NO DEAL: TRUMP GOES BY HIS GUT
Instinct has taken him a long way, but slope is getting slippery
WASHINGTON – You might assume a government shutdown that is about to set an unwelcome record and is being battled over funding for a border wall most Americans oppose just might leave President Donald Trump itching to make a deal.
You would be wrong.
In a combative exchange with reporters Thursday as he left the White House for a day trip to Texas, wearing a campaign “Make America Great Again” hat, Trump denounced as dishonorable the Democratic leaders who would have to negotiate any agreement. He accused his opponents of not caring about violent crime and national security. And while he said the word “compromise,” he gave no indication he was actually willing to give an inch on his demand for funding the wall.
Trump attributes his spectacular rise
in politics to the shrewdness of his gut, the power of his bluster and his command of a core of supporters. He has bragged not about progress toward resolving the standoff but about the unity of Republicans behind him, although a few GOP senators have expressed concern about the shutdown. It would become the longest in history on Saturday. “They all want to see something happen, but they are extremely united,” he declared. “It’s really a beautiful thing to see.”
But the costs and complications of the shutdown continue to increase, with security lines getting longer at some airports, trash piling up at national parks and 800,000 federal workers about to miss a paycheck Friday. A Politico/Morning Consult poll released this week showed Trump bearing the brunt of the blame: About half of the Americans held the president responsible; a third blamed congressional Democrats.
Among Republicans surveyed, though, the blame went to Democrats almost 5 to 1. Trump’s rating within his party actually ticked up a few percentage points since the shutdown, with 84 percent expressing approval of the job he’s doing as president.
Since his inauguration, Trump has made more efforts to hold the support of those who voted for him than he has to expand his appeal to those who didn’t. That helps explains his unyielding stance now in a standoff that would have prompted most of his predecessors to seek a settlement and move on.
“By all objective standards, it’s all downside for him – except for one,” Mo Elleithee, a veteran Democratic strategist and executive director of Georgetown University’s Institute of Politics and Public Service, said in an interview. “That’s his base. His base is loving it. They’re eating it up.”
Thursday on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi tweaked congressional Republicans for that unity, for refusing to break with Trump on this or just about anything else. “Did you take an oath to the Constitution or to Donald Trump?” she pointedly asked. Then she warned that Trump could put his partisan solidarity at risk if he delivers on his threat to declare a state of emergency as a way of bypassing Congress for wall money.
“I think the president will have problems on his own side of the aisle for exploiting the situation in a way that enhances his power,” she said, a reference to concerns from Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and other Republicans that future Democratic presidents would feel empowered by the use of emergency declarations to pursue policy goals. “I think he’s going to have to answer to his own party on usurping that much power.”
Trump gave no sign of being deterred: “I have the absolute right to declare a national emergency.”
On Day 20, the end of the shutdown didn’t seem to be getting closer. For her part, Pelosi didn’t signal any willingness to relent. In a tweet, Trump blamed “Democrats intransigence” as he announced he was canceling a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, because of the shutdown.
His departure was slated for Jan. 21 — when the shutdown would hit Day 31.
Texas Sens. John Cornyn, left, and Ted Cruz join President Donald Trump on a border tour Thursday.