Friday, January 11, 2019

Trump is running out of options and time. For the wall, Pelosi utters magic word - NO. Having no pay check is 'inconvenient'.

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham referred to missing a pay check as - get this - ‘inconvenient’. That kind of attitude feeds the impasse over the shutdown vs. “the wall”.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) asks “what exactly would it take? What would a borderline-desperate president put on the table to sway Democrats?” He proposes an answer to the question What is Trump prepared to offer in exchange for a border wall?.

As of yesterday, the White House’s position was plainly absurd: if Democrats agreed to finance a border wall, Trump would end the shutdown. Since the government has to re-open anyway, and that’s a priority for both parties, it obviously can’t be the basis for a credible deal.

… a debt-ceiling increase and higher domestic spending caps. Of course, raising the debt limit falls into the same category as re-opening government – it’s a bipartisan priority that has to happen – though higher domestic spending caps is at least a step in the right direction.

I’ve seen some talk about offering DACA protections to Dreamers in exchange for a wall, but Trump has already rejected this offer in the recent past, and besides, at least for now, those DACA protections already exist.

It’s why Republicans will have to think much bigger. What if Trump offered some combination of a universal background check system on gun purchases, dramatically expanded voting rights, and new health care protections? Would Dems be tempted to write a check for the border?

I don’t know. Maybe the president should try it and see what happens.

The question may come down to whether Dems in Congress can stomach the thought of spending $5,700,000,000 in service of Trump’s vanity - on a made-up campaign slogan.

Look. This not rocket science - but rocket science might be the key to unraveling this Gordian Knot. Could Trump just redefine “wall” as a virtual wall replete with the most technologically advanced detectors? How about supplementing that with some more personnel? And then brag about the biggest, most advanced high-tech wall ever? And throw some red meat to his base - like complain how the Dems kept the narrative on concrete vs. steel while all along Trump wanted to think in more modern terms? (That would be a lie, but what the heck, right?) Trump is the consummate con man. If anyone can sell this, it’s Donald J. Trump.

I’m not the only one to see the possibilities of redefining “the wall” as a virtual wall. Yesterday, in her noon-time segment on MSNBC, Katy Tur interviewed border Congressman Vicente Gonzalez (D, Texas). He is pushing for an immediate end to the shutdown and subsequent dialog about the best way to secure our border. He spoke strongly in favor of a virtual wall using modern military detection devices. See the full interview here.

I fear, having suggested what I think is obvious, that a different solution might be at hand, and one that invites more human suffering and incurs a constitutional cost.

Now the White House Considers Using Storm Aid Funds as a Way to Pay for the Border Wall.

President Trump traveled to the border on Thursday to warn of crime and chaos on the frontier, as White House officials considered diverting emergency aid from storm- and fire-ravaged Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas and California to build a border barrier, perhaps under an emergency declaration.

The administration appeared to be looking into … using extraordinary emergency powers to get around Congress in funding the wall. Among the options, the White House has directed the Army Corps of Engineers to determine whether it can divert for wall construction $13.9 billion allocated last year after devastating hurricanes and wildfires, according to congressional and Defense Department officials with knowledge of the matter, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the possibility.

The president is allowed to divert unspent money from projects under a national emergency. But a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential discussions, questioned the legality of using Army Corps funding, saying it would be subject to restrictions under the Stafford Act, which governs disaster relief. The official said the process was as much a political exercise intended to threaten projects Democrats valued as a pragmatic one.

Greg Sargent (Washington Post/Plum Line) cautions that a Raging, weakened Trump is running out of options.

Trump may very well declare a national emergency to build the wall. But new reporting indicates that even if he does, it’s not even remotely clear how much of his wall he’d get from it. As Charlie Savage details in a must-read piece, there are multiple legal obstacles standing in his way. It isn’t just that the presidential declaration itself would face a legal challenge that would go all the way to the Supreme Court; it would also face multiple lawsuits from landowners along the border. [Those are beginning.]

As one legal expert puts it to Savage: “We’re going to be in 2020 before this is resolved.” It very well might get blocked by then, but even if Trump did prevail on all these fronts, it’s unclear how much wall he’d have time to add before his reelection campaign, if any. And of course, he might lose, which would mean a Democratic president would halt the project.

Still, the act of declaring of a national emergency to force the wall issue would itself likely drive his supporters into a state of delirium. Which, for Trump, would be the real point of it. This is also the real point of threatening to do it.

… The Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports that even some Republicans believe Trump’s position is weakening, and they have discerned a flaw in his strategy. These Republicans point out that behind the scenes, the administration is taking steps to mitigate the impact of the shutdown on real people, such as keeping tax refunds and food stamps flowing, which they say illustrates that the shutdown is rebounding on Trump.

As one GOP strategist puts it: “Republicans have pulled a gun and taken themselves hostage. When you’re mitigating the negative impacts against yourself, you have a political problem.”

Meanwhile, Politico reports that even people in the White House believe this dynamic is unlikely to change, because they recognize that Democrats have zero incentive to give him his way.

And Nancy Pelosi has no problem uttering the magic word: Pelosi knows the magic word for beating Trump: ‘No’.

Trump plays Groucho Marx
Trump gets the magic word

In the 1950s comedian Groucho Marx had a successful career in a radio and later TV game show, You Bet Your Life. From pmwiki, slightly adapted to comport with current events:

In our modernized version Donald Trump would say “Build the wall”, causing a toy duck to descend from the ceiling to bring a sign containing the “secret word”: “NO”. Trump sometimes behaves in such a way as to encourage the secret word to come up.

Self-Deprecation was often used by Groucho in response to his introduction. Adapted to the present, the script reads:
Announcer Mike Pence: And now, here he is — the one, the only…
Senate Republican audience: Trump!
Trump: Is that bum still in town? Oh, that’s me!

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