Trump did what he always does and changed his mind. Why was Congress surprised?

Reply Fri 11 Jan, 2019 10:22 pm
Trump did what he always does and changed his mind.

Why was Congress surprised?

Published December 30, 2018
The only way to deal with Donald Trump is to not do deals with Donald Trump. The private sector has learned this; when will Congress?

For his entire career, our dealmaker in chief has relied on a not-so-secret technique for extracting supposedly good deals: He agrees to a given set of terms and then, at the last minute, reneges on them.

He has done this to small businesses around the country, refusing to pay for cabinetry, catering, real estate commissions, and other goods and services after they’ve already been delivered. His companies have also filed for bankruptcy six times, helping him wriggle out of bills. Given this reputation, it’s hardly surprising that vendors and lenders alike ultimately learned it was wiser not to do business with him at all, rather than count on him to keep his word.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump promised that he’d “run government like a business,” and in this respect — among others — he has.

Multiple times since taking office, after agreeing to a deal, he has changed his mind at the very last minute. He’s done this with “dreamers,” China tariffs, a Group of Seven communique and budgets. As Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., put it earlier this year, during the lead-up to the last government shutdown, “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O.”

Which is to say: Trump doesn’t know what he wants, only that he doesn’t want whatever he has committed to. As I’ve written before, if a man’s word is his bond, Trump’s would be rated junk.

Trump illustrated this yet again in the run-up to the latest shutdown.

Initially, Trump signaled that he’d sign a stopgap funding bill that would have kept the government open until early February. To be clear, kicking the can down the road for another seven weeks is not exactly a sign of responsible governance. But if you’re a Republican, it seemed shrewd politically. The majorities of both houses of Congress have an interest in looking at least semi-functional. Shutdowns, besides inflicting unnecessary pain on hundreds of thousands of federal workers, are embarrassing.

Which is why Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., decided to endorse this stopgap bill and delay a more substantial funding battle until after Democrats take over the House in the new year. Then at least Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the likely incoming House speaker, could be scapegoated for any shutdown-related embarrassment.

Accordingly, the Senate passed the temporary funding measure, by voice vote, on Dec. 19. The House was expected to vote on it the following day, and the bill was anticipated to sail through with broad support in both parties.

Before then, Trump did what he always does: He suddenly changed his mind.

Egged on by Fox News and Ann Coulter, he announced he was torpedoing any funding bill — including this pitiful temporary measure — unless it included money for his precious border wall. And so outgoing Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., decided not to bring the Senate-passed version of the funding bill to the floor at all.

It’s precisely this sort of flip-flopping — and the cowardly congressional accommodation of said flip-flopping — that is slowly fraying the full faith and credit of the U.S. government.

We’re stuck in an indefinite government shutdown now that Congress has apparently disbanded until after the new year. Maybe the Trump administration will find ways to preserve many of the Obamacare provisions that the public loves, despite refusing to defend them in court; maybe not.

Both the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and NAFTA 2.0 remain in limbo, as do the steel and aluminum tariffs on Canada and Mexico that Trump promised to repeal once a deal was signed. Same with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, a Cold War-era arms-control agreement. And so on.

Trump has managed to convince himself, and his base, that he’s a brilliant negotiator, smarter than all the experts — including his Federal Reserve chairman, the many minions tasked with negotiating and renegotiating trade deals, his secretaries of state, defense or treasury, or really all of the “best people” he has selected to work for him.

His gut tells him more than anybody else’s brain can ever tell him, he maintains. But his gut seems to have a perpetual case of indigestion, given how often it flips.

The real question is why congressional leaders, including Ryan, repeatedly cave to Trump’s latest tweets and fleeting fancies instead of writing him off as the flake that he is. Why not at least try to whip the veto-proof votes — for a budget, really for any piece of legislation — necessary to simply govern without him? The only thing you can rely on Trump for is unreliability.

Reply Sat 12 Jan, 2019 09:43 am
@Real Music,
Real Music wrote:
To be clear, kicking the can down the road for another seven weeks is not exactly a sign of responsible governance. But if you’re a Republican, it seemed shrewd politically. The majorities of both houses of Congress have an interest in looking at least semi-functional. Shutdowns, besides inflicting unnecessary pain on hundreds of thousands of federal workers, are embarrassing.

Temporary stop-gap measures are good when you have an aggressive stock market that will take any news of stable, long-term policy and turn it into an opportunity to speculate markets into overvaluation.

For this reason, this 'kicking the can' with the shutdown, as well as the temporary suspensions of tariffs are useful. They allow some essential commerce to occur while steering the general global economy in the direction of caution, which helps to slow it down enough to keep it from melting down and crashing abruptly.

There are these things called business cycles and investors don't like them because they only want to profit, profit, profit; but a stable ebb in growth helps reign inflation back and reset markets so they don't crescendo to the point of crashing.
Reply Sat 12 Jan, 2019 10:18 am
He can't help it...

Watching the Trump show from the distance afforded by my brief leave of absence has been like watching a frenzy of ants. It’s hypnotic, in part because it appears devoid of meaning. Keep your eye on the bouncing ball, goes the adage. But what if the ball is a blur?

When Trump was in business, his shtick was stiffing contractors. If confronted, he would try some bombast and storm out of meetings, as he did the other day with congressional leaders, ending talks on the partial government shutdown caused by a crisis he has manufactured. His shtick now is stiffing all Americans. The technique is the same: Keep reality at a distance through hyperactive fakery.

I have been fascinated by Trump’s compulsion. Like birds feasting on mangled flesh in the middle of the road, he cannot help it. Like travelers beset with reflex gluttony in airline lounges, he cannot help it. Like the sulking child denied a video, he cannot help it.

Like the dog that returns to its vomit, he cannot help it. Like a puppet on a string, he cannot help it. Like the scorpion that stings the frog ferrying it across the torrent, he cannot help it. It’s his nature, you see.

A manufactured crisis, I said. It’s worth recalling the 5,200 troops ordered to the southern border before the midterm elections to confront the “caravan of migrants.” This was an exercise in manipulative illusion.

Monthly crossings over the southern border have declined in recent years. The number of migrants apprehended has also fallen over the past decade, with a recent tick upward. There is no humanitarian crisis, just as not a single mile of additional wall has been built since Trump took office. But absent this noise, what does reality offer the president? Robert Mueller, Nancy Pelosi and Michael Cohen, the specters of his insomnia.

One of the books I read while away included Harry G. Frankfurt’s seminal essay, “On Bullshit.” Here I must excuse myself with readers who may find the bull word offensive. Please look away from the rest of this column. There really is no alternative to it, for Donald Trump is the Michelangelo of bullshit artists.

The essential distinction that Frankfurt, a professor of philosophy emeritus at Princeton University, makes is between lies and bull. As he writes, “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth. Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.”

It is a habit “unconstrained by a concern with truth” whose essence is “not of falsity but of fakery.” The addict of bull “does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.” He is “trying to get away with something.” His “focus is panoramic rather than particular,” and he shuns “the more austere and rigorous demands of lying.”

Frankfurt’s conclusion may be read as an ominous verdict on this president. The bull merchant “does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

It has been said that Trump’s extraordinary election victory owed much to his intuitions about the anger in the heartland. There is some truth in this. But his essential intuition was into the readiness of Americans, suspended between the real and the virtual, for a post-truth presidency.

Quinta Jurecic, in an important essay for the Lawfare Blog, set out the dangers inherent in this shift before Trump took office. In the essay, “On Bullshit and the Oath of Office: The ‘LOL Nothing Matters’ Presidency,” she cited Frankfurt and argued that Trump’s “foundational disrespect for meaning and consequence” — that is to say, for reality and the very concept of law — would make it “impossible for Donald Trump to faithfully execute the laws of this nation and the duties of the oath of office and to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution.”

The president’s apparent readiness to “do national emergency,” as he put it, over a manufactured border crisis amounts to a perfect illustration of this danger. The Reichstag fire was at least a fire. Here there is only smoke and mirrors.

I would add one element to the reflections of Frankfurt and Jurecic on bull. There may be something amusing, or at least innocuous, about the bullshit artists encountered in a lifetime. They may be waved away. But in Trump the element of sadistic cruelty in his personality (mocking the disabled, for example), and the sheer gall of his fakery, make of him a malignant, rather than a benign, bullshit artist. He happens to occupy the world’s most powerful office.

Trump cannot help himself, I said. He can’t and won’t. But as citizens, “we have a duty to insist that words have meaning,” as Jurecic writes. If they don’t, neither does the Republic. That’s what the ants told me as I gazed at them, troubled and fixated.

roger cohen nyt
0 Replies
Real Music
Reply Sat 12 Jan, 2019 08:40 pm
Dreamers-for-wall trade going nowhere in House

Published January 12, 2019
A deal to reopen the government by trading border wall funding for immigration benefits for so-called Dreamers doesn't stand a chance in the House, according to legislators on both sides of the aisle.

House Democrats say they don't trust President Trump to keep his end of any bargain, and are wary of negotiating a deal that could benefit those in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program while throwing other undocumented immigrants under the bus.

"Many of us, Democrats and Republicans, want to find a solution to this, and the White House has never been supportive of that," said Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Calif.), a moderate who worked out a Dreamers-for-wall deal with Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) last summer.

That bill would have granted a path to citizenship to Dreamers both within and outside DACA in exchange for technological and manpower investments in border security, but no wall construction.

The Hurd-Aguilar bill, which lacked the support of GOP leadership, never made it to the floor.

Aguilar ruled out even preliminary cross-aisle negotiations while the partial government shutdown is in effect.

"If Republicans want to have conversations, we're always happy to, and you know that I will continue to have conversations with Republicans about a long-term solution to this. But we can't negotiate while the government is shut down, period," he said.

Meanwhile, the GOP refuses to join in government spending talks without some amount of wall funding on the table.

"There is no Democrat that is willing to give any money for a border barrier initiative, any substantial other than a dollar, for a border barrier initiative, so why have the discussion?" asked Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus and a close ally of President Trump.

About a quarter of the federal government has been shut down since Dec. 22, as Trump has demanded $5.7 billion for construction of barriers along the border, and Democrats in Congress have refused to grant it.

GOP senators, most recently Rob Portman (Ohio) and Jerry Moran (Kan.), have proposed measures similar to the Hurd-Aguilar compromise in an effort to end the shutdown, which on Saturday became the longest in modern U.S. history.

But Democrats, fresh off a big electoral win in November, say their base won't accept such a deal now.

"Every time that we've been [down this road], people on the ground they get their hopes up and they think that maybe there's an answer there, but this time people are staying pretty firm," said Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), an immigrant rights activist and co-chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

"They do not trust this president, they do not think that there's a real deal to be had, number one, and number two, they know that if there was a deal, because of everything he's done and everything he's said, that it would include some really terrible things," she added.

And the shutdown itself has become a core dividing issue, beyond debate over the wall itself.

"At this point, the tactic they're using is so illegitimate we wouldn't use it for anything they're asking," said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), a freshman lawmaker and rising progressive star.

"Just the idea that they're holding people's paychecks hostage and throwing a tantrum, I don't care if they wanted an ice cream cone, we're not going to give it to them," she said.

Republicans, on the other hand, view Democratic leadership as hypocritical for refusing to grant Trump's border wall request, which they see as similar to past bipartisan border security bills.

"In the scope of things, we're not talking about a big chunk of money. We're talking about concepts that even the folks that are now saying it's a moral issue to not do, they've supported it in writing, and with votes, and with signing up to discharge petitions," said Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), who's played a key role in previous immigration reform negotiations.

Centrist Republicans are frustrated that negotiations have broken down.

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), who early on in last year's border-for-Dreamers negotiations supported a bipartisan deal, said the negotiators are blowing an opportunity.

"These parties that are involved, and it really seems like it boils down to the House and the Senate Democratic leadership and the president - this is an opportunity I think for Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Schumer that they're just blowing," said Thompson.

"I think there's all kinds of opportunities here for things ... even just focused and related to immigration, that you could put together," he added.

Republicans have said they're unwilling to back a bill to reopen the government that doesn't have the support of Trump, who has indicated he'll veto anything without wall funding included.

"Can you find any Democrat in leadership that's willing to talk about any significant amount of money for a wall? Period. Whether DACA is included or not. When you find them, then we'll have a discussion about it," Meadows said.

And the White House has pulled away from the idea of trying to intertwine Dreamers and the wall.

Vice President Pence Thursday said the administration won't consider a DACA-for-wall deal, as administration officials believe the Obama-era program won't survive a challenge before the Supreme Court, though the constitutionality of DACA has so far not been successfully challenged in court.

Andrew Hanen, a South Texas judge who in 2015 ruled against a DACA expansion as well as a partner program, Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA), had the opportunity to rule against DACA as a whole in August, but refused to do so.

Trump rescinded DACA in September 2017 and gave Congress six months to enact replacement legislation. Congress failed to come to an agreement, but Trump's order was swiftly challenged in the courts, and a 9th Circuit decision ultimately forced the Department of Homeland Security to continue issuing DACA benefits to new applicants.

Given DACA's success in court so far, some Democrats are flummoxed by the administration's bullish attitude toward a favorable judicial resolution.

"Maybe they realized that people weren't going to take a deal, and so to get involved in a big lengthy negotiation around some ephemeral deal that never actually turns out to be something that Democrats could accept," said Jayapal.

Some Republicans are dismayed that the administration would seek a court victory rather than a legislative agreement.

"I don't agree with that perspective, even though I'm a huge friend and fan of the vice president. I'm tired of the courts dictating public policy. It's the legislative branch, let's exercise our responsibilities on this," said Thompson.

Ocasio-Cortez said "the administration is grasping at straws."

"I don't know if it's because they're trying to cover for the fact that they can't even offer that - we're going to reject it. We're not going to exchange DACA for a wall. We're not going to save one part of a family to expend another part. We're not going to separate families. They know we're not going to separate families, they know we're not going to tolerate that deal and right now they're just grasping for an excuse to not offer it because they know we're going to reject it," she said.

0 Replies
Real Music
Reply Thu 17 Jan, 2019 04:50 pm

Published January 17, 2019

President Donald Trump has been painted into a corner — and not by his political adversaries, but by his own allies in conservative media.

Right-wing personalities and media organizations have given Trump little, if any, room to negotiate his way out of the longest government shutdown in U.S. history -- which they prodded him into.

Figures like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Ann Coulter have demanded Trump keep the government shut down until Democrats provide him funding for a wall on the southern border. No wall, no deal.

Trump knows that, if he wants to maintain the support of his base, he cannot ignore these voices.

He can weather critical stories from outlets like The New York Times or Washington Post because his most avid supporters do not trust mainstream news organizations or get their information from such places.

But the people in his base watch and trust the Fox News prime time lineup; they listen to talk radio hosts like Limbaugh, and they read websites like the Drudge Report.

If Trump were to back away from his demands for a wall on the southern border, he would almost certainly face sharp criticism from these outlets and figures.

In mid-December, when he nearly signed legislation that would have funded the government, but provided no additional border wall funding, right-wing media outlets and personalities were furious. Breitbart called it a "cave." The Drudge Report said Trump was in "RETREAT." Limbaugh said he was going to "get less than nothing." And Coulter excoriated him on her Twitter feed.

Trump became sensitive to the criticism that he was backing off his promise to build a wall, people familiar with the matter told CNN at the time. Then, abruptly, he said he would not approve the short-term funding measure, leading to the government shutdown, which is now in its 27th day.

Now, Trump has little wiggle room to negotiate.

If he retreats on his demands for a wall, he'll face the same criticism he received from right-wing media voices back in December -- and he'll once again be confronted with the possibility he could lose standing with his base. (Trump has already shed some support from his core constituency of whites without college degrees during the shutdown, but this could accelerate that trend.)

In other words, Trump has effectively been boxed in by his biggest supporters.

Coulter, the conservative author who has been critical of Trump for his failure to thus far erect a barrier on the border, effectively made a similar point during an interview with "Vice News Tonight" this week.

"It is self preservation," Coulter said, "because he is dead in the water if he doesn't build that wall. Dead, dead, dead."

The topic has even come up on Fox News.

On Wednesday night, liberal Fox News commentator Juan Williams said on the air, "You should go listen to Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, because they're running this government. And they have forced this president into a trap."

Thus far, the right-wing media universe has backed Trump's fight with Democrats. They've urged him to leave the government shut down until Democrats provide him funding for a wall.

"Trump is assuring everyone he's not gonna cave on this, and I hope he doesn't," Limbaugh said on his program earlier this week. "[W]e don't get opportunities like this one presents, and I just -- hope he sticks to it."

0 Replies

Related Topics

  1. Forums
  2. » Trump did what he always does and changed his mind. Why was Congress surprised?
Copyright © 2019 MadLab, LLC :: Terms of Service :: Privacy Policy :: Page generated in 0.03 seconds on 10/19/2019 at 06:36:37