04.24.2017 - 10:09 PM EDT

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.

04.24.2017 - 7:29 PM EDT

Senate Republicans returning to the Capitol this evening from recess don’t sound like they’re spoiling for a government shutdown over funding Trump’s border wall.

Not even close.

04.24.2017 - 5:37 PM EDT

I want to go back to the point I made this weekend, which is that President Trump’s threat to shut the government down and kick people off insurance (by pulling subsidies) if Democrats didn’t agree to fund the wall is just a big time political loser.

I stick to that point. But let’s see what now seems to be happening. President Trump’s advisors are now signaling that Trump plans to back down because he knows he’ll lose. In other words, Mr Winning, Dominating, Make the Best Deals is about to go Low Energy and walk away from a sure loss while trying to pretend it never happened.

04.24.2017 - 4:31 PM EDT

I just listened to the reliable party man Hugh Hewitt on MSNBC confidently predicting that voters would not stand for a “Schumer shutdown” of the federal government over President Trump’s demand for funding over his border wall. I’ve seldom seen a man so slavishly bend all his ideas to whatever Republican happens to be in power. In any case, here’s why that “Schumer shutdown” prediction is almost certainly wrong.

04.23.2017 - 11:17 PM EDT

France’s results on Sunday are certainly welcome. In the December 2015 regional elections, Marine Le Pen’s Front National came in first in the first round with 28 percent. As late as this March, she was nudging 30 percent in presidential polls. If you figured that in the run-off, she would get some of the votes that might have gone to the conservative candidate Francois Fillon, Le Pen looked like she could get 45 percent of the vote. And who knows – a big terrorist attack, a scandalous revelation about her likely opponent, Emmanuel Macron, and she could be France’s next president.

04.23.2017 - 9:05 PM EDT

Over recent months, I’ve several times noted that President Trump thought that once he won the election, everybody would love him. I base this on various comments he’s made and just my general sense of his personality. But nowhere to date has he said it more clearly, more openly.

It comes in this AP interview and it turns on his press coverage (emphasis added) …

04.23.2017 - 7:45 PM EDT

The AP has now released the full transcript of its Friday interview with President Trump and it is completely amazing.

Full transcript after the jump …

04.23.2017 - 6:30 PM EDT

Is the President already pre-failing his “border wall or the your annual physical gets it” hostage drama shakedown? As I noted on Friday, the President is or was setting up a government shutdown drama in which he threatens to deprive people of coverage from the Obamacare exchanges if Democrats don’t agree to fund his border wall. As explained here, this is not only an egregious bit of legislative hostage taking and mafia-like shakedown, it also shows a pretty poor grasp of the politics of the moment.

Now it seems that the White House may be trying to moonwalk away from the threat.

04.23.2017 - 4:04 PM EDT

We now have a result in the French presidential election which until a week or so ago looked to be the expected, most probable outcome. The independent Emmanuel Macron (technically the candidate of the made-for-purpose Forward party) will face National Front candidate Marine Le Pen in a run-off on May 7th. It seems very likely that Macron will be the eventual winner, though nothing these days can be treated as certain. The defeated candidates of the two dominant mainstream parties, the Socialists (Hamon) and the Gaullist Republicans (Fillon), have both already said they will vote for Macron since Le Pen stands outside the bounds of acceptable national leaders.

I am no expert on French domestic politics and make no pretense of being one. But I am a close and concerned observer of the rightist-populist trend which has been roiling Europe and North America. So I have some thoughts on that dimension of the story.

04.23.2017 - 1:20 PM EDT

I mentioned yesterday that in the closely watched and highly consequential French election today we should remember that the President of the United States is supporting the hyper-nationalist, far-right anti-semitic candidate, Marine Le Pen. The US is almost always officially neutral in the elections of major European allies. But we’ve spent a decent amount of time working against the rise of neo-fascist and far right parties. Here we’ve weighing in in favor. I saw a few people say, well … that was in the campaign but a lot’s changed since the campaign.

Not really. He made what even the AP recognized as a de facto endorsement only two days ago.

From the AP …

04.22.2017 - 11:45 AM EDT

We know that President is undergoing a major, public ego injury tantrum because he has failed to manage any major legislative accomplishments in his first 100 days in office. The scale of the failure is so total one would almost need a Kelvin Scale of fail to capture its full extent. But in addition to all the other panicked flailing, there’s this gambit that seems to have gotten fairly little notice.

President Trump has now at least opened the door to denying he’s not even at 100 days, that people are miscounting and that is in fact at only just over 60 days. 

04.22.2017 - 10:55 AM EDT

It now seems clear that next week President Trump plans to provoke a spending showdown that could well lead to a shutdown of the federal government. This is strange for so many reasons. The modern government shutdown goes back to the mid-90s. There were technically government shutdowns in earlier decades. But these were brief spending gaps in the context of on-going negotiations. It didn’t occur to anyone to take the federal government hostage to extort policy changes from political opponents until the advent of the Newt Gingrich Speakership.

Before they become notorious reputational debacles, Gingrich was quite clear about what he was doing. He would shut the government down, break President Bill Clinton’s will with the pressure and bend Clinton to his will and policy dictation. There were two shutdowns under Clinton and the Republican Congress. There was one under President Obama in 2013 and a debt ceiling crisis in 2011 which wasn’t a shutdown but had the same legislative hostage taking dynamics. The one recurring pattern is that shutdowns happen in the context of divided government. To be more specific, they happen when there is a Democratic President and Republicans in control of one or two houses of Congress. It simply never occurred to anyone before now that there would be a shutdown crisis when one party had unified control of the entire government still less that a President whose party controlled Congress would threaten to shut the government down to extort policy concessions from a party that controls nothing.

And yet, here we are.

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