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We’ve come to this: Trump’s incompetence and narcissism leaves him with no manhood-affirming exit strategy; and McConnell’s cowardice and coddling of Trump’s incompetence and narcissism means he won’t take the exit ramp before him. Here are some smart takes:
Frank Wilkinson of Bloomberg writes, Pelosi Should Recognize President McConnell:
With Democrats in charge of the House, Pelosi should stop wasting time and energy on the reality-television president and deal instead with the closest thing we’ve got to the real thing: Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky … Some of McConnell’s Republican colleagues are looking at an uncertain path to re-election in their states. They are eager to get the government open, appear sensible, moderate and competent, and move on. Pelosi should put the onus for doing so squarely and completely on McConnell – not Trump. After all, when two parents have a squabble, they don’t sit around and wait for their 2-year-old to resolve it.
EJ Dionne of the Washington Post makes a similar case in After Trump’s dud, it’s up to the Senate GOP:
Trump has repeatedly rejected deals on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. And the same anti-immigrant voices who pushed Trump to shutter the government have put him on notice that they would see concessions of this sort as a sellout. Right-wing commentator Ann Coulter tweeted her spleen Sunday by referring to Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law thought to be interested in a deal, and Neville Chamberlain, the British prime minister famous for appeasing Hitler: “If Kushner (Trump) trades amnesty for a wall, history books will have to be pulled from the shelves to replace ‘Neville Chamberlain’ with ‘Donald Trump.’ Trump is willing to keep hundreds of thousands of government workers idle and unpaid. He lacks the guts to stand up to Coulter and her allies. Which means that the only path forward is for sensible souls to pressure McConnell and other Senate Republicans to stop enabling the blusterer in chief and put bills on Trump’s desk to reopen the government.
Jorge Ramos of Univision pens an op-ed for the New York Times entitled Trump Is the Wall:
This is about more than just a wall. Mr. Trump promised it in 2015, in the same speech in which he announced his candidacy, the same speech in which he called Mexican immigrants rapists, criminals and drug traffickers. His goal was to exploit the anxiety and resentment of voters in an increasingly multicultural, multiethnic society. Mr. Trump’s wall is a symbol for those who want to make America white again…The wall went from a campaign promise to a monument built on bigoted ideas. That is why most Americans cannot say yes to it. Every country has a right to protect its borders. But not to a wall that represents hate, discrimination and fear…the concept of America as an unwelcoming country to immigrants and uncomfortable for minorities is already here. In a way, Mr. Trump already got what he wanted. He is the wall.
Ron Brownstein argues in The Atlantic that Trump’s Wall Could Cost Him in 2020:
Politically, the showdown over the shutdown demonstrates how much more Trump prioritizes energizing and mobilizing his passionate base, often with messages that appeal to anxiety about demographic and cultural change, over broadening his support toward anything that approaches a majority of the country….Trump’s monomania on the border wall shows that he remains fixated on the priorities and resentments of his core coalition. But even a 30-foot barrier probably wouldn’t protect him in 2020 if he allows the waves of discontent to continue rising among the majority of Americans who don’t consider themselves part of that ardent club.
Jonathan Chait writes in New York Magazine, The U.S. Doesn’t Have a Border Crisis. Trump’s Campaign Does:
The apparent logic of his speech was that the force of presidential rhetoric would rally the public to his side. But Trump could not even maintain the appearance of believing such a fanciful story. In an astonishing comment to reporters beforehand, the president confessed he didn’t want to give the speech or take a planned trip to the border. ‘It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,’ he said, adding that ‘these people behind you’ — pointing to his communications staffers — ‘say it’s worth it.’ It’s unlikely even a highly articulate, popular president could escape the mess Trump has created for himself. Trump is none of these things.
James Hohmann writes in the Washington Post, Wall Fight Underscores Trump’s Weakness:
President Trump ran on a wall in 2016, and he lost the popular vote. He tried to make the 2018 midterms a referendum on the wall, seizing on a caravan of migrants as the centerpiece of his closing argument and deploying troops to the southern border. Yet Republicans suffered their biggest losses in the House since Watergate, despite a booming economy with historically low unemployment. The wall has never been a popular idea, a fact known to most Republicans in Congress…Public support for shutting down the government to force construction of a wall is lower. Trump himself has never been a strong president in conventional terms….Come Saturday, this partial government shutdown is poised to become the longest in U.S. history. Regardless of how or when it ends, the donnybrook will have illustrated Trump’s weaknesses. As a result, the public image of the president will probably fall more in line with these underlying political realities.
John Cassidy in The New Yorker Trump’s Speech Was a Big Non-Event:
What was all that about? Nothing much, it turns out. After all the buildup, Donald Trump’s televised address from the Oval Office on Tuesday night, the first of his Administration, was a dud…To change the narrative, he would have needed to do something much more dramatic. For instance, he could have resurrected the idea of linking border-wall funding to providing a pathway to citizenship for the Dreamers; that would have given the Democrats something to consider, anyway. At the opposite extreme, he could have gone ahead and declared a national emergency, stating his intention to divert money from the Pentagon for the steel fence. The first option would have involved standing up to Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, who would be screaming “Amnesty!” The second option would have plunged Trump into yet another legal battle, and even some Republicans in the Senate might have objected. He chose to go in neither of these directions. Consequently, he is now in the same tight spot as before—a slightly tighter one, in fact.
Sister Norma Pimental, Director of Catholic Charities for the Rio Grande Valley, writes in the Washington Post, Welcome to the border, Mr. President:
We welcome you to our community here in South Texas along the Rio Grande, which connects the United States to Mexico. I wish you could visit us. Our downtown Humanitarian Respite Center has been welcoming newcomers for the past four years…Mr. President, if you come early in the morning, here is what you will see: The families who have spent the night are tidying up their sleeping spaces. Some are sweeping, some are helping prepare breakfast, and some are getting ready for their bus departure to other places in the United States. You will see volunteers arriving to offer a hand either preparing hygiene packets, making sandwiches, cutting vegetables, preparing the soup for the day or sorting through donated clothing. Others may assist with the intake or help a mother or father contact family living in the United States. People come from all over the state and beyond to help.
Greg Sargent writes in the Washington Post, Raging, weakened Trump is running out of options:
The trip is clearly less about rallying public support that might pressure Democrats to relent on the wall — since that won’t work — and more about projecting what might be called optics of manly action…Yet it’s increasingly obvious that Trump’s gestures of action are largely empty ones — and not just on the wall. This is evident on two of the biggest running stories right now — Trump’s flirtation with declaring a national emergency to build the border barrier without congressional authorization, and his legal team’s noisy public threats to try to quash public release of the special counsel’s findings.