As Congress sees a shutdown as increasingly inevitable, the president sees a chance to show more swagger.
Mr. Trump’s embrace of a shutdown has given lawmakers on both sides the freedom to throw up their hands and claim this whole mess is beyond their control. The mood around the Capitol is less one of urgency and activity than of fatalism. Last week, Richard Shelby, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said Congress looked to be “headed down the road to nowhere.”
.. Not only did Speaker Paul Ryan fail to mobilize lawmakers for a vote on Mr. Trump’s $5 billion, but many lame-duck members couldn’t be bothered to show up for work at all. (Nothing like an electoral rout to take the starch out of a conference.) Counting, much less whipping, the vote became all but impossible. By Thursday, House leaders gave up and sent members home for a six-day weekend.
.. On the Senate side, Mr. Schumer’s office is insisting that everything depends on whether the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, can persuade the president to embrace a deal that Democrats can live with. The latest offer on the table is for a one-year “continuing resolution,” or C.R., that would delay the fight by temporarily funding parts of the government at current levels.
Shutdowns are especially fertile ground for Mr. Trump because they pit him against a political establishment that, as he sees it, obstinately refuses to pay proper deference to his genius. He has repeatedly voiced frustration at Congress’s unwillingness to lie back and let him run things as he sees fit.
Threatening to throw the government into chaos — to furlough, or in the case of personnel deemed “essential,”withhold paychecks from hundreds of thousands of workers, includingFood and Drug Administration inspectors, Transportation Security Administration inspectors and, paradoxically, Border Patrol agents — lets him exact a bit of cathartic payback, reminding lawmakers just how uncomfortable he can make their lives.
Chest thumping and trash talking remain central to Mr. Trump’s brand as a disrupter. His followers thrill to him precisely because of his pugilistic, vaguely unhinged personality. The more he rails against politics as usual, the more his base swoons.
As for those who see Mr. Trump as behaving like a petulant toddler, he doesn’t have to face their electoral judgment for another two years — an eternity in politics.
For now, the president can relish playing the tough guy. Even if he winds up folding, he’ll doubtless toss out some alternative facts and declare victory. As usual, he has ensured that this holiday season’s drama is all about him.
Dear Robert De Niro, Samantha Bee and other Trump haters:
I get that you’re angry. I’m angry, too. But anger isn’t a strategy. Sometimes it’s a trap. When you find yourself spewing four-letter words, you’ve fallen into it. You’ve chosen cheap theatrics over the long game, catharsis over cunning. You think you’re raising your fist when you’re really raising a white flag.
You’re right that Donald Trump is a dangerous and deeply offensive man, and that restraining and containing him are urgent business. You’re wrong about how to go about doing that, or at least you’re letting your emotions get the better of you.
When you answer name-calling with name-calling and tantrums with tantrums, you’re not resisting him. You’re mirroring him. You’re not diminishing him. You’re demeaning yourselves.
Many voters don’t hear your arguments or the facts, which are on your side. They just wince at the din.
You permit them to see you as you see Trump: deranged. Why would they choose a different path if it goes to another ugly destination?
.. If you want to make sure that at least one chamber of Congress is a check on Trump, talk to them about that... the Melania madness. Floating the idea that she’s a victim of domestic abuse merely supports Trump’s contention that his critics are reflexive and unfettered in their contempt for him and that all of their complaints should be viewed through that lens.
.. Mr. McConnell said the president had shown “excessive expectations about how quickly things happen in the democratic process.”
This is accurate. Mr. Trump frequently says things like “We are moving very quickly” (referring to health care, on Feb. 27), “We are going to have tax reform at some point very soon” (April 12), and that his administration’s infrastructure plan will “take off like a rocket ship” (June 8)... Blaming others may be cathartic for Mr. Trump, but it weakens the presidency and inhibits his agenda... So where are the administration’s focused efforts to use the presidential megaphone to explain the GOP agenda and persuade voters? An early-hours tweet may enthuse true believers, but 140 characters won’t sway most Americans and may even repel them.
Where are the speeches explaining the plan to replace ObamaCare and why it would be better? Where are the Oval Office addresses on why tax reform would produce better jobs and bigger paychecks? Where are the choruses echoing the president’s arguments for an infrastructure bill? They are nowhere to be found.