May 23, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Trump Shuts Down the Presidency
He shut down the government to get his way, and failed. He's failing again.
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So the president tried yesterday to blackmail the Democrats.
That’s hardly surprising given the criminally minded behavior seen for more than 850 days. Whenever Donald Trump believes he has the upper-hand, he tries extorting something, even if it means shutting down the government for over a month.
Of course, he doesn’t have the upper-hand. If memory serves, he has never had it. Trump is too near-sighted and arrogant to see he doesn’t, though, perhaps because he actually believes the nonsense he’s told people over his long fraudulent career.
Then again, maybe he doesn’t. If he believed it, why the effort to cover things up? As Tim O’Brien wrote today: “Over the years, Trump has managed to keep his health and academic records under cover and his ties to organized crime largely out of public view as well. He has used a dizzying number of lies and exaggerations to mask his poor track record as a businessman, hide financial problems and inflate his wealth.”
Trump appears not to understand he’s neutered himself.
A few weeks ago, he met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. They discussed a bipartisan plan to spend about $2 trillion on infrastructure, which is not something the Republicans want to do, but in any case, Trump was receptive. Things looked good. Yesterday was the follow-up.
The press corps tends to pay attention to manners, so we mostly heard yesterday about the president walking into the meeting, making demands, and storming off. He then explained why he wasn’t going to work with legislators. “I’ve said from the beginning, right from the beginning, that you probably can’t go down two tracks,” he said. “You can’t go down the investigation track, and you can’t go down the investment track—or the track of ‘Let’s get things done for the American people.’” Those were his terms.
One or the other. But not both.
Trump demanded the Democrats stop investigating him in exchange for $2 trillion. His thinking was transparent. The Democrats wanted something. So he felt he had the advantage. He didn’t think the Democrats would explain that they tried making something happen for the people, but that “he just took a pass,” as Pelosi said.
In other words, Trump came off not only as a petulant child but one trying to force the Democrats into doing something they’d never do. The president has learned nothing from the fight over the government shutdown. Maybe he’s not able to. After all, he’s never been held accountable, largely because, as O’Brien said, he covers his tracks.
Some argue the president already knew a $2 trillion bill would never get through Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republicans, who take dim view of fiscal spending. Why not force the Democrats, if possible, to choose between bread-and-butter issues, like infrastructure spending, and continuing to investigate his administration?
But that’s attributing more forethought to him than he’s demonstrated since taking office, indeed since ever. What happened yesterday fits squarely into a lifelong pattern of over-promising and under-performing while savaging rivals in the press, all the while believing, or pretending to believe, such antics make him a master negotiator.
He shut down the government to get his way, and failed.
Yesterday, he shut down the presidency to get his way.
He’s failing at that, too.
He’s not even pretending to accomplish anything. The Senate seems comfortable being an assembly line mass producing judges. The House, on the other hand, is busy passing bill after bill. Sure, they may die in the Senate, but passing them is only partly the point. The larger point is demonstrating they’re working for the people.
Shutting down the presidency hurts only Trump, not the Democrats. They will continue passing bills. They will continue conducting oversight. They will continue demonstrating good faith. Trump appears not to understand he’s neutered himself.
The Democrats won’t stop investigating. If the president sticks to his terms—demanding they stop investigating if they want things from him—he’s all but resigned. That could change, of course, but by now we know this guy. He can’t learn. He can’t change. He is who he is. The difference is most people are finally seeing that.
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John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.
Just to be clear, the Democrats are also passing bill after bill to get Republicans on records in the House at least as opposing them. It’s fodder at the House level for 2020. Because the Senate won’t allow any of the bills to come to the floor, Republicans there are a bit more insulated from going on record.