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Trump makes an appeal — and Dems stay resolute

President Donald Trump
REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Elements of President Donald Trump's base prefer the shutdown and the punishment of use of innocent federal employees and contractors as hostages to negotiations.

“Both sides in Washington must simply come together, listen to each other, put down their armor, build trust, reach across the aisle, and find solutions.”

President Donald Trump said that on Saturday in a brief televised appeal to the nation.

This is the sound of one hand clapping.

I would call the Saturday night televised address to the nation by Donald Trump the most presidential performance he has ever given.


The bar is low. He stayed on script. He kept it short. He kept his snorting problem under control. There was no bragging and little dog-whistle racism in it. (You can find it if you squint, but, contrary to the usual string of offensive taunts, it would mostly be in the eye of the beholder.)

Trump’s tone was so reasonable, he even pissed off Ann Coulter.

To be clear, I’m fine with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s response: If you want to negotiate on these issues, reopen the government and we’ll see if we can find common ground. Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to have done well with their strategy so far. And Trump is learning that everything is not up to him.

But sticking to their announced tactic is not the most important principle in the world. If Trump and the leadership of both parties in both houses had a side conversation and came to some kind of agreement that would soon lead to the end of the shutdown, that would be fine too, and much better for the laid-off federal employees. If that happened, the details of the compromise would quickly be more important than the preconditions to the conversation/negotiation. And “Chuck and Nancy” seem to have succeeded in teaching Trump that he is not the ruler of all he surveys, and that’s progress and that’s good. Since their strategy seems to be moving things in a constructive direction, I’m content to see what they do next.

For reasons that are hard for me to grasp, but which seem reflected in the Coulter tweet linked above, elements of Trump’s base prefer the shutdown and the punishment of use of innocent federal employees and contractors as hostages to negotiations. Perhaps they missed the results of the midterms and haven’t figured out that House Democrats can now block any Trump initiative.

Perhaps they aren’t as obsessed as your humble reporter is with Trump’s approval ratings, but I’ll save myself writing a separate update on those. Look here. The latest fivethirtyeight.com average is 40 percent approval, 55.2 percent disapproval.

This is not his all-time lowest, but it’s the lowest he has been in a year and, if you believe the 538 guys who compile the average know what they’re doing, the gap between approvers and disapprovers has grown every day for a month. The movement has been a slow but steady. Drip, drip, drip.

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Comments (38)

  1. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 01/21/2019 - 10:09 am.

    Pence was on FOX with Chris Wallace and it wasn’t good for Pence. Pence was trying to sell a wall that the majority of American’s don’t want. Pence doesn’t get the fact that 15 of the 17 Senators and Representatives whose districts are along the southern border DON’T WANT THE WALL! Chris repeatedly reminded Pence the government could open today if Trump would just sign the bipartisan bills he has before him. 800,000 pawns are Republican captives. My guess is those 800,000 won’t be voting for a Republican in 2020.

  2. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/21/2019 - 10:20 am.

    Someone should tell the great deal maker that deals are made in meetings that you don’t walk out of, not on TV. Also… offering to do something you offered to do two years ago isn’t a compromise.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 01/21/2019 - 10:23 am.

    “…And Trump is learning that everything is not up to him.”

    That seems to me to be the operative point. Opinions from the Oval Office notwithstanding, a king was not elected in November, 2016, nor is the public willing (at least, not so far) to accept a Mussolini-style dictatorship. To the degree that Mr. Trump actually “negotiates,” he might be learning that such negotiation between or among equals is a very different interaction than a negotiation wherein one side can, and does, dominate the discussion, and essentially dictate terms to the other side.

    There’s literally no excuse – none – for holding hostage many thousands of federal employees and contractors who have – just as literally – nothing to do with the political dispute / disagreement that’s at the heart of the matter. Moreover, Mr. Trump asserted in no uncertain terms (much to the dismay of his handlers, I’d guess) that he’d be happy to “own” the shutdown. With any luck, he and his party will regret that ownership for many years to come. As if further proof were needed, this simply adds to the catalog of instances wherein the current version of the Republican Party has proved itself unable to govern the nation competently.

  4. Submitted by Pat Berg on 01/21/2019 - 11:08 am.

    Then there’s the issue of trust. Trump has been Lucy pulling the football away at the last moment enough times that he’s got no one to blame but himself that no one seems willing to run up and try and kick it any more. He’s going to have to offer a LOT more safeguards as well as good faith actions (such as re-opening the government) if he wants to start turning this around.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/21/2019 - 05:29 pm.

      He even pulls the ball away from his own kicker! No wonder McConnell doesn’t want to put up a deal. he already did, and Don Trump reneged on his own Majority Leader!

      If someone’s word is no good, as is the case with Individual 1, he or she is worthless as a deal maker.

  5. Submitted by Mike Schumann on 01/21/2019 - 11:21 am.

    I don’t see a lot of difference between Trump and the Democrats on their willingness to negotiate. Reopening the government without solving the problem just kicks the can down the road another month or two. We need to solve the problem permanently NOW.

    Personally I don’t believe in the wall as a practical solution. What we do need is to triple the number of immigration judges so that you get a hearing the same day you come into the country, not 3 years later, and your are on the next plane home within 24 hours if you don’t qualify for immigration or asylum.

    At the same time, we need to fix the DACA problem. Kids that were brought here by their parents and have no connection to their home countries shouldn’t be deported to someplace they have no connection to.

    This isn’t rocket science. A pox on the Democrats, Republicans, and Trump, who can’t get this fixed.

    • Submitted by Misty Martin on 01/21/2019 - 11:43 am.

      Mr. Schumann:

      Yours is the voice of reason, and I have to agree with you entirely. Also, if Ann Coulter and others had to do without their paychecks, I bet they’d be more than ready for President Trump to compromise with the Democrats. It’s easy to talk when you’re not the one doing without.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/21/2019 - 12:20 pm.

      Let’s not start with that thinking.

      First, remember that there was a deal, passed by both houses in December and that seemed satisfactory to President Trump. Everything was fine until Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh decided they didn’t like it, and labeled it a defeat for the President, since he didn’t get everything he wanted. For Trump, being called a loser is the worst thing that can happen,so the deal was scrapped.

      Second, while immigration is an important issue, it’s hardly the most pressing need today. I’m going to say that paying TSA agents, getting food inspection up and running again, processing applications for federal agricultural loans, etc., are all more pressing. Any real fixes for immigration will take months, if not years, to fix.

      Third, it is true that the wall is not a solution. On the other hand, no real solutions are being proposed by the White House. It’s $5.7 billion for the wall, and that’s final. No one who has any expertise in border security regards the wall as much more than a speed bump. Unfortunately, it’s also something that’s easy for the President to remember. He’s not going to get bogged down in details about tripling the number of immigration judges, because he will change his mind/forget and then deny he ever agreed to such an idea.

      Likewise, fixing DACA is not on the President’s agenda. He is basically proposing an extension of the existing program for a few years, but he is doing nothing that the courts, in essence, haven’t already said he has to do.

      This is Trump’s shutdown, and an impasse created and fueled by his own vanity and ignorance. Wishing a pox on everybody’s house is a comfortable notion, but it lets the party that is truly to blame off the hook.

      • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/21/2019 - 05:33 pm.

        Whoa whoa whoa! You two are talking about a “solution” to what? What is the problem that needs a solution?

        As there is no border crisis, that certainly doesn’t need a solution. Net border crossings have been zero for years now.

        What we really need is a guest worker program, coupled with electronic verification. But that won’t fly with Corporate America. they prefer a workforce they can easily intimidate to keep wages low.

    • Submitted by James Miller on 01/22/2019 - 09:20 am.

      @Mike Schumann
      My sentiments exactly on all of the points that you mentioned.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2019 - 09:34 am.

      This is false equivalency pretending to be reason. The government is shut down because Trump shut it down. It remains shut down because Trump and McConnell are keeping it shut down. The shut down has absolutely NOTHING to do with any crises of any kind therefore re-opening the government cannot kick a crises can of any kind down the road.

      Now if you want to deal with the issues you identify that’s great, I’m with you. But you have to acknowledge the fact that these problems have been manufactured by conservative anti-immigration programs (albeit implemented by Democrats as well as Republicans) that have nothing to do with this shut down. The wall is a stupid idea, and spending billions of dollars on a stupid idea is neither responsible or reasonable. I’m actually encouraged by the fact that Democrats have finally found a stupid idea they won’t meet half way.

      • Submitted by Mike Schumann on 01/22/2019 - 03:43 pm.

        The government is shut down because neither Trump, the Democrats, or the Republicans want to compromise to actually fix any of the country’s problems. At least Trump has put his line in the sand to put a stop to all this kicking the can down the road forever without fixing anything.

        The most important thing we need now is immediate, permanent, legislation that automatically stops the paychecks of all leaders and staff in Congress and the White House whenever there is a government shutdown. That way, the politicians can no longer just use TSA agents, Air Traffic Controllers, and other innocent federal employees as pawns in their game. When their own office staffs can’t make their mortgage payments, it will put a little more immediate pressure on everyone to come to their senses.

        • Submitted by Brett Adams on 01/22/2019 - 07:58 pm.

          One more time with feeling: this false equivalence thing has absolutely no validity and is the opposite of true. I don’t know how much more people will continue to repeat it and refuse to accept obvious realty, but I’m guessing it’s incurable at this point. Look, I’m sorry (you don’t know how much) for all the people that said “Trump – hell yeah!” two years ago, and now feel the need to feebly defend this criminal, corrupt, calamitous administration. But if these people would just open their eyes and ears, and shut off the Faux News, maybe they could rid themselves of this ridiculous “both sides-ism.” Holding what should be a routine budget review hostage over a fake “emergency” that somehow Trump couldn’t get “fixed” with two years of total control of the federal government tells you all you need to know about this ridiculous “crisis,” and the GOP’s ability to govern with any respect or responsibility.

          But I am on board with the pay freeze.

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/23/2019 - 09:25 am.

            Trump declares he’s going to shut the government down on national TV, and he declares he will do so proudly and take full responsibility for it. The he shuts the government down… and blames the Democrats. There are more than enough votes in the House and Senate to reopen the Government AND override Trump’s veto. McConnell (A Republican) won’t the let those votes come to the floor. Any attempt to blame any of this on the Democrats is absolutely and incontrovertibly false equivalence.

            There is NO security crises at the border that a wall will address. The wall is simply a stupid idea, and only ONE person and Party is keeping the government shut down over the wall. Anyone who’s trying to claim both parties are responsible for this simply has no coherent concept of responsibility.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/23/2019 - 09:47 am.

          “The most important thing we need now is immediate, permanent, legislation that automatically stops the paychecks of all leaders and staff in Congress and the White House whenever there is a government shutdown.”

          No. The “most important thing we need now” is an end to this presidential hissy fit. Reopen the government. Stop deflecting by talking about some pie-in-the-sky, constitutionally dubious, feel-good measure. Have Congress pull an Article I and pass funding to reopen the government.

          This whole mess is the President’s fault. He has no conception of how government works or is supposed to work, and is so used to having his ego stroked that he is willing to bring the country to its knees.

          • Submitted by Brett Adams on 01/23/2019 - 11:20 am.

            Totally agree, RB. Okay, I rescind my agreement on the “pie-in-the-sky” pay freeze – you’re correct, it’s just an attempt to distract from what is happening right now. Though I think if anybody deserves no pay, it’s Mitch McConnell!

          • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/24/2019 - 09:31 am.

            Actually I think you’re both missing the big point.

            We fought a war back in the 1860’s that was supposed to end slavery in the US. Yet here are in 2019 forcing hundreds of thousands of people to work for weeks on end without pay? THAT is big issue.

            Listen, the easiest and fastest way to end and prevent government shut-down… is to have REAL government shut downs because it’s illegal and unconstitutional to force work without pay. Imagine how long this shutdown would have lasted had all the flights, trains, farming, commercial fishing, etc. etc. etc. stopped? How long would the shut down over a “security” crises last if all the TSA and border control agents stayed home, forcing States and local law enforcement to man the boarders in their absence? What if the only “essential” employees were direct health care staff in the VA system and search and rescue Coast Guard personnel?

            I’m guessing no shutdown would last more than 48 hours and no one would ever dare shutting it down again or even threaten to shut it down again.

            Most congresspeople and presidents are wealthy enough to go a few weeks without pay. That’s just moving deck chairs around.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/24/2019 - 10:30 am.

              I think it was David Broder who came up with a surprisingly good idea: declare air traffic controllers “non-essential employees,” so they won’t work during a shut down. See how long Congress will last when they can’t fly home to brag about how they’re holding the line on spending.

  6. Submitted by Neal Rovick on 01/21/2019 - 12:29 pm.

    Is it a coincidence that major world powers are tangled up with the consequences of external propaganda efforts skewing elections ?

    Is this what MAGA looks like ? Brexit ? Really ? A government crippled over an unbelievable promise that could never be kept and will not achieve what is claimed ?

    All accomplished at a cost less than maintaining one army division.

    Mission certainly accomplished !

  7. Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/21/2019 - 12:31 pm.

    Now if we had a senate that wasn’t full of right wing cowards, they would bring it up for a vote. Vote yes to approve the budget without the wall, no to disapprove. If it passes send to the oval office, Gets vetoed, send back to congress and senate to vote again for a veto override. Time to stand up and be counted, unless of course those tough talking senators prefer to hide behind McConnell’s skirts!

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 01/21/2019 - 12:38 pm.

    Trump needs to negotiate with the resistance!

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/21/2019 - 01:58 pm.

      In this case, the “resistance” being the United States Congress. You know, duly elected representatives of the people.

      The U.S. Constitution is a fascinating document. Give it a read sometime.

      • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 01/21/2019 - 07:04 pm.

        Suspect those folks all got the majority of the vote in their districts, even though it was a small one in some places!

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/21/2019 - 05:40 pm.

      Some call her “Madame Speaker”.

  9. Submitted by Connie Sullivan on 01/21/2019 - 12:40 pm.

    Do you trust Donald J. Trump to hold up his end of any agreement? Neither do I, nor do the Democrats in the House of Representatives.

    How many times does he have to change his mind, his word, on a whim (the Coulter/Limbaugh thing was whimsical on Trump’s part), before we stop thinking that he’s really there?

    And remember: If the Speaker of the House lets Trump get away with his demand for $5.7 billion down payment for his Wall, we will see him pull the same foot-stomping, arms-crossed, lower lip-out stance on this issue, that issue, all the issues. He is unaccustomed to anyone saying No to him and he simply has no experience in a real negotiated deal.

    • Submitted by Tom Christensen on 01/21/2019 - 01:48 pm.

      Why is Trump asking for $5.7 billion for a wall estimated to cost $30 billion or more? Trump’s tantrums, as you describe them, need a cudgel to use every time he doesn’t get his way. It is $5.7 billion this time, next time, and the time after that. I feel sorry for the 800,000 political pawns the Republicans are holding hostage, but this is what Republicans do best, mess with people’s lives for their own purpose.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/24/2019 - 10:31 am.

        “Why is Trump asking for $5.7 billion for a wall estimated to cost $30 billion or more?”

        Because he’s going to stiff the contractors for the rest of the money.

        He’s Trump–it’s what he does.

    • Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/21/2019 - 05:40 pm.

      Oh it’s not just D’s that don’t trust him, hi party doesn’t.

      Recall how the GOP House voted to get rid of Obamacare, then Son Trump Tweeted that that was “mean”.

      He agreed to the deal McConnell got passed 100-0, then when Hannity has a fit Don Trump reneges and throws the GOP Senators under the bus.

      People are saying McConnell is a coward for not putting a bill up for a vote, but in some respects i don’t blame him.

  10. Submitted by richard owens on 01/21/2019 - 06:59 pm.

    WaPo excellent guide Google Map of the border west to east.

    Off topic but worth sharing:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2018/national/us-mexico-border-flyover/?utm_term=.b89569c59951

  11. Submitted by Mike martin on 01/22/2019 - 02:28 am.

    For the Dems its their way or NO way. The Dems want the Gov’t reopened but make not commitment about anything. The Dems say we will talk about it, with not intention of ever agreeing with Trump on anything.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 01/22/2019 - 09:08 am.

      And Trump says it’s his way or no way. Give him the money he wants (does anyone know how he plans to spend it?), and he will temporarily extend a program that he tried to get rid of.

      You would think Mr. Art of the Deal would know that’s not how negotiations work. On the other hand, the Dealmaker label was the brainchild of the ghostwriter who wrote his autobiography for him. I doubt Trump ever read the book that bears his own name.

  12. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/22/2019 - 09:48 am.

    Of course others have pointed out the fact that offering to give-back something you took away, and offering to return it for a limited time for a limited number of people… isn’t a “compromise” of any kind. It’s like taking hostages and then offering to return some of them, for a while, until you take them back again. I can’t imagine a reality where garbage like that would be taken seriously.

    The problem here is we have a POTUS with coherent concept of negotiation or understanding of governance in a democracy. What we HAVE is a fascist con-man who’s spent his entire life bullying and conning people into giving him what he wants. It’s worth noting that Trump has NOT been a particularly successful conman and bully in the sense that without hundreds of millions worth of bail-outs from his dad he would never have recovered from his multiple bankruptcies. He has a history of dealing himself into catastrophes.

    Another important feature of this scenario is that for perhaps the first time in his life Trump is dealing with intelligent people (i.e. Democrats) rather than dim-witted bankers, investors, and business men. A guy like Trump can only the smartest guy in a room full of dimwits.

  13. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 01/23/2019 - 08:47 am.

    The modern GOP, and Trump in particular, are more than willing to drive bus over the cliff, even when they are on it. Give in to that now, and what will i be next time? Gut Medicare or will kill all the hostages. Privatize VA health care or will kill all the hostages. And some here will be willing to “only” half gut Medicare. Or Snap. You want to negotiate with hostage takers and”compromise” with them? Ya think that might lead to more hostage taking, or less?

    Government by shutdown will not work.

    Why is it assumed that it’s OK for the GOP to shutdown government and hurt people, and that we assume it’s only Dems that care about people? Why is that accepted? “Oh, well, we know the GOP doesn’t care if air traffic controllers don’t get paid, the Dems better meet them half way.”

    Half of an expensive stupid wall when net migration is zero is still stupid.

  14. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 01/23/2019 - 11:31 am.

    There was a good article in the NYT about Israel’s border security.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=22&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=2ahUKEwjp6-DktoTgAhUI6oMKHeusArwQFjAVegQICRAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.nytimes.com%2F2019%2F01%2F10%2Fopinion%2Fborder-wall-israel-lebanon-egypt.html&usg=AOvVaw0L4YIfOWckaUuEPlPgX2br

    Note that unlike the U. S., Israel DOES face an existential threat.

    • Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 01/24/2019 - 08:24 am.

      Actually no, Israel is NOT currently facing any existential threats, and hasn’t since 1973. And IF Israel ever does face another existential threat, that threat won’t be at their borders with the Palestinians, it will be threat from an enemy that’s managed to acquire nuclear weapons… and THAT will never the Palestinians. While there are significant differences between the Israeli/Palestinian boarder and our border with Mexico… let’s not add more hyperbole to the discussion by exaggerating the Palestinian threat. Trump’s wall is a stupid idea, let’s just leave it that.

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