When the White House Becomes a Prison—Sunday Political Brunch January 13, 2019

Sunday, January 13, 2019
Mark Curtis, GoLocalWorcester Contributor

Three weeks into a partial government shutdown and there appears no end in sight. I predicted early on that President Trump would have the short-term advantage, but that as things dragged on, public sympathies may drift more to Congress. I think were nearing some turning points that could change the dynamic, so let’s “brunch” on that this week.

“Art of the Deal?” – I was on KGO Radio 810-AM in San Francisco this week with host Ronn Owens, where I predicted President Trump would have to lead the way soon and be the dealmaker. After all he wrote the 1980s bestseller, “The Art of The Deal.” I still say he’ll concede on the so-called “Dreamers” and allow them to become U.S. citizens, in exchange for a good chunk of the border wall funding. In a true deal, each side gets something.

“Carter Rose Garden Lessons” – While I was on KGO with Ronn Owens, we discussed the dynamic of when a president faces a crisis. While we’ve never had a president like Trump, and my suggestion was that Mr. Trump ought to pay a close study to the history of President Jimmy Carter. During the 1979-80 Iran Hostage Crisis, Iranian militants took 52 Americans hostage - including military personnel - while seizing the U.S. Embassy. Carter barricaded himself in the White House in what came to be known as, “The Rose Garden Strategy.” It backfired, and Ronald Reagan crushed Carter’s reelection bid in a landslide.

“Public Sentiment Swings” – We are three weeks into this 25-percent government shutdown, which by my observation has been met with widespread public indifference. The backers of Trump and Pelosi/Schumer have secured their own base of support but aren’t moving the needle elsewhere. The tide could change. Friday marked the first day that affected federal workers went without a paycheck. If this stretches on two more weeks, they’ll miss another paycheck. Trump may have had an ideological advantage early on, (i.e., he kept his campaign promise to secure the border), but if we start to see a human cost to American citizens, public sentiment could turn on the White House in a very hostile way. People want Presidents to lead!

“SNL” – So far, the only winners in this fight are the writers at Saturday Night Live. In Tuesday’s night prime-time address to the nation, President Trump sounded stiff, robotic and scripted as he read from the White House teleprompter. It was a jarring contrast to the spontaneous, stream-of-consciousness, ad-libs of Trump on stage, both on the campaign and as President. Like him or not, he’s great unscripted. The Pelosi-Schumer response was just as bad on aesthetics. They looked like two high school kids, forced to go to the prom in an arranged date by their parents. Do they even like each other? The long, silent camera stares were uncomfortable, (and, yes, at times funny!)

“National Emergency” – The President says he reserves the right to declare a national emergency and build the wall, without Congressional authorization. Yes, the President has authority to do such things in a natural disaster or at times of war, but does illegal immigration rise to that threat level? His lawyers say yes, but Democrats in Congress are likely to challenge in Federal Court, as the separation of powers gives Congress the lead on raising and spending revenue. This one is a tough call, and since a long legal fight might mean an injunction, Trump remains more inclined to cut a deal with Congress. This remains, “in-play.”

“2020 Election” – There is a good bit of Republican unity right now but watch for eventual cracks in the wall (pardon the pun). Quietly there are some Republicans working behind the scenes trying to craft a compromise deal with Democrats. Why? Well, a long, protracted fight could hurt not only Mr. Trump, but also have a negative “coattail effect” in 2020. Republicans would like to keep control of the Senate and win back the House, which is plausible. But the Senate is risky. In 2018 Democrats were defending about three-quarters of the seats and lost many. Tables have turned and in 2020, the GOP is defending about three-times as many seats as Democrats. Watch as some members cut ties to Trump, to save their own jobs. That’s politics!

“Not Taxpayers; Mexico Pays” – During the campaign I thought one of Trump’s biggest mistakes was saying that he’d force Mexico pay for the wall. How? What court could ever enforce such a notion? Look, if this is a national defense issue, then the U.S. must suck it up and pay for its own defense. That’s what we’ve done in every war or conflict. It’s just the cost of doing business where we pay our own money to keep our nation free. No one pays us to do that. It’s a function of our self-reliance. Trump made a promise he can’t possibly enforce or keep.

What are your thoughts on the wall, and the government shutdown? Who’s winning? Just click the comments button on this page or click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

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