Maybe now we can stop with all the silly “Trump the master
negotiator,” “Trump the Fighter” nonsense?
I understand Trump apologists’ desire to portray all of his
seeming misstatements, missteps, and mistakes as really just our inability to
perceive his greater wisdom that sees things fifteen steps ahead of the rest of
us. Eighteen-degree chess, and all that. Dating back to the campaign, one of the
things that has really worn on me these last three years has been the
willingness of so many on the right – including a large number that I used to
look up to and trust implicitly to be straight shooters – to continue indulging
a futile effort to portray Trump as a political prodigy who is driven by a
grand plan we can’t perceive but will one day appreciate for its genius.
It’s just not true.
It’s never been true. And maybe,
just maybe, this complete collapse on his “red line” of a border wall will make
that dawn on people. It apparently has
for the one who wrote the flatly absurd book, “In Trump We Trust,” so there’s
hope for everyone else who played this game too, right?
How anyone in their proper mind could convince themselves that this government shutdown standoff was a draw for Trump, or even more ridiculous, a victory for Trump, is simply incomprehensible.
The shutdown began because Trump demanded money for
construction of a border wall and the Democrats didn’t want to pay it. Trump told Americans he wouldn’t budge because
it was a matter of national security. He
even floated the idea of exploiting the constitutional provision of declaring a
“national emergency” where he could unilaterally allocate taxpayer funds to pay
for one. He blustered that he would host
a State of the Union of his own and make his case directly to the American
One of his most ardent defenders of late, Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, went so far as to stake the future of Trump’s presidency on him sticking to his guns:
“He’s not going to sign a bill that doesn’t have money for the wall…if he gives in now, that’s the end of 2019 in terms of him being an effective president. That’s probably the end of his presidency.”
Well, he gave in. For
all those apologists who rationalized Trump’s moral failures by saying they
were a trade-off for a president who “fights” the left, he gave in. No amount of spin in the world, no
multi-dimensional chess calculation changes the reality that he signed a bill
to re-open the government that didn’t have money for the wall.
This isn’t to say that the wall was a reason to keep the
government shut down or that it wasn’t.
That’s largely immaterial, though it remains a pressing question for
Republicans why if it is such a red line now, why it wasn’t anywhere close to a
priority to allocate the funds the first two years of his presidency when both
houses of Congress were under his own party’s control. Why did it become a non-negotiable only once
Nancy wielded the gavel?
It reeks of political theater. But if that’s the case, if he doesn’t really
care about the wall and only cares about showing his toughness against the
Democrat left, then why did he just give into them and let Nancy Pelosi (of all
people) look like the top dog in DC?
The law of parsimony, often referred to as Occam’s razor,
would tell us that the most obvious explanation is the right one: Trump isn’t a
calculating political genius. He’s
actually rather clueless. For those who
have regarded such an assessment as heresy the last two months, maybe the
shutdown debacle will change their minds.