Makes sense that he and Trump wouldn’t be sticklers about the details of a wall. Mulvaney famously derided the idea when he was running for reelection to the House in 2015. And if you believe former Trump advisor turned enemy Sam Nunberg, the idea of a border wall was cooked up on the campaign trail as a way of keeping Trump on-message about immigration. It was a measure of rhetorical discipline more so than a serious policy proposal:

As Mr. Trump began exploring a presidential run in 2014, his political advisers landed on the idea of a border wall as a mnemonic device of sorts, a way to make sure their candidate — who hated reading from a script but loved boasting about himself and his talents as a builder — would remember to talk about getting tough on immigration, which was to be a signature issue in his nascent campaign.

“How do we get him to continue to talk about immigration?” Sam Nunberg, one of Mr. Trump’s early political advisers, recalled telling Roger J. Stone Jr., another adviser. “We’re going to get him to talk about he’s going to build a wall.”

Three years later, the concrete wall is now a “steel fence.” Trump’s been pushing that idea for weeks, at least as far back as tweeting about “artistically designed steel slats” in mid-December, but I continue not to understand who the target audience for it is. Which Democrat is supposed to hear it and think, “Oh, a thousand miles of steel fencing instead of concrete? Here’s your check.”

Does the White House think the left’s problem with a wall or fence or barrier or whatever you want to call it is … aesthetics? They’re open-borders ideologues and they relish the idea of blocking Trump on the thing he most wants to do as president. You could have Frank Gehry design the wall and it wouldn’t matter a lick.

Or is this talking point aimed at swing voters, in hopes that they’ll accept it as evidence of Trump’s supposed willingness to compromise, however insignificantly, before the fit hits the shan later this week when federal paychecks don’t go out?

Mulvaney went on to call the proposal “evidence of our willingness to solve the problem.”

“If he has to give up a concrete wall, replace it with a steel fence in order to do that so that Democrats can say, ‘See? He’s not building a wall anymore,’ that should help move us in the right direction.”

I think he’s just trolling, using an absurd example to show the right that Trump’s standing firm on his core demand. Either that or POTUS had the following thought: “My base will believe anything I tell them. Maybe Pelosi’s base will believe anything she tells them too.” Not so, although I wish for entertainment purposes that Democrats had a Speaker stupid enough to try to sell liberals on the idea that a massive steel fence is somehow meaningfully different from what Trump’s spent the last three years proposing. As it is, Pelosi must be tempted to counter Mulvaney with a similarly absurd offer. A thousand-mile moat? How about a hedgerow along the border from California to Texas? Green solutions.

Incidentally, Democratic leaders aren’t even showing up to meetings with Pence, the White House’s lead negotiator, anymore. They’re sending staff:

Chuck and Nancy had better be careful. Although the polling *had* favored them in the shutdown, it’s turned more ambivalent of late. Trump has done everything he can to claim responsibility for the standoff, which makes him the favorite to be blamed by the public when they start getting really mad about this, but the fact remains that Democrats are holding up funding here over a (relative) pittance like $5 billion for no reason more exalted than spite. Even if Trump does end up bearing most of the blame, that’s not necessarily a political loss for him. Bill Kristol’s onto something here:

Most voters won’t remember the shutdown in 2020. But some righties would have remembered Trump’s refusal to fight for the wall if he had ignored Ann Coulter and signed the clean spending bill that McConnell proposed. Although the odds of 20 Senate Republicans voting for removal after impeachment are remote under any circumstances, they’re more remote with the Republican base firmly on POTUS’s side than they’d be if he had caved immediately on the wall and pissed off populists. He’ll end up caving here anyway but by fighting for a few weeks he’ll at least have demonstrated his personal determination to make the wall happen. Any surrender can be laid off on McConnell or whoever as circumstances require.