El Rushbo, Trump and the Wall

After White House budget director Mike Mulvaney suggested that President Trump might sign off on a spending bill this week that doesn’t include funding to start construction of a border wall, a feeling that is all to familiar to Republican voters started to sink in.  You know the routine:  GOP candidate promises reform on issues near and dear to the conservative base, only to have said candidate weasel out after the election is over using some lame excuse about how change is hard because Democrats keep standing in the way.  It’s probably the single biggest reason that Donald Trump won the Republican nomination and then the presidency.  Conservative voters were sick of the GOP establishment playing them for suckers–particularly on immigration enforcement–so they sent an outsider to Washington to drain the swamp.  And with Republicans now running the House, the Senate and the White House, we finally seemed poised to get that done.

Now, we get this:

Mulvaney said the spending bill, which would fund the federal government through September and avoid a shutdown at the end of the week, includes money for border security. Those funds, however, are not specifically allocated for building a border wall.

 

He said the bill would allow Trump “to follow through on his promise to make that border more secure.”

 

Their agreement comes as the midnight Friday deadline approaches, and a possible government shutdown looms.

 

Mulvaney said the administration doesn’t plan “to back down” from its promise to build a border wall.

 

“We just thought that it would be a good first step to get these things that everybody agrees on and take that idea of a government shutdown off the table,” Mulvaney continued.

 

Mulvaney said officials plan to begin budget discussions for the fiscal year 2018, which starts October 1, “as soon as this bill is signed.”

So let me see if I can get this straight.  Back during the Obama administration, the White House used a government shutdown to pressure a Republican Congress to get what it wanted.  Now Donald Trump is in charge, and a Democrat minority is using the threat of a shutdown again to pressure the White House to get what it wants.

Tell me–is there ever a scenario involving a shutdown in which the Republicans get to win?  Or are we, as a political party, really just that pathetic?

That Trump might actually be willing to go along with this nonsense, at least according to Mike Mulvaney, is the real head-scratcher.  For the guy who told us we’d get tired from all the winning, this deal seems like a dead-end loser–the kind of thing that not only sends you home empty handed, but sends a clear message to your opponents that you’re a joke.  Is that really what Trump wants the Democrats to think?

Even Rush Limbaugh, who has been a vocal Trump supporter, expressed grave doubts over the situation on his radio show yesterday:

The Democrats are threatening a government shutdown. It’s the same old same old, and I was hoping that Trump would throw this shutdown thing right back in their face and have everybody realize they’re the ones engineering these shutdowns that nobody would notice anyway unless a big hullabaloo was made about it. The Democrats seem to have successfully used this stupid, silly threat of a government shutdown to get their way. What Trump is saying is if we need to get this done, then I’ll delay the spending on the wall until September. And it’s just a measly billion dollars.

 

But the problem here, folks, is one of politics. If this happens, if Trump does cave — and I use the word “cave” guardedly. Trump, I’m sure, does not ever think he caves on anything. But outward appearances are what they are. And the bottom line is that, if he is willing to withdraw a demand of his for a measly billion dollars for the wall because the Democrats are threatening a shutdown, then the Democrats will have just learned that this threat works on Trump, too, not just all the other Republicans.

This is precisely correct.  The Democrats, who routinely play hardball politics, will see this as a weakness and exploit it every chance they get.    Whenever they want to halt a Trump initiative or squeeze some concession from him, they’ll just run to the media with talk of another shutdown.  How is Trump supposed to drain the swamp if he allows the swamp to have that much leverage over him?

What’s really infuriating, though, is that the Democrats really have no power in this situation.  Back when Obama ran the show, he was able to inflict maximum pain on the public during the last shutdown by closing national parks and turning Honor Flight veterans away from the World War II memorial on the Washington Mall.  Trump can see to it that those things don’t happen–so for most Americans, life will carry on normally even if Democrats shut down the government.  Chances are, most people won’t even notice.

I can only hope that Mulvaney’s remarks were just a trial balloon to see how Trump supporters would react to a delay in building the border wall.  If that’s the case, then we need to make sure that the White House understands that any delay is a defeat–and that’s unacceptable.

Mr. President, you were successful in showbiz because you never forgot who your audience was.  I’d advise you following exactly the same rule now.

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Marc Giller

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