Trump, flanked by empty chairs: Chuck and Nancy flaked out on our meeting to avert a shutdown

Good optics from a practiced showman. Democrats usually fare better politically than Republicans in shutdown standoffs for understandable reasons, chiefly that it’s hard for voters to grok that the party of big(ger) government would ever really want to cut off money for Uncle Sam. If the feds turn off the lights for a few days, it’s natural to assume that the GOP, the party of slightly less big government, was the driving force. And of course that belief is reinforced by the fact that the two most famous shutdowns of modern times, the Gingrich-led 1995 episode and the Cruz-led 2013 initiative to halt ObamaCare, were both spearheaded by conservative Republicans. If we’re headed for another one this month, the GOP will need to prepare the battlespace for the eventual PR war over whose fault it is. Leave it to Trump to think visually, pushing McConnell and Ryan down a seat each so the cameras would capture Schumer’s and Pelosi’s boycott this afternoon.

Whether that’s going to work to shift blame to the others party when Republicans control both chambers of Congress, eh. Pelosi was left whining about Trump’s “verbal abuse” because he tweeted earlier today that he expected the meeting would be fruitless. That was probably a leverage ploy ahead of negotiations, however foolish, and the ensuing Democratic boycott is a leverage ploy too. They’ll be at the next meeting, if only to avoid any further unhelpful photo ops like this one. And God willing, Pelosi will stop tweeting in Trump-ese in the interim:

His comments about her and Schumer come in the first few minutes of the clip below, following a few perfunctory remarks about this afternoon’s missile test in North Korea. I’ve begun to tune those tests out in the assumption that they’re a fact of life now and there’s no sense worrying about them until something strikes South Korean or Japanese soil, but today’s test was no joke. This missile went very, very high…

…and a missile that can go very, very high can go very, very far at a lower trajectory. This was, to all appearances, a successful ICBM test, the longest in North Korean history. Yonhap estimates the missile’s range at 10,000 km, which would put Hawaii well within reach. (There’s a reason the islands have resumed nuclear siren tests for the first time in decades.) Other estimates, however, place the range closer to 13,000 km. What does that look like?

Odds are high that we’re going to end up destroying North Korea someday, but odds are also improving that they’ll take an American city or two with them before they go. And not necessarily a city on the west coast.

Here’s Trump at today’s meeting followed by the RNC reminiscing about the days when Chuck and Nancy were anti-shutdown. Prepare the PR battlespace.