Trump Cannot Learn How to President

US President Donald Trump (C) speaks after a Senate Republican policy lunch in Washington, DC, on January 9, 2018. (Photo by Jim WATSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)

President Trump enjoyed unified control of the entire federal government for two years. He forgot to get his wall funded during those two years. Now he’s taken the entire federal government hostage at the point at which he probably can’t any longer get it.

Not only do no Democrats support any version of the President’s wall fantasy. They don’t fear his supporters or his bully pulpit. They just concluded an election in which Trump made border paranoia and race baiting the central campaign issue. They won a resounding victory. Democrats have no incentive to give him anything to encourage his reckless behavior and they are in fact offering nothing. Republican leaders today were verging on apoplexy because Democrats were refusing to negotiate in response to Trump’s hostage taking.

Now Trump would certainly say that despite Republican control of Congress he needed to meet the 60 vote threshold in the Senate. But that’s not really the point. That only means he wasn’t able to dictate on this issue during those first two years. There were people he had to persuade or entice who weren’t loyalists. He had to … for lack of anything better let’s use that most trite and overused word, lead. Presidents are leaders of their party. They use the copious tools at their disposal to make deals. They have to offer something or meaningfully threaten something to get their way. He failed at both.

This isn’t theoretical. Democrats were actually quite willing to fund the wall. They offered tens of billions of dollars for it, far more than they’re refusing to support now. But Trump had to give them DACA. He said he would but then refused, apparently because his most rage-driven advisors said it would make him look weak, much as he was goaded into this shutdown by Coulter and Limbaugh. It’s probably better to say that he couldn’t than he wouldn’t. He’s weak in respect to his supporters who control him and manipulate him.

There were a number of red state Democrats who were quite ready to make deals and the entire Democratic caucus would have in exchange for something they wanted. But he couldn’t do it. He can only dictate. This shouldn’t surprise us. He couldn’t manage to get Obamacare repealed, even by the 51 vote standard, one in which he needed only Republican votes, even though Republicans had campaigned on doing just that for almost a decade. That’s a remarkable level of governance failure.

It may not have been likely but if Republican senators really supported the wall idea they could have changed the rules, which Trump had been demanding for 18 months. They jettisoned the Supreme Court filibuster immediately because a new Justice was a core Republican goal. The truth is they don’t care about his wall. They were happy to see the whole idea die as long as they weren’t blamed. Hanging it on Senate Democrats was more a help than a problem.

Trump had two years to get this done, a stupid idea, a mendacious campaign metaphor, but whatever. He had numerous offers, many opportunities. But he forgot. He didn’t seem to realize he might not always have total control. Now he probably can’t and he’s mad. Sad.

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