Will the government shutdown end soon with a grand bargain between Democrats and Republicans that trades wall money for the legalization of the Dreamers? Dream on. President Trump sent out an email today in which he called for an ‘agreemnet’ to occur that would ensure the construction of a wall ‘immediatly.’ The typographical errors were no accident but symptomatic of a derelict White House that seeks to substitute showmanship for substance.
Yesterday it was the bogus news conference at the White House with various glabrous fellows from immigration and border control services who were trotted out to testify to their fealty to Trump. One after another, they blubbered about how important Trump and his wall were to them. Then Trump, his orange-hued face glowing more radiantly than ever, hustled them out and refused to answer any questions from the duped press corps. His only mantra is that he’s never witnessed such support for a wall. After meeting with Trump today, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says that the president asserted he was prepared to keep the government closed for ‘months or even years.’ Trump himself threatened to invoke emergency powers to build a wall.
But already some Republicans are starting to crack. Two senators, Cory Gardner and Susan Collins, both of whom are up for reelection in 2020, are calling for funding the federal government and considering the issue of a wall separately even as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to, well, stonewall. McConnell apparently views the Senate as an appendage of the White House, refusing to consider passing legislation that might sustain a presidential veto. A new report in the Washington Post that senior Trump officials, including vice-president Mike Pence, are slated to receive a $10,000 raise next week is unlikely to strengthen the Republican case for stiffing federal workers.
But the Democrats are also creating welcome distractions for Trump. Newly minted members of Congress such as Rashida Tlaib are attracting controversy for threatening Trump with impeachment with the kind of foul language that Trumps prefers. There is a kind of symbiotic relationship between Trump and his female detractors. At an event yesterday, Tlaib boasted, ‘We’re gonna go in there and we’re gonna impeach the motherfucker.’ The more she lashes out at Trump, the greater her visibility will become. Today, Tlaib tweeted, ‘I will always speak truth to power.’
It would be hard to think of a sentiment better calculated to arouse the Trump faithful, which is why leading Democrats are wringing their hands over Tlaib’s intemperate remarks. Trump tweeted, ‘How do you impeach a president who has won perhaps the greatest election of all time, done nothing wrong (no Collusion with Russia, it was the Dems that Colluded), had the most successful first two years of any president, and is the most popular Republican in party history 93 percent?’
Actually, it’s pretty easy. You drum up a bill of particulars, as Republicans did in December 1998 against Bill Clinton about perjury and obstruction of justice, and, voila, impeachment hearings begin. It’s not as though there isn’t vastly more fertile territory to till in Trump’s case. But there’s a distinction between impeachment, on the one hand, and ousting a president, on the other.
If Trump can keep his foes focused on impeachment, he could ride out the year, clinging to his 39 percent approval rating. As Susan Glasser notes in the New Yorker, Trump’s numbers remain remarkably consistent, no matter what he does, whether it’s shuttering the government or calling someone Stormy Daniels a horseface: ‘despite all the tumult and political instability that Trump’s unlikely ascendance has brought to the US and the world, views of him have remained remarkably fixed.’ No matter what his adversaries may hope, Trump isn’t going anywhere. At least not immediatly.