I lived through Watergate and while Russiagate is much more severe it is not all that dissimilar. What is extremely different is the abundance and velocity of the news coupled with just how sinister Trump’s actions are even when compared to Nixon’s. Come along and I’ll try to make some sense of it.
To me the most interesting (and perhaps telling) aspect of the Trump Shutdown 3.0 is the absence of Mitch McConnell. The Republican Senate Majority Leader isn’t even attending many of the Presidential/Congressional Leaders’ meetings. He is basically keeping mum on the process. He has yet to bring any remedial legislation to the Senate floor. To me the last part is the easiest to explain. With 21 GOP Senate seats up in 2020 (including McConnell’s own), many of which are vulnerable, Mitch is trying to shield his members from taking a tough vote. If they vote with Trump they will be seen for what they are: complicit in keeping the government shuttered and making their constituents suffer, (which will hurt them in the general election). If they vote to reopen the government they risk the wrath of Trump which while it may not be a deciding factor in the general election it is still important in any potential Republican primary. Trump’s political strength is almost exclusively with Republican voters. A vote not cast can easily be spun with disingenuous rhetoric.
Two obvious solutions are, at least for the moment, being ignored. Trump could simply declare a national emergency shortly after which the government would no doubt reopen. His declaration would immediately go to the courts where its outcome is questionable. That covers Trump with his base – either the wall gets built (and Trump gets to steal more money) or the courts stop him in which case his base blames it on liberal judges and says Trump tried.
The other is that Congress simply follow the Constitution by passing legislation which Trump may very well veto and then simply override his veto. An override would require a good many Republicans to vote for it. That would require courage; a quality sadly lacking in today’s elected officials. The first step in that process is for McConnell to put the legislation on the Senate floor but to date he lacks the courage to do so. That could change. I see the beginnings of a split between McConnell and Trump. It is not at the irreparable stage yet but it could get there. If it does, Trump is toast.
Predicting Trump is almost impossible. He is essentially a gambler and a BS artist playing the role of a conservative. At his core Trump is anything but a true conservative. However, he is a good fit with most of his base that are simply a bunch of radicals who years ago coopted the term conservative and the Republican Party.
An almost unreported aspect of the shutdown is the preferential treatment Trump received. The Trump Hotel in Washington DC is in the Old Post Office Building. Part of the original structure is a clocktower which features the second highest observation platform in the Capital. It is not part of the hotel but a historical landmark. At the commencement of the shutdown it was shuttered because there was no funding for the security guards. Shortly thereafter funding was suddenly shuffled and it reopened along with its guards. The clocktower generates a lot of tourist traffic and they pass through a gift shop with a lot of Trump memorabilia for sale. I’m certain a percentage of them also patronize the hotel’s refreshment facilities. You connect those dots.
While most of the attention is focused on Trump and Nancy Pelosi I suggest we keep an eye on Mitch who at this point is trying to stay at arm’s length. He has the power to solve this and many other dilemmas in short order. He may just do it when he determines that Trump hurts his chances of keeping his Senate majority (one of the few things he cares about) more than he helps it. If you want to have a chance of making sense of the actions of the current temporary occupant of the Oval Office don’t think of Donald Trump as President Trump; rather think of him as Don Trump and follow the money.
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