How to lose a shutdown showdown

Taylor offered some thoughts about the President’s threatened government shutdown last night, but since we’re catching up from the weekend I wanted to take a second pass at it. In case you missed it, President Trump jumped back into both the immigration reform and budget debates on Twitter yesterday with what some viewed as perhaps a bit too bellicose claim in terms of how far he would be willing to go to secure the border.

This came during a week where the media was probably hoping for some new material to go after the White House with, particularly when Trump’s approval ratings continued to creep upward or at least remain stable despite their best efforts. Needless to say, the specter of a government shutdown landed in the MSM’s lap like Christmas come early. Cue the Washington Post.

Trump’s shutdown warning — which he has made before — escalates the stakes ahead of a Sept. 30 government funding deadline, raising the possibility of a political showdown before the Nov. 6 midterm elections that Republican congressional leaders had hoped to avoid. A funding fight also could prove a distraction from Republican efforts in the Senate to confirm Trump Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh by Oct. 1.

Trump faced immediate words of caution from top Republicans, including Rep. Steve Stivers (Ohio), who leads the National Republican Congressional Committee, which coordinates campaign efforts for GOP House candidates.

“I don’t think we’re going to shut down the government. You know, I think we’re going to make sure we keep the government open, but we’re going to get better policies on immigration,” Stivers said on ABC News’s “This Week.”

If the President was detecting any blowback from the GOP it didn’t show up in his Twitter feed since he was pushing the same message again this morning.

As usual, this is one of the President’s more popular messages that fires up the base, so that part of it is nothing new. The shutdown language, however, has GOP leaders looking ahead to the midterms acting nervous, and for good reason.

This is a perfect story for the MSM. We all know how this game works when it comes to the media. If the Democrats control the White House and at least part of Congress and there’s a shutdown, the press blames the “tyranny of the minority” for blocking a spending bill, hanging the blame on the Republicans. But if the GOP is fully in charge as they are now, the minority isn’t such a “tyranny” anymore and they still blame the Republicans. And if they can push the idea of internal GOP discord as congressional Republicans edge away from the President over the shutdown talk, all the better for them.

But for those independents and swing voters willing to examine the facts, that sort of dishonest approach can be undermined by reminding them how the press operates. That task becomes nearly impossible, however, when the Republican president is out there willingly offering to take the blame for a potential shutdown. Trump does the New York Times’ work for them in that case and all they have to do is keep reprinting his tweets as “proof.”

The Democrats, for their part, certainly don’t want to be blamed for a shutdown since it didn’t work out all that well for them last time. But they also desperately don’t want to risk having people talking about the economy, the unemployment rate or the extra money in voters’ paychecks and pockets. They would dearly love to be able to pivot back to something else (like immigration) in the runup to November and if they can get the President to take the blame for a shutdown right before the midterms, all the better for them.

We should be able to get reasonable concession on border wall funding and other immigration and security issues in the upcoming budget deal. There’s really no point in rolling out the red carpet for Chuck Schumer’s next fifty appearances on the Sunday shows by ginning up talk of a shutdown when we didn’t seem to be in danger of having one. It’s time to look at the big picture, and for the next few months that involves preventing a blue wave in the midterms.

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