Opin­ion: Don­ald Trump uses old tricks in shut­down talks with new Congress

The Daily News Egypt - - News - Michael Knigge is DW’s cor­re­spon­dent in the US

DW—The US pres­i­dent’s ini­tial deal­ings with a di­vided Congress to end a par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down were typ­i­cally Trump: dou­ble down on your de­mand, em­bar­rass your own aides, and blame the Democrats, writes Michael Knigge.

Ex­pe­ri­ence a strange sense of deja vu af­ter wit­ness­ing Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s strat­egy to end the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down in his first en­counter with a di­vided Congress? Don’t worry, it is not a lag­gard ef­fect of those New Year’s Eve drinks. It is just Trump be­ing Trump.

To kick off in­au­gu­ral talks with a di­vided Congress fea­tur­ing a resur­gent Demo­cratic Party, self-pro­claimed mas­ter ne­go­tia­tor Trump went back to his tried-and-tested play­book on Wed­nes­day.

In a cabi­net meet­ing — flanked by an act­ing de­fence sec­re­tary and an act­ing in­te­rior sec­re­tary — he dou­bled down on his long-stand­ing de­mand for a “big, beau­ti­ful wall.” He then em­bar­rassed Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence when he in­sisted that he would not ac­cept any­thing less than $5.6bn (€4.9bn) in fund­ing for the wall, even though Pence — dis­patched by the White House to talk to the Democrats just days ago — had told them Trump would sign a bill that in­cluded half that amount. Fi­nally, Trump wrapped up by fault­ing Democrats for the shut­down.

Trump draw­ing such a stark red line in the sand ren­dered the White House’s pre­vi­ously sched­uled first meet­ing to seek a so­lu­tion to the im­passe with the new Con­gres­sional lead­er­ship use­less. And so, it was lit­tle sur­prise that the meet­ing ended with­out any clear progress and the shut­down will con­tinue.

Trump’s “my way or the high­way” style of ne­go­ti­a­tions has not worked well in a Congress con­trolled by his own Repub­li­can Party. It will work even less in a Congress in which the Democrats con­trol the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. But Trump is unen­cum­bered by the thought process of what is ac­tu­ally achiev­able and in the best in­ter­est of the coun­try.

In­stead, his main bench­mark for po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion-mak­ing is how he thinks his stances res­onate with his base of sup­port­ers. That ex­plains Trump’s sud­den about-face late last year when he re­fused to back a bi­par­ti­san spend­ing pack­age that Congress had passed with the ex­pec­ta­tion he would sign it. Con­ser­va­tive pun­dits lam­basted the deal, and Trump quickly caved.

Trump’s ra­tio­nale to do ev­ery­thing he be­lieves will please his base also ex­plains why he would dou­ble down on a de­mand he is ex­tremely un­likely to be able to achieve.The strength­ened Democrats have no in­cen­tive to give Trump $5bn to ful­fil his sig­na­ture cam­paign prom­ise. Af­ter all, op­po­si­tion to Trump’s wall was a key elec­toral driver for the new class of pro­gres­sive Democrats in Congress, which in­cludes many mem­bers that hail from im­mi­grant fam­i­lies them­selves.

De­spite all the brag­ging, threat­en­ing and blam­ing, the pres­i­dent will ul­ti­mately be forced to blink and climb down from his un­achiev­able de­mand to end the par­tial gov­ern­ment shut­down he owns. When that will hap­pen is any­one’s guess.But some­times all it takes to trig­ger pres­i­den­tial ac­tion is a Fox News seg­ment or a call by the leader of Turkey.

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump says he’s pre­pared to keep part of the US gov­ern­ment shut down for more than a year if nec­es­sary

MICHAEL KNIGGE

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