Basic good politics. Use the bully pulpit and add another checked box to the “I tried” column before the inevitable compromise that disappoints his base. Forced a shutdown to try to get the wall built? Check. Delivered a primetime address to blame the Democrats for the standoff and sell the public on the wall? Check. Traveled to the border for a photo op to show how much he cares? Yep, that box will be checked soon too. Declared a national emergency and grabbed part of the Pentagon’s budget to begin construction?
Not checked yet, but could be soon. Maybe during this address!
A primetime address is low-risk, as it’ll be fully Telepromptered. Trump always does okay when he’s given a script and sticks to it, as he’s done twice now in addressing Congress. So long as he doesn’t start ad-libbing about how it’s no big deal if federal workers don’t get paid on Friday since he’s sure their landlords will be understanding about it, he’ll be fine. The odds of that happening can’t be more than … 75 percent.
POTUS wants the broadcast networks to preempt programming to air his speech but as of 2 p.m. ET they’re “deliberating,” according to the WSJ. Do they do him this favor? No good outcome either way for the media:
TV exec texts: "He calls us fake news all the time, but needs access to airwaves… If we give him the time, he'll deliver a fact-free screed without rebuttal. And if we don't give him the time, he'll call every network partisan. So we are damned if we do and damned if we don't."
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) January 7, 2019
They could always offer Pelosi time too for a rebuttal. The Journal has this detail, meanwhile:
During a private meeting with aides at Camp David on Sunday, Mr. Trump said he wanted them to come up with a resolution to the shutdown fight that would reopen the government without him appearing to have capitulated to Democrats, a person familiar with the meeting said.
On Friday he threatened to keep the government shut down for years if need be to secure wall funding. Two days later he was telling staff to end this in some reasonably face-saving way.
That actually makes sense since he’s in a sweet spot right now in terms of the timing of all this. He needed to show that he was willing to fight and not cave immediately, and he’s done that. This is now the third-longest shutdown in American history. He didn’t want it to drag on for so long, though, that federal workers and the general public faced real hardship from it, as the political consequences of that would be unpredictable. That moment is coming soon, with Friday’s federal payday. TSA screeners are already calling in sick, the media’s running stories about food stamps being cut off, even immigration services are being curtailed. His goal was to prove a point about his resolve while suffering the least possible political pain for doing so. Getting a deal done in the next few days before paychecks are due would achieve that.
The one wrinkle is the “national emergency” gambit. If the Journal’s report is true then it sounds like Trump might hold off on going that route. He has excuses for not doing so — it’s a terrible precedent, it’ll be tied up in court, he can always claim that his lawyers told him he didn’t have the authority to do it. But he doesn’t want to leave any boxes in the “I tried” column unchecked or else Coulterites will whine at him about it. I’m curious to see what he says about this tomorrow night.
Here’s a sneak preview of what might happen if he goes off-script. Exit question: What would a face-saving compromise look like at this point? Democrats give him, say, $2.5 billion for “border security” without adding any restrictions on using the money to build a wall? I can see why Trump might take that deal but I can’t see why Pelosi and Schumer would if the point of this standoff was to deny him so much as a dollar of wall funding.
Hilarious Video of Trump Saying He is An expert on Everything pic.twitter.com/MiCBgkHJyC
— PoliticsVideoChannel (@politvidchannel) January 5, 2019