Far-right echo cham­ber ter­ri­fies Don­ald Trump

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robin­son Colum­nist Eu­gene Robin­son’s email ad­dress is eu­gen­er­obin­[email protected]­post. com

The gov­ern­ment isn’t shut down be­cause of Pres­i­dent Trump’s un­be­liev­able clue­less­ness as a deal­maker. 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 — the ones that must keep him up at night.

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 S. Mueller III 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. Ac­cord­ing to news re­ports, the pres­i­dent knew his hostage-video Oval Of­fice ad­dress on Tues­day and his photo op at the bor­der on Thurs­day would make no dif­fer­ence. 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 (D-Calif.) and Se­nate Mi­nor­ity Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) would be crazy to agree to any­thing at all that does not have Trump’s per­sonal, pub­lic en­dorse­ment — and his felt-tipped sig­na­ture, prefer­ably in blood.

“You’ve got to be will­ing to walk away,” Trump often says when tout­ing his al­leged deal­mak­ing prow­ess. And in­deed that is true — in ne­go­ti­a­tions about real es­tate, brand­ing rights or a re­al­ity tele­vi­sion show. But when you are pres­i­dent, you can hardly walk away from your own gov­ern­ment. When Trump tried the ma­neu­ver Wed­nes­day — call­ing con­gres­sional lead­ers to a meet­ing and then os­ten­ta­tiously stalk­ing out — ev­ery­one just shrugged. He had nowhere to go.

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 per­ma­nent 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. But be­cause Trump is of­fer­ing noth­ing at all, ex­cept a take-it-or-leave-it de­mand, Democrats have eas­ily main­tained a solid front.

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 that 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. Trump’s ap­proval num­bers have al­ways been un­der­wa­ter, but as long as he re­tains over­whelm­ing sup­port among Repub­li­cans, he can ex­pect GOP sen­a­tors to worry that cross­ing him would amount to po­lit­i­cal sui­cide.

De­pend­ing on what Mueller and the other pros­e­cu­tors find, it is not in­con­ceiv­able that the House could vote for im­peach­ment. The more sup­port Trump re­tains among the GOP base, the bet­ter his chances of sur­viv­ing a Se­nate trial.

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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