“There are a lot of things I’m unhappy about in this bill, there are a lot of things that we shouldn’t have had in this bill,” POTUS said at today’s signing ceremony, “but we were in a sense forced if we want to build our military.”
“Forced”? No one forces The World’s Greatest Negotiator to do anything.
I think “rolled” is the wrong word to describe what happened, though. Rolled implies that he was active in negotiations and got suckered into a bad deal, but how engaged was he really? Trump’s usual approach to Congress (see, e.g., health care) is to let them hammer something out. If Ryan and McConnell are okay with it, he signs off. Which, to me, is refreshing: Instead of having the executive dictating the legislative process he’s leaving it to the legislature, controlled by his party, to come to a compromise. More influence for Article I, less influence for Article II sounds like a good deal. In theory.
In reality the GOP is a soulless party with no principles deeper than getting elected and bashing Democrats. More influence for a Republican-controlled Congress under those circumstances is destined to end in tears. Ryan and McConnell were worried about being blamed for a new shutdown seven months out from the midterms so they cobbled together whatever Democrats needed to get this done. If we had a conservative ideologue as president, someone who bristled instinctively at a new spending blowout, the likelihood of a veto would have forced Republicans leaders to craft a more modest bill. Alternately, if we had a base that was conservative, both they and the president would have trembled at the thought of passing and signing the sort of garbage that just became law.
But we don’t have either of those things. Imagine Trump’s confusion, then, upon learning that his normally stalwart supporters are unhappy that he delivered a brand new “deal” for them, just as he promised he would during the campaign. The only thing that seems to have bothered him about the bill beforehand was the lack of funding for the border wall (which is also what’s bugging most of his fans). The reason he surprised everyone with a veto threat this morning, I suspect, was because he had no idea how many of his supporters were angry, or even why they were angry, until he digested some Fox News programming and realized that there must be a serious problem if his most reliable cheering section was annoyed. He sounded just fine with the deal yesterday, after all:
Got $1.6 Billion to start Wall on Southern Border, rest will be forthcoming. Most importantly, got $700 Billion to rebuild our Military, $716 Billion next year…most ever. Had to waste money on Dem giveaways in order to take care of military pay increase and new equipment.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 22, 2018
All of which is to say, was he “rolled” or did he just not care much apart from the provisions on the wall and DACA? If you elect a guy who presents himself as a big-picture populist, who’s going to worry about his own pet issues and leave the details on everything else to eggheads like Ryan, it’s silly to complain when he does that and we get a terrible bill as a result. He got military funding. He’s still going to get wall funding, eventually. Maybe. Who cares about the rest?
The best part of the social-media freakout this afternoon, by the way, is watching all the hardcore Trumpers suddenly warning that the GOP is now at risk of losing the midterms, as though (a) that hasn’t been true for months thanks to this guy’s perpetual low-40s approval rating and (b) they won’t be sky high on him again within 48 hours. If he added another $10 trillion in debt tomorrow, slapped a 40 percent tariff on all foreign imports, but also got $25 billion for the wall, they’d be calling him a genius. Tweeting something that makes liberal snowflakes cry will in itself probably be enough to restore his populist cred. Exit quotation from Chuck Schumer’s communications director: “I, for one, am tired of all the winning.”