick days, wreaking havoc with flight schedules.

If the sounds and tweets coming out of the White House seem to have a different tone this year, you should not be surprised. The Democratic Party now has control over the House of Representatives for the first time in eight years. The opposition gains enormous power by being in control. President Trump’s speech and tweets might be as bizarre as a mad hatter in this Alice in Wonder­land-like drama that has been US politics for the first two years of his term.

Basically, he threatened to keep several government departments shut for years, My wall or no government. Republican politicians in closely-contested races are starting to sound exasperated as this could imperil their re-election in 2020. Right after New Year’s Day, Trump decided that a live press conference appearance would be a perfect antidote to Democrats’ publicity around taking over the House of Representatives. Columnist Charles Pierce wrote: “Quite simply, what we saw was an arguable madman who sounded like he’d replaced the famous presidential M&Ms in the White House with huge bowls of Adderall.” (A drug used in the treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and narcolepsy.)

He took no questions but simply streamed his consciousness, samples:

  • Earlier presidents told him to build a wall.
  • Got confused if human traffickers turn left or right after crossing the border.
  • Claimed most government workers not getting paid support what he is doing.
  • Said he might use a see-through steel wall, but preferred concrete.

That was back-to-back with a live televised cabinet meeting when Democrat Nancy Pelosi was sworn in as Speaker of the House. That was less a meeting than a stand-up comic performance by the President. Clearly, standards for being elected president of the United States are low, and in Trump’s case, the absence of any managerial experience is compounded by a self-centred malevolence directed at anyone who disagrees with him.

Republicans lost the ability to protect Trump in various committees when they dropped 40 seats in a wave election that spells much greater difficulty for two years. The response one supposes is even more absurd statements, tweets and actions. Hidden from public view, the government can decide to change most regulations, fail to enforce ones it cannot change and generally avoid helping usual allies in foreign affairs.

Democrats have been cautious about talking about impeachment. They don’t want to appear openly vindictive and were stunned when newly elected Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib told a gathering about what her son said:  “Look, Mama, you won. Bullies don’t win.” Tlaib said, “And I said, ‘Baby, they don’t, because we’re gonna go in there and impeach the motherf—er’.” Instead of the usual fire and brimstone style tweet, it was a surprisingly mellow response from Trump or his Twitter writer: “I thought her comments were disgraceful…I think she dishonored herself and her family. I thought it was highly disrespectful to the United States of America.”

The writer has worked at The Washington Post, NBC, ABC and CNN. He also consults for Indian channels

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