View From the Cave

We’ve had a request for the dancing banana …

Interesting stuff in this analysis of the Cave by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey, and Seung Min Kim at the Washington Post:

For weeks, Trump has sought an exit ramp from the shutdown that would still secure wall funding, and for weeks his advisers failed to identify a viable one.

Trump repeatedly predicted to advisers that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) would cave and surmised that she had a problem with the more liberal members of her caucus. But she held firm, and her members stayed united.

“Why are they always so loyal?” Trump asked in one staff meeting, complaining that Democrats so often stick together while Republicans sometimes break apart, according to attendees.

After decades of “Democrats in Disarray” headlines, and Republicans being rock solid while the Dems crumble, that one made me laugh. But it also tells me that Trump has no grasp whatsoever of what’s going on all around him. The left wing of the Democratic Party will happily follow Nancy Pelosi as long as she’s leading them where they want to go. I’m seeing a lot of comments about how Pelosi is vindicated, but I also think she got a message.

Trump and his advisers misunderstood the will of Democrats to oppose wall funding. Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, emerged as the most powerful White House adviser during the shutdown and told colleagues that Trump’s plan for $5.7 billion in wall funding would get Democratic votes in the Senate on Thursday, astonishing Capitol Hill leaders and other White House aides.

And this tells me Kushner is a moron. The Republican bill did get one Democratic vote, from Joe Manchin of West Virginia. But that’s it. Perhaps Kushner failed to notice that three Dem senators who might have voted with Republicans in the past – Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Donnelly and Claire McCaskill — aren’t there any more.

Kushner, who Trump jokingly says is to the “left,” pitched a broader immigration deal and had faith that he could negotiate a grand bargain in the coming weeks, according to people familiar with his discussions. He pitched a big deal to Latino groups this week and also with members of the Koch network, the people said.

This was news to me, so I looked it up. Apparently on Thursday Kushner met with some Latino activist groups and proposed permanent protections from deportation and a path to citizenship for Dreamers and some others. But this is the sort of agreement people have tried to work out with Trump several times in the past, and every time, at the last minute, Trump listened to his hard liners and scuttled the deal. Nobody is lining up to kick Lucy’s football any more. Back to WaPo:

All the while, Trump vowed he would never capitulate to Democrats. At the Wednesday meeting, “he said there would be no caving,” Krikorian said. “Everybody who spoke up applauded him for not caving, but warned him that any further movement toward the Democrats’ direction would be a problem.”

Trump himself set up the dynamic that wouldn’t allow the Democrats to compromise without being slammed by their own base. Their only viable position now is “no.”

Administration officials began immediately on this next phase; Mulvaney and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen met privately with a handful of Republican senators at Camp David on Friday evening to start discussing what a border security agreement might look like, according to multiple people familiar with the gathering.

Ultimately, aides said, Trump was willing to table debate over wall funding because he is convinced he can win support from some Democratic lawmakers over the next three weeks.

Yeah, good luck with that, Spanky.

Aaron Blake at WaPo speculates that Senate Republicans might move to take another shutdown out of Trump’s hands, which is certainly within their power and, seems to me, would be better for them in the long run. If Trump tries another shutdown in three weeks, there is absolutely no reason to believe anything would turn out differently from the first one.

Greg Sargent:

It is difficult to imagine congressional Republicans, who just lived through this disaster, having any appetite for a second round. As a senior Republican told Politico’s John Bresnahan: “I hope the president remembers this when the Freedom Caucus types tell him what to do next time.”

The polls have all confirmed that a majority of Americans blamed Trump and Republicans for the shutdown. A second shutdown over the same issue — dragging the country once again into the same mess we’ve already been through — would look even more unhinged.

So Democrats will be heading into these conference negotiations with real leverage. One clue as to how they might proceed can be found in a slew of border-security measures they were in the process of drawing up, which they were going to release, but then did not have to once Trump gave in.

According to people familiar with the Democratic plans, they were preparing to roll out a package that included added drug-scanning technology at ports of entry and other infrastructure upgrades at those ports; and more than $500 million for beefed-up medical care for asylum-seeking families and children, as well as more family-friendly processing facilities. In other bills, Democrats have also passed expenditures of around $500 million for more immigration judges, and around $500 million in economic aid to Central American countries.

That all sounds good, and a rational Congress wouldn’t have any problem passing an impressive-sounding border security package with no wall. But we’ll have to wait to see what Republicans really will do. How afraid are they of Trump and his base? I’m afraid we’re still depending on Mitch McConnell to do the right thing, and we know how that’s turned out in the past.

Share Button