One way Trump can win: Stop call­ing it ‘the wall’

San Francisco Chronicle (Sunday) - - BAYAREA - By Wil­lie Brown

Pres­i­dent Trump could get his wall in a minute. All he needs to do is stop call­ing it “the wall.”

Pol­i­tics is the art of am­bi­gu­ity mixed with sleight of hand.

“The wall” is a sym­bol that Democrats can’t live with. Even Repub­li­cans know that by it­self, it won’t stop il­le­gal im­mi­gra­tion on the south­ern bor­der. So you re­brand it as “bor­der se­cu­rity.”

Then you reach into the fed­eral bud­get for hid­den pock­ets of fund­ing that no one will miss and use it to pay for what­ever you like — more guards, more cam­eras and, yes, even a wall. In strate­gic places.

Trump’s prob­lem is that by tak­ing a vo­cal all-ornoth­ing po­si­tion, he’s backed him­self up against a wall of his own mak­ing.

Un­like con­ven­tional politi­cians, how­ever, Trump has the abil­ity and will­ing­ness to re­verse him­self on a dime and still claim he is mov­ing for­ward.

If Democrats are re­ally con­cerned about the fed­eral work­ers who aren’t get­ting paid dur­ing this shut­down, they’re go­ing to need to back off as well and give Trump an out.

Most pres­i­dents would blink when con­fronted with the like­li­hood that they’re caus­ing a fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter for hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple. Trump could dou­ble down.

Af­ter all, this is a guy who, through­out his busi­ness ca­reer, has con­sid­ered bank­ruptcy a vi­able op­tion.

Overkill: Inau­gu­ra­tions were once solemn and quick. Now, they’ve turned into full-blown ral­lies.

I at­tended a half­dozen swear­ing-ins last week, and all of them opened with an in­vo­ca­tion by a min­is­ter, fol­lowed by a youth choir, fol­lowed by far too many speeches.

Gov. Gavin New­som’s swear­ing-in was the most elab­o­rate. You’d have al­most thought he was tak­ing the oath of of­fice as pres­i­dent.

When his 2-year-old son, Dutch, wan­dered onto the stage and stole the show, it re­minded me of what my mother told me years ago: “If your child stands up dur­ing your speech, it’s time for you to sit down.”

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis had House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, farm­work­ers union co­founder Dolores Huerta and for­mer Michi­gan Gov. Jen­nifer Gran­holm as speak­ers. Keep an eye on Koua­nalakis, the state’s first fe­male gov­er­nor lite. She’s al­ready look­ing to lose the “lite” part.

For my money, the most heart­felt swearingin cer­e­mony was Fiona Ma’s as state trea­surer. She held it at the re­built Booker T. Wash­ing­ton Com­mu­nity Ser­vice Cen­ter in San Francisco, a build­ing that now in­cludes 50 apart­ments for young adults com­ing out of foster care.

Fat fun: When the break for lunch came on swear­ing-in day in Sacra­mento, ev­ery­one headed for Frank Fat’s.

For­mer Gov. Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Lon­don Breed shared a ta­ble. Breed spent much of her time lob­by­ing any­one who would lis­ten to sup­port Kim­berly El­lis as the next state Demo­cratic Party chair.

El­lis nar­rowly lost the race for party chair last year to Eric Bau­man. Then Bau­man had to quit be­cause of a sex­ual mis­con­duct scan­dal, so the job is open again.

Judg­ing by how for­mer state Se­nate Pres­i­dent Pro Tem Kevin de León was work­ing the crowd at ev­ery in­au­gu­ral event, I think he has his eye on the job as well. An­other first: Con­grat­u­la­tions to Nor­man Yee, the new pres­i­dent of the San Francisco Board of Su­per­vi­sors.

You can bet Mayor Lon­don Breed is go­ing to make a point of invit­ing Yee and an­other Asian Amer­i­can of­fice­holder, city Asses­sorRecorder Car­men Chu, to ev­ery event she at­tends in the next few months.

They’ll make great pho­tos for the Chi­nese me­dia and a great pitch for the Chi­nese vote in this year’s may­oral elec­tion.

Ro­nen ris­ing: San Francisco Su­per­vi­sor Hil­lary Ro­nen’s very pub­lic at­tempt to win the board pres­i­dency, and her less-than-grace­ful loss to Nor­man Yee, made for quite the show.

I can’t help but think that Ro­nen’s bid was in­tended to be the first step in a pro­gres­sive chal­lenge to Lon­don Breed’s re-elec­tion.

New life: Af­ter all the inau­gu­ra­tions were done, I spied Jerry Brown stand­ing in the Capi­tol garage.

“What are you do­ing here?” I asked.

“Look­ing for a ride,” he said. I know the feel­ing. One minute you have a car and a po­lice es­cort. Then the minute your suc­ces­sor says “I do solemnly swear,” all the trap­pings of the of­fice fall away.

It is one of democracy’s great­est and most hum­bling ex­pe­ri­ences.

But hey, life goes on. Be­sides, you meet the most in­ter­est­ing peo­ple on the bus ride home.

Jim Wat­son / AFP / Getty Im­ages

Pres­i­dent Trump speaks dur­ing his Thurs­day visit to a Bor­der Pa­trol sta­tion in McAllen, Texas, where he went to push his cam­paign to build a bor­der wall.

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