Trump’s real fears have noth­ing to do with the wall

Belleville News-Democrat - - Opinion - BY EU­GENE ROBIN­SON Wash­ing­ton Post Writ­ers Group

The gov­ern­ment isn't shut down be­cause of Pres­i­dent Trump's un­be­liev­able clue­less­ness as a deal-maker. It's shut down be­cause of his many fears.

I don't mean his pre­tend fears. Surely Trump doesn't really be­lieve his own racist non­sense about the U.S.-Mex­ico bor­der be­ing a sieve for homi­ci­dal ma­ni­acs and walk-to-work ter­ror­ists, and he can't be too wor­ried about a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis that is largely of his own cre­ation. I'm talk­ing about his real fears.

Trump is afraid of Rush Lim­baugh, Ann Coulter, Matt Drudge, Laura In­gra­ham and the rest of the far-right echo cham­ber (he sees Sean Han­nity as more of a house pet). He's afraid of his shrunken but loyal base, which could aban­don him if he doesn't give them a wall. He's afraid of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller and the fed­eral, state and lo­cal prose­cu­tors in New York who are in­ves­ti­gat­ing var­i­ous Trump en­ter­prises. And he's afraid of los­ing his co­er­cive hold over the Repub­li­can se­na­tors who one day could sit in judg­ment of his fate.

Not one of these in­ter­twined fears is ir­ra­tional. Trump must re­al­ize he has painted him­self into a cor­ner but sees no al­ter­na­tive. He must also be aware that the GOP lead­er­ship in Con­gress can't hold the line for­ever.

To be sure, Trump has shown him­self to be a clumsy and in­com­pe­tent ne­go­tia­tor. When he re­neged on the orig­i­nal agree­ment to keep the gov­ern­ment funded through Feb. 8, he cut the legs from un­der any­one who claims to be ne­go­ti­at­ing for him, up to and in­clud­ing Vice Pres­i­dent Pence. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Chuck Schumer would be crazy to agree to any­thing at all that does not have Trump's per­sonal, pub­lic en­dorse­ment.

Trump could have tried to tempt Democrats with a grand bar­gain on com­pre­hen­sive im­mi­gra­tion re­form – or even a lim­ited swap of “bor­der se­cu­rity” funds he could use for his need­less wall in ex­change for perma- nent pro­tec­tion for the un­doc­u­mented “Dream­ers” who were brought to this coun­try as mi­nors. That kind of of­fer could at least have caused some restive­ness in Pelosi's and Schumer's ranks.

An­other pro tip for get­ting what you want: Don't loudly and pub­licly take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity for neg­a­tive con­se­quences that would re­sult from a break­down of ne­go­ti­a­tions. With tele­vi­sion cam­eras run­ning, Trump boasted that ev­ery­one should blame him for a shut­down. Polls show this is ex­actly what the pub­lic has done, and Trump's num­bers will surely get worse as the ef­fects of the shut­down on fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties be­come more dire.

The Demo­cratic pro­posal – fund the gov­ern­ment while con­tin­u­ing to de­bate bor­der se­cu­rity and the wall – is em­i­nently rea­son­able. But Trump is scared.

He went back on the orig­i­nal deal after the far-right com­men­tariat went bal­lis­tic. The pres­i­dent must re­al­ize that hav­ing failed to get fund­ing for the wall when his party had con­trol of both cham­bers of Con­gress, he is less likely to get it fol­low­ing a blue-wave midterm elec­tion that gave Democrats the House.

But Trump doesn't want Lim­baugh, Coulter, et al. wail­ing to his base that their hero has sur­ren­dered to the snowflakes and given up on “the wall,” which from the be­gin­ning was more of a ral­ly­ing cry than a se­ri­ous pro­posal.

That is why Trump looks so joy­less, so grim. He sees this as an ex­is­ten­tial fight, and so far he's los­ing.

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