Shall we assume that the private meeting didn’t go any better than the public meeting? At a press splash for their tete-a-tete, Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer got into a heated argument over who would be responsible for a government shutdown if Trump insisted on funding the border wall. Trump rounded on Schumer and declared that he’d be “proud to shut down the government for border security.”

You want him on that wall — you need him on that wall!

Nancy Pelosi got the fight started before belatedly sensing where this was going. Once she wound Trump up, she tried heading off Trump. “I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press,” Pelosi said, after picking the fight in the first place. Schumer capitulated as well:

Too late! 

Here’s a serious question: which of these two Democratic Party leaders actually thought a public debate — or even a photo splash — with Trump would turn out well?  You do that after the meeting, and preferably only after reaching an agreement and agreeing on a joint statement. Without that, you exit and speak later at your own podium. For two supposedly experienced and wily legislative leaders, both still can’t recognize an obvious trap when it’s poised to snap.

Pelosi is facing a leadership challenge in the House after the first of the year, one that she’s so far managed to fend off. This disaster should have House Democrats rethinking their support for Pelosi’s speakership. She has clearly not learned anything about dealing with Trump in public if, after three years of watching Trump, she allowed herself to walk into a live-action Trump 2020 campaign ad. While she and Chuck Schumer yammered on and on about “equities” and the like, Trump kept emphasizing border security and their opposition to action that Democrats voted to approve in 2006.

Pelosi thought she was at a public scolding. Instead, she and Schumer got their rear ends handed to them by a man who knows how to use the media to his advantage. It’s the difference between parliamentary debate and a street fight. As the lesson went in War Games, the only way to win Trump’s game is not to play. At this point, even the greenest Capitol Hill intern would know that much.

Trump then polished them off by insisting that he’d build the wall despite them:

Give Trump the TKO for Round One of the upcoming session of Congress and divided authority in Washington. Trump can’t expect to win them all … unless Pelosi and Schumer keep thinking that they can somehow out-Trump Trump.

Update: Some will argue that Pelosi and Schumer won by having Trump take ownership of a shutdown, if one occurs. That viewpoint is not limited to Democrats:

This misses the point. Of course Trump would end up with the blame for a shutdown over a demand for border-wall funding; Schumer got the blame for a shutdown over DACA normalization earlier, a point Trump was making in the exchange. It’s already unavoidable because he’s the one making the ask, just as Schumer was in the previous episode of Who Wants to Fund the Federal Government. With this exchange, though, Trump made it all about border security while Pelosi and Schumer fretted about “equities” of the politicians in Washington. It’s red meat for the base at no loss for Trump at all.