It’s classic Trump. A president who knows the virtues of suspense is not going to render a final verdict on the congressional spending deal – which Fox News host Sean Hannity deemed ‘garbage’ – until the very last moment, trying to make it look as though he’s the Decider, when he really has little choice about whether to sign off on it. El Paso, where he ranted last night about the need to finish a wall he never even started, was his personal Alamo.
After the 35-day government shutdown, which tanked his favorability ratings, Trump can hardly afford to create déjà vu all over again with a fresh one. Instead, he can accede to the deal that offers a pittance for barriers on the border – less, it seems, than he would have received a few months ago – while declaring, as he did Tuesday, ‘I’m not happy about it. It’s not doing the trick. I don’t think you are going to see a shutdown. I wouldn’t want to go to it. If you did have it, it’s the Democrats’ fault.’ Whatever. Perhaps Trump, who has been employing canine metaphors more than ever in the past few days, will toss his supporters a bone in the form of an emergency declaration that will end up entangled in the courts for several years as he continues to howl about the unwillingness of the Democrats to build a wall.
As Trump pouts about the wall, congressional Democrats are not only denying him funds, but also ramping up their investigations of him. According to the Washington Post, the House Judiciary Committee has just hired two big legal guns to target Trump: ‘The panel announced that it would bring on Norm Eisen, co-founder of government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), and Barry Berke, a partner at the New York law firm of Kramer Levin who is a well-known expert in corruption and criminal law.’ But maybe the scariest news that arrived for Trump isn’t about a border wall. It’s a new report from the Federal Reserve of the Bank of New York. It indicates that the repo man is making a comeback. To wit: a record seven million Americans have fallen 90 or more days behind on their car payments. This news is likely to drive Trump into a fresh frenzy to identify scapegoats for a faltering economy.
For it’s the likelihood of economic upheaval, more than anything, that threatens to put the kibosh on Trump’s already murky reelection prospects. Trump can fulgurate all he wants about illegal aliens, rapists, MS-13, and other baddies, but it didn’t help him in the 2018 midterms, when the GOP suffered a pounding, losing 40 seats in the House of Representatives. Add in a stiff dose of economic recession and Trump’s goose is cooked.
At this point, it’s starting to look as though foreign policy is the only sphere in which Trump can try to bolster his sagging ratings. Like a rock band that’s more popular abroad than at home, he’s headed to Vietnam, where he will meet with his new best friend Kim Jong-un. Maybe Trump will try to cut a special trade deal with North Korea to try and boost American exports of steel and soybeans, allowing him to hang tough on China tariff policy. If nothing else, Trump should be able to collude with Kim to build a Trump Tower in Pyongyang.