Twas the week before Christmas and Donald Trump was in a deep funk. His Secretary of Defense quit on a matter of principle, the stock market resembled a bear settling in for a long hibernation, friends and foes alike were excoriating his Syrian surrender, he was forced to close his phony charitable foundation and the Mueller investigation kept closing in.
His only bright light was bipartisan passage of the criminal justice reform bill, but that was dimmed by all the jokes about how it was needed to protect him and his family after Mueller and impeachment.
But just when all looked hopeless, Santa’s elves came to the rescue.
Christmas came early for Donald Trump, even if he didn’t get to spend two weeks playing golf at his Florida resort.
Riding in that sleigh were St. Nick’s helpers Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Mark Meadows, Jim Jordan and Fox & Friends.
They came to remind the master of the deal that the best deal may be no deal at all. They demanded Trump veto the bipartisan budget deal he’d made with the Senate that passed unanimously.
So he did as told, triggering yet his third government shutdown of the year because of his demand for a Mexican border wall, and accused his enemies for his own failure to get a budget.
It had been a very, very bad week for the president and since it certainly couldn’t be his fault, because nothing ever is, he decided to blame it on his fellow New Yorker, Chuck Schumer, the leader of the Democratic enemies in the Senate. But there was a problem. Just a few days earlier, he’d told Schumer and the rest of the world on live television from the Oval Office, “I’ll be the one to shut it down. I will take the mantle. And I will shut it down for border security.”
If Trump thought he could win over Schumer, who has called himself Benjamin Netanyahu’s best friend in Washington, to support his wall by comparing it to Israel’s security barrier, he was clearly mistaken. The Israeli prime minister, anxious to ingratiate himself to the American president last year, had tweeted “President Trump is right” and called the wall “Great idea.”
The comparison is bogus. One is reality and the other is fantasy. On the outside of Israel’s borders with the Gaza Strip and Lebanon are heavily armed terror organizations, Hamas and Hezbollah, whose declared intent is to destroy the Jewish state. On the West Bank, the barrier was built in response to a wave of terror and suicide bomber attacks and incursions by terrorists. There is also a fence along the Egyptian border to interdict terrorists, smugglers and asylum seekers from Africa.
On the other side of Trump’s proposed wall with Mexico are impoverished Mexicans seeking a better economic future in the United States, and Central and South Americans fleeing persecution and chaos.
All it took for Trump to shut down one-quarter of the US government was reneging on his commitment – something he’s experienced at – to sign the Senate compromise. Wielding his veto threat, the far-right led by Reps. Mark Meadows and Jim Jordan in the House brought forth a new government funding bill that included $5 billion for Trump’s “big beautiful wall” along the Mexican border that most Americans don’t want.
The closure was a deft stroke because it diverted nearly all attention away from the other crises Trump had created, and the media that he loves and hates so much at the same time fell for it. He knows Fox News will say what he wants to hear and the rest of the cable stations are incapable of focusing on more than one story at a time.
The president’s week was spent tweeting boasts, insults, grievances, personnel upheavals and personal attacks while watching cable news count the elapsed hours, minutes and seconds of his shutdown, and talk endlessly about how long it would go on and what it means.
This was a precious Christmas gift for Donald the Diverter.
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tennessee) said Trump surrendered to the “tyranny of talk radio hosts,” but those are Trump’s friends and closest advisers.
The government shutdown may be a bad idea for 800,000 federal workers and their families, especially during this holiday season, but it’s a gift for Trump.
It’s the best thing that happened to him in a long time. He gets to show his base that he’s a tough-as-nails fighter who keeps his promises. The wall and the shutdowns tell his base: I won’t abandon you. I will protect you from those dark-skinned foreigners. I hate who you hate. I keep my promises (except about my tax returns). And, by the way, I hate those government bureaucrats.
As he faces a swirl of scandal, chaos, high staff turnover and a foundering administration that threatens his presidency and reelection, his greatest fear is that his base will desert him. They love him but they ask the old question, “What have you done for me lately?”
He was upset that his surprise retreat from Syria didn’t make him the “most popular hero in America,” not even at Fox News, which sided with his secretary of defense, who resigned in protest.
Once again he needed a diversion, and Santa’s little helpers brought it in their sleigh. Trump may not listen to his top national security, diplomatic and intelligence advisers, but he seems intimidated and swayed by the likes of radio talkers Limbaugh and Colter, far-right congressmen Meadows and Jordan and Fox friends like Hannity, Carlson and the couch potatoes.
The shutdown could continue into the new year and the 116th Congress takes office at noon on January 3. If it does, the Democratic-run House will quickly pass its own funding bill that won’t have any money for Trump’s wall.
Trump should understand by now he will never get his wall, not this Christmas, nor the next one or the one after that, but he will always have the issue to rouse the faithful who buy his red hats at his rallies if and when he runs for a second term. But will it be enough to keep their support as the economy weakens and corruption runs rampant in his “drain the swamp” administration?
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