“I don’t know what the endgame is here,” he says. “It hasn’t been articulated.”
Endgame? The endgame is WE WIN, THEY LOSE.
Just kidding. The endgame is that the shutdown wears on for awhile, Republicans get fidgety, Trump realizes Schumer’s not going to cave with Pelosi days away from taking over the House, the GOP accepts some fig-leaf concession like $1.6 billion for “fencing” that lets them walk away from this, then righty media blames everything on congressional Republicans for being weak.
Chris Christie: "One of the things I've often said to the president is when you're executing on executive power in government there has to be a strategy that has an endgame … I don't know what the endgame is here. It hasn't been articulated" https://t.co/cFO6zNBjgN #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/metdDZYA8O
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) December 23, 2018
The endgame, hopefully, from the White House’s perspective is that Trump gets reelected in 2020. Philip Klein explains:
President Trump, in other words, faced a classic political quandary of having to choose between his party’s base and the general electorate. His decision shows that he’s concluded his best path to re-election runs through appealing to his base. And he’s probably right…
Any window for Mr. Trump to govern from the center has long since closed. Attempting to pivot now will win him no new fans, and it will only alienate his most passionate supporters, depriving him of his biggest political asset just as the 2020 presidential election enters its preliminary stages.
There is no vow that defined Mr. Trump’s campaign more than his promise to build a border wall. If he is going to enter the campaign in the embarrassing position of not having fulfilled that pledge, at the very minimum he’s going to have to show that he exhausted every option at his disposal and fought for the wall tooth and nail. A high-profile government shutdown battle is a way to accomplish that.
Everyone except Ann Coulter will forgive Trump for not delivering on the wall as long as failure can plausibly be blamed on someone else. The shutdown fight makes that easier. If POTUS had rubber-stamped a clean funding bill without wall money, that would have shown that he’s not a “fighter” for his signature priority. Now he’s dug in and has forced McConnell to dig in with him, at least for a few days. Eventually he’ll have his arm twisted and will give in but then he can say the RINOs in Congress gave up, not him. “This is a made-up fight, so the President can look like he’s fighting,” said Bob Corker today. Good politics for Trump under the circumstances. Good politics for some of his allies too: Lindsey Graham going to the mat for the border wall will help him in 2020 just in case his other fallings-out with Trump end up leading to a primary challenge.
Newt Gingrich proposed a more ambitious endgame yesterday in an op-ed co-written with Donald Graham:
Rather than shut down the government, why don’t the president and Congress agree to appropriate the $5 billion he wants to build the border wall and provide legal status and a path to citizenship to the “dreamers”?…
One of us thinks the $5 billion the president wants for the wall will be money well spent; the other . . . isn’t so sure. But what we propose for the dreamers would not cost the U.S. government anything. It would not make them eligible for any but trivial federal benefits (the “path to citizenship” referred to normally takes about 10 years) more than offset by taxes as they work.
Three problems with a “wall for DREAM” deal. One: Strong-form border hawks like Coulter will freak out over the amnesty component, and evidently Trump can’t bear the thought of an Ann Coulter freakout. It’s a nonstarter. Two: It would amount to a retreat from an earlier Trump offer in which he proposed trading amnesty for DREAMers in return for wall funding plus new restrictions on legal immigration. Gotta get more than just the wall in exchange for something as momentous as legal status for millions of young illegals, the thinking at the time went — and yet that’s what Newt’s proposing here. Three: It’s probably a nonstarter for Democrats too. Three months ago, before the midterms, they might have done a “wall for DREAM” trade. Now, having won big in November, they’re feeling cocky. I think their base cares more about thwarting Trump on the wall right now than they do about landing legal status for DREAMers. And Trump, via his odd preference for theatrics, probably contributed to that feeling:
The fatal error beyond preemptively absolving Dems of blame on TV was putting Chuck & Nancy in a position where they couldn't afford to give an inch even if they were so inclined. If you want a deal, you defuse the spectacle/suspense–the last thing you want to do is heighten it.
— Mac McClung Fan Account (@LPDonovan) December 23, 2018
That big televised showdown in the Oval Office a few weeks ago made it impossible for either side to deal, at least before bluffs were called and the shutdown began. It put both sides’ bases in mind for a fight. And once Trump said that he’d accept blame for a shutdown, it left Schumer and Pelosi with no good reason not to go ahead with one.
My favorite proposed deal is this one from former Clinton press secretary Joe Lockhart, who floated Democrats funding the wall in exchange for … a bill that would protect Robert Mueller from being fired. Imagine Chuck and Nancy granting Trump his fondest political wish in return for legislation that’s probably unconstitutional on separation-of-powers grounds and might not even matter in six weeks.
One last thought from Christie:
Christie on ABC says Trump is like your 72-year-old relative: “When people get older, they become more and more convinced of the fact that what they’re doing is the right thing and it becomes harder to convince them otherwise."
— Philip Rucker (@PhilipRucker) December 23, 2018
No wonder he didn’t get picked for chief of staff: Exit quotation from the NYT: “Always impulsive, the president increasingly believes he does not need advisers, according to people close to him.”