It’s another day for Democrats to be thankful that Ed Perlmutter, Jason Crow and the other resisters failed in their bid to take away Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.
Nearly four weeks into the shutdown showdown, the once and present speaker of the House has hit Donald Trump where it really, truly hurts — right below his #MAGA rally cap bill. As you’ve no doubt heard, Pelosi has essentially disinvited Trump from delivering the annual State of the Union speech on Jan. 29, suggesting they should reschedule for a time when the government has, you know, re-opened.
Either that, Pelosi said in a letter to the president, or Trump could simply submit a written report, which is what presidents often did back in the day before the invention of the remote control. The idea of Trump writing any kind of report is, of course, pure trolling.
Pelosi also suggested he could give the speech from the Oval Office. There’s nothing in the Constitution that says the president must come to Congress to deliver this annual speech. Sure, it’s a tradition. Even presidents who have been impeached do it. But, it’s worth noting, we’ve never had a State of Union delivered while the government was shut down.
You get the idea of what’s going on here. The reality-TV president has been given a dose of real reality. Pelosi is building her own wall at no cost — one surrounding the Capitol. Meanwhile, Trump has built himself an all-ecompassing box he has no idea how to escape. And so he has burger nights with football players, complains of being lonely and, while tuning in to Fox News, watches his own chief economist inform the country that the shutdown is hitting the economy harder than he expected.
Pelosi’s power play — to deny Trump his night of pomp and circumstance, a night in which he asks the nation to accept the notion that he is somehow fit to be president, a night he would surely spend slamming Democrats for refusing to pony up the $5.7 billion for a border wall — won’t end the shutdown. But for someone who has dreamed of a full-on military parade down Pennsylvania Avenue as he watches from his seat of honor, Trump must be enraged. As I write this, I await the rage-tweets to come.
In his previous shot at reality, Trump informed us that federal workers wouldn’t mind giving up a paycheck or two (or three or four or God knows how many) because they understood the importance of a wall on the Southern border. No one bought that then. And now?
The problem with this bit of illogic is at least twofold: one, it turns out that many workers actually need their paychecks; and, two, the wall is not only largely unpopular, according to all polling, but also a phony piece of misguided policy that would basically amount to a steel-or-concrete government-funded symbol of opposition to immigration from so-called “shithole” countries. I mean, Trump’s next step might as well be a wall enclosing the Statue of Liberty.
I’m old enough to remember when our own Tom Tancredo was the one championing a wall. In fact, the Wall Street Journal editorial board was calling it “Tancredo’s Wall,” and not in a nice way, while saying it would make America the world’s largest gated community. This was back in 2006 when Trump’s Mexico policy consisted of considering NAFTA’s impact on the Taco Bell chihuahua. And while Tancredo has drifted from the spotlight, his pal, Rep. Steve King, was just punished by Republican leaders for making the same kind of bigoted remarks that the current unpunished president might make.
King loves the wall. Tancredo loves the wall. And yet, by now, you’ve seen the stories about what a wall would not do. It wouldn’t stop drugs from entering the country. Most drugs that come across the border are smuggled in at legal entry points. And, shockingly, terrorists avoid trying to enter the country at a closely watched border. And, in the real world, it is likely that most undocumented immigrants entered the country legally and overstay their visas. The list goes on.
But while the shutdown is about a wall — and while Trump is losing this shutdown showdown because, for one of many reasons, he lied to the country when saying he would take responsibility for it — it’s really about more than a wall.
It’s about the harm that Trump is doing while trying to push Democrats to help fulfill a campaign promise that started, we all remember, with Mexico paying for a wall. Shutdowns have become a symbol of Washington dysfunction, but never more than this shutdown, which has no purpose and, to this point, no obvious ending. I don’t see how either side will cave. According to The Washington Post’s Robert Costa, some Republicans are hoping that TSA workers walk out, causing such chaos at the airports that the shutdown will collapse of its own weight.
Pelosi’s message to Trump is that she has no interest in giving him the setting in which to present himself as the leader of a government he has needlessly (partially) shuttered. Or to give him a setting in which to slam Democrats for not funding the wall. She cited security concerns during a shutdown as a reason to delay the speech, but this has nothing to do with security. Or maybe it does, but only if you mean the security Trump once enjoyed when Republicans controlled both houses of Congress. By now, even Trump must understand he had no chance of controlling Nancy Pelosi.