I noted over the weekend just how weak a hand President Trump was playing in his effort to force Democrats to vote for border wall money with a threat of taking away people’s health care coverage. I said this afternoon that it looked like he was getting ready to cave. But I could scarcely have imagined that Trump would preemptively cave as quickly, objectively and ridiculousness as he appears to have done. This is turning into the Dog Day Afternoon of legislative hostage dramas.
According to The Washington Post and NBC news, late this afternoon Trump signaled that he is giving in and will either accept non-wall money and pretend it’s like a wall or just give the whole thing up entirely and try again in the fall, which likely means never.
This passage in the Post is highly revealing …
But with a Friday deadline looming to pass a new spending bill, the Trump administration projected confidence that a shutdown would be avoided. In the face of fierce Democratic opposition to funding the wall’s construction, White House officials signaled Monday that the president may be open to an agreement that includes money for border security if not specifically for a wall, with an emphasis on technology and border agents rather than a structure.
Trump showed even more flexibility Monday afternoon, telling conservative journalists in a private meeting that he was open to delaying funding for wall construction until September, a White House official confirmed.
As you can see, White House officials were telegraphing a less confrontational stance – metaphor wall money. But Trump himself couldn’t help caving even more aggressively, apparently openly discussing where the White House assumes it will end up, which is getting nothing at all. So White House officials pitch new bargaining position; Trump, allowed to talk, says no let’s just lose completely.
This does fit the pattern with the earlier Obamacare repeal debacle – aggressive stance, bluster, confidence followed by abject surrender.
The Post charitably headlines this as “White House ‘confident’ of averting shutdown as Trump shows flexibility on wall.” But when you surrender there’s pretty good reason to be confident there won’t be a fight. How can there be? That’s not how it works.