The Phony Shutdown War

Trump and Democrats put political symbolism over policy substance.

A quarter of the federal government has shut down, and most of America doesn’t care. There’s wisdom in that response because this showdown over spending, the third this year, is a mostly symbolic political exercise that won’t make much difference no matter who wins.

President Trump wants $5 billion for security at the Mexican border, while Democrats are offering no more than $1.6 billion. Mr. Trump wants to be able to say he won the money for the “wall” he campaigned on, while Democrats don’t want to give him that victory so they say their money can only be spent on “border security.”

This is the tyranny of small differences, and neither choice will solve our national immigration dilemmas. A physical barrier has worked in some places like San Diego. But migrants then look for other illegal entry points. Building the wall across the entire 1,954-mile border would be expensive and it wouldn’t stop illegal immigration since most illegals arrive by overstaying their legal visas.

The best solution, as ever, is to reduce the incentive for people to come illegally by creating more ways to work legally in America. Most migrants come to work, and at the current moment there are plenty of unfilled jobs for them. A guest-worker program would let migrants move back and forth legally, ebbing and flowing based on employer needs, while reducing the ability of gangs and smuggler “coyotes” to exploit vulnerable migrants.

Mr. Trump can’t decide what he really wants and seems to have no political strategy for achieving whatever it is.

  • First he surprised everyone by taking public ownership of a possible shutdown in a meeting in the Oval Office with Democratic leaders.
  • Then he agreed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s proposal to fund the government for two months to move the funding debate into the new year when Democrats run the House.
  • Then the House GOP Freedom Caucus and talk-radio hosts stomped their feet, and Mr. Trump flipped back to welcoming a shutdown and tweeting that “it could be a long stay.”

To what end? Mr. Trump’s shutdown tactic is to hold his breath until the other side gives in. This didn’t work for Newt Gingrich in 1995, though at least Newt was battling Bill Clinton over major reforms in the entitlement state. Mr. Trump is holding his breath over a mere $3.4 billion in spending for a piece of political symbolism.

The Freedom Caucus has long argued that Republicans can win a shutdown standoff if they hold their breath long enough. Perhaps Mr. Trump will try that, and at least we’d get a political market test of which party suffers most as the standoff continues. Yet if it ends with the two sides compromising on something like $3 billion in border funding, Americans can be forgiven for thinking the whole thing was a pointless political farce.

Trump, Flush With Power

This was the week Donald Trump became president.

Or at least the week he became the president we were always expecting. He ceased bothering to pretend that he was ever going to do the job in any normal sense of the word. He decided to totally own the whole, entire joke that he is.

He started hiring people right off TV. He extended his tiny fingers into his giant flat screen, “Purple Rose of Cairo”-style, and dragged cable conservatives directly into the administration.

We’ve always known Trump makes stuff up. But now he has stopped bothering to pretend that he doesn’t. Truthful hyperbole is out. Outlandish fabrication is in. Trump began bragging to Republicans at a private fund-raiser in St. Louis Wednesday: Oh, get a load of this trade stuff I made up to outfox that fox, Justin Trudeau. I felt bad doing it to such a nice, good-looking guy. But it’s hilarious!

He is no longer bothering to pretend that governing involves a learning curve. Now he finds it’s clever to be a fabulist, concocting phony facts about the trade deficit when talking to the Canadian prime minister — one of our closest allies — or inventing a story for donors about how Japanese officials test American cars by dropping a bowling ball on their hoods from 20 feet up to see which ones dent.

.. Trump & Friends presented this dizzying White House purge as a twisted version of him growing into the job, even as everyone else felt he was going in the opposite direction

.. Trump got his next moment of gross exaltation when Jeff Sessions, frantically trying to save his own job, fired Andrew McCabe hours before he became eligible for his government pension and on his birthday weekend. John Brennan, the former director of the CIA, tweeted that Trump will take his “rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history.” Then the president’s lawyer, John Dowd, issued a statement Saturday saying he will “pray” that Rod Rosenstein “will follow the brilliant and courageous example” of Sessions and end the Russia investigation entirely.

Trump is giddy about all the CHAOS — he capitalized it on Twitter — feeling that he’s ridding himself of any idiots who called him a moron or dumb as a rock and any economists who don’t understand what a great dealmaker he is.

.. It’s the final Foxification of politics. Trump spends all his time watching Fox News, basing his opinions and tweets on it, and now he’s simply becoming one with it. He is even willing to overlook his distaste for the yeti mustache of the warmongering John Bolton and consider the Fox News analyst as a replacement for McMaster.

Roger Ailes would be so proud, if he were still alive and harassing women.

.. Trump thinks he’s a fabulously devious manager creating “great energy,” with great ratings coming from his talent for theatrical twists and turns. But he’s really inhumane, playing people against one another and widely discussing successors for officials who haven’t even been officially informed that they’re walking the plank. And, far from the A-team he promised, he’s hired a bunch of pathetic, disgusting swamp schnorrers who can’t stop using taxpayer money to fund their office furniture or office redesign or luxury plane trips with their wives.

“I like conflict,” Trump said this month at a press conference with the Swedish prime minister, smacking his fists together and adding, “I like watching it, I like seeing it, and I think it’s the best way to go.”

Never mind that a lot of the country — and the world — craves stability.

.. “I think Trump is royally pissed about the Mueller subpoena of the Trump Organization records,” Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio says about the special counsel crossing the president’s red line. “He fears the nakedness of his true business activities being revealed far more than the shame of ‘Access Hollywood’ or Stormy Daniels. Unlike the show of blank paper in file folders conducted when he supposedly stepped away from his businesses, this will require real documents, and I doubt he can count on people lying for him.”

Tom Cotton, David Perdue, and the Trap of Lying for Donald Trump

In denigrating anyone who called the President out for his slurs, Senators Cotton and Perdue (pictured here in August) show their willingness to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

.. According to the Post, “Three White House officials said Perdue and Cotton told the White House that they heard ‘shithouse’ rather than ‘shithole,’ allowing them to deny the President’s comments on television over the weekend.” Is that how people sleep at night in Trump’s Washington?

And they are poisonous.

.. It should be clear that the house/hole distinction, should it even have existed, would not count as “allowing” Cotton and Perdue to deny the President’s remarks on any terms. But the ones on which they did so are particularly egregious, because they offered themselves as witnesses to other senators’ supposed dishonor.

.. Senator Dick Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, had confirmed the reported phrase “shithole countries” publicly; Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, had backed up the press accounts more obliquely but unmistakably. Senator Tim Scott, his Republican colleague, who is African-American, told reporters that Graham had confirmed the essentials of the report to him; Graham didn’t dispute that. Graham had also publicly said that there was a racial aspect to the remarks, which he said he’d called the President on, saying, by his account, “America is an idea, not a race.”

.. Cotton, appearing on Sunday news programs, specifically disparaged Durbin’s credibility. “I didn’t hear it, and I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was,”

.. Cotton told John Dickerson on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I know, and I know what Dick Durbin has said about the President’s repeated statements is incorrect.” He also said that Durbin had a history of dishonesty.

.. When Dickerson asked Cotton about the thrust of the remarks, as opposed to the President’s word choice, Cotton said, “I did not hear derogatory comments about individuals or persons.” Perhaps there was another rationalization in there: he was being derogatory about whole populations, not individuals!

.. in the next sentence, Dickerson made the terms of Cotton’s lies clear when he asked, “So the sentiment is totally phony that is attributed to him?”—meaning to the President. Cotton answered, “Yes.”

.. At the same time, Perdue was busy on ABC’s “This Week,” telling George Stephanopoulos, in even more categorical terms, that Durbin was guilty of a “gross misrepresentation” of Trump’s remarks, saying that such “language” was simply not used.

.. When Stephanopoulos noted that there were multiple sources who said otherwise—indeed, the President himself reportedly called friends to brag about what he had said

..  Congressmen Kevin McCarthy, Republican of California, who is the House Majority Leader and has not commented (but, as the Washington Post noted, stood quietly next to the President when he denied the reports on Sunday; Trump also called himself the “least racist person”

.. members of his Administration at first thought that the controversy could be settled in the shady realm of “do not recall,”

.. They were caught by surprise when he started tweeting about how the accounts of his language were outright false.

.. But perhaps he also listened to what the other Republicans were saying, and had an insight that they would, indeed, back him up. It was a bully’s triple play:

  1. first, he got to slur whole nations.
  2. Then he got his guys to gang up on anyone who called him out for it, which produced the final prize:
  3. the acknowledgement that the Republican lawmakers were his guys, subordinate and willing to humiliate themselves on his behalf.

.. What is notable is that, at first, Cotton and Perdue had tried, in a joint statement, to hedge by saying that they did “not recall the President saying these comments specifically.” But, as his lies escalated, so did theirs, to the point where they were backing up the idea that the media was involved in a fake-news conspiracy.

.. But it is, apparently, hard to lie halfway for Trump; he won’t let you.

Trump’s ‘Never Mind’ DACA Tweet

The president signals his enthusiasm for amnesty. Why would immigration activists give an inch?

I argued during the GOP nomination battle that Trump is a phony on immigration. He camouflages this fact in provocative (and sometimes noxious) rhetoric about Mexicans and a border wall — a wall that would be physically impossible to build as he described it and that Mexico was never going to pay for. (Have you noticed our coming budget battle is over his insistence that American taxpayers foot the bill?) But if you listened carefully, there was always an amnesty subtext. Recall his truly absurd claims that he would round up and deport 11 million people and then bring most of them back with legal status.

Trump wants to be all things to all people: the restrictionist ideal of his rabid base as well as an amnesty enthusiast in the mold of a New York City Democrat.

The DACA sleight of hand proves the point. On the hustings, restrictionist Trump promised to rescind DACA as soon as he took office (and some people actually believed him). Of course, he did not do so . . . because he doesn’t think it should be rescinded; he thinks it should be law. But he wants credit for ending it — for being both against and for it.

.. If DACA were narrowly drawn, strictly to benefit the immigrants whom Democrats and the GOP establishment portray as the typical DREAMer

.. There are two reasons it is not. First, it is not narrowly drawn; rather, it designed to shoehorn a broader array of illegal aliens into legal status. Second and more significantly, because Democrats (and many pro-amnesty Republicans) are insufficiently sympathetic to the demands of Americans for better security and tighter immigration controls, there must be tradeoffs if the ruling class is to be motivated to negotiate.

.. Art of the deal, huh?