The Trump Shutdown 3.0 is over; the question is whether the crisis it created is over or just deferred? That and several other events of last week dominated the political news. Let’s explore.
Friday afternoon President Trump made another Rose Garden appearance where he announced a deal had been stuck to end the Trump Shutdown 3.0. Before the clock struck midnight both chambers of Congress passed and he signed the enabling legislation to keep the government open until Friday February 15th. After taking such a beating on a shutdown a normal politician surrounded by able advisors would never even consider shutting the government down three short weeks later. Trump is not a normal, rational, knowledgeable and sane politician and neither are most of his advisors.
I think it was somewhat of a perfect storm of events that finally brought this ugly chapter of the Trump presidency to at least a temporary close and I’d like to review a few in the following paragraphs.
The credit (much of it well deserved) is going to Nancy Pelosi. She stood firm and fired the first shot in the conclusive battle when she treated Trump like what he was: a toddler throwing a tantrum. Pelosi did the “Mom thing” and took the TV away from him. Trump loves the spotlight and attention. The State of the Union address is like Christmas and his birthday all rolled into one for him. As Speaker of the House Pelosi controls the venue Trump wanted and she denied it to him. That was the first motivation for Trump to make a deal. More importantly Pelosi once again displayed her superior leadership skill by keeping her caucus which controls the House of Representatives solid.
On Thursday Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross did something unforgivable and out of character for a member of Trump’s team: he told the truth on national television. During a CNBC interview Ross was questioned about why government workers were going to food pantries to get food to feed their families. Ross said he couldn’t understand that. I actually think that Ross was telling the truth. The super wealthy simply don’t understand the devastation missing a paycheck or two has on an average American family. Trump was already bleeding public support by the day and Ross opened a new vein.
That same day former Trump personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was subpoenaed to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee. The day before Cohen, through his attorney Lanny Davis, announced that he would delay a scheduled appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee because he feared for his life and those of his family due to threats from Trump and his mouthpiece/attorney Rudy Giuliani. While this did not get the press it deserved it was another negative for Trump. Parallels were being drawn between the Trump/Rudy show and The Godfather movies. Looks like I’m not the only one viewing the Trump administration as an organized criminal enterprise.
Friday morning started with a flurry that developed into a full-fledged snow storm of political news. I, like many awoke to the news that longtime occupant of Trump’s inner circle, Roger Stone, was arrested on seven felony charges related to the 2016 campaign. This is to date the strongest public proof of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians. Trump desperately needed to get this out of the headlines and “below the fold”. The day only got worse for Trump from there.
The stress of double shifts, no paychecks and personnel shortages caused by the shutdown finally hit critical mass at New York’s La Guardia Airport causing massive flight delays and cancellations. This wasn’t the only manifestation of the Trump Shutdown 3.0 that was negatively affecting the economy and the lives of Americans, but it was the most impactful.
Trump had no choice but to take any deal he could get especially in consideration that his proposal to reopen the government had failed by a wide margin in the Senate on Thursday. Things were getting exponentially worse by the day and he had to at least somewhat mute the Stone story.
The shutdown ending deal includes setting up a joint Congressional Committee charged with coming up with a proposal that will enhance border security. There is plenty of common ground among congressional members of both parties to arrive at an acceptable agreement on this matter – far from comprehensive immigration reform – but still acceptable and executable. Whether Trump will sign on is the question mark.
It would be political suicide to do give America the Valentine’s Day present of a Trump Shutdown 4.0 but Trump and his base are not sane actors. While unlikely I will not rule that outcome out. At least rhetorically Trump has left open the option of declaring a national emergency and funding his wall by “appropriating” funds from other sources. The legality of that is certainly questionable and even more certain to be challenged in the courts. However it would placate the most radical part of his base and the right wing media. At this point, in my mind it is the Trump’s most likely course of action if he doesn’t accept to Committee’s proposal. A smart politician would simply let the wall issue die or call whatever the Committee came up with a wall. To date I have yet to accuse Trump of being a smart politician and today will not be the start.
This situation is not over; it is just in “pause” for a few weeks.
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