Thursday, February 14, 2019

Trumplespeak 101 - failure is success, defeat is victory

Columnists I follow, I think, are close to consensus that Trump is going to have to take the border security deal hammered out in Congress and thus accept defeat. DEFEAT!

Trump’s strong-arm “negotiating” style worked when he could get way with stiffing his contractors - which he did frequently. See my June 2016 post on how Donald “Deadbeat” Trump does not pay his bills … “… at least not some of them. There are damning investigations appearing in national news outlets about the thousands of bills Trump’s companies did not pay.” But that was when he had leverage.

Now he’s facing a Democratic House and a bunch of not very cooperative Republican senators and a public that is not in favor of spending lots of money on “the wall” and a hugely negative backlash on his government shutdown. No leverage there.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog) explains how the Deal to avoid shutdown leaves Trump even worse off than before.

Earlier this week, bipartisan negotiators reached an agreement in principle to fund the government and prevent another shutdown ahead of Friday’s deadline. We haven’t yet seen all of the details, but NBC News highlighted some of the details of the deal, as described by multiple sources:

  • $1.375 billion for border barrier enhancements like steel slats and other “existing technologies,” but no concrete wall;

  • The money would fund about 55 miles of new barrier;

  • Geographic restrictions on where the new fencing could built, likely limited to the Rio Grand Valley sector of the border.

It’s worth pausing at this point to take a stroll down memory lane.

In 2017, the White House put together a budget request seeking $25 billion for a border wall project. In early 2018, Democrats were prepared to meet the president’s demands – Trump had taken DACA protections for Dreamers hostage, and Dems felt like they had to pay the ransom – but the president turned down the deal because it didn’t include cuts to legal immigration.

In the months that followed, Trump’s dreams … evolved. The original White House vision was for a 1,000-mile concrete wall, to be paid for by Mexico. By late last year, the president wanted $5.6 billion for steel slats, to be paid for by Americans.

The bipartisan deal that Trump rejected in mid-December, after originally having endorsed it, included $1.6 billion for border security measures. The deal Vice President Mike Pence offered Democratic leaders around the same time was for $2.5 billion, though Trump rejected that, too, demanding more.

It now appears Trump will end up with $1.375 billion, which leaves him further away from his goal than if he’d accepted the bipartisan package two months ago and failed to launch the longest government shutdown in American history.

Jackson Diehl wrote last year, in reference to the Republican president, “He’s good at bluster, hype and showy gestures, but little else. In short, he may be the worst presidential deal maker in modern history.”

In context, the Washington Post columnist was referring to Trump’s efforts in North Korea, but it’s an assessment with surprisingly broad applicability.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters last year, “[T]he president is, I think, the ultimate negotiator and dealmaker when it comes to any type of conversation.”

If Democrats are very lucky, Trump will continue to display these masterful skills for the remainder of his presidency.

You think that assessment is harsh? Read on. John Cassidy (New Yorker) says it all in one headline, The Border Deal Is What a Defeat for Donald Trump Looks Like.

Ever since Trump entered the Presidential race, in 2015, he’s been selling a fantastical vision of a wall across the southern border. Now reality has finally caught up with him, and he isn’t enjoying the experience. “I’m not happy about it,” he said to reporters on Tuesday morning, after they asked him to comment on the funding agreement that Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill had reached the previous evening.

It’s clear why Trump isn’t happy. This time last year, he was demanding twenty-five billion dollars for a vast concrete wall. At the end of December, he shut down large parts of the federal government in support of his demand for $5.7 billion in funding and two hundred miles of steel barriers. Under the deal reached on Monday, Congress would provide $1.375 billion for fifty-five miles of slat fencing. In Wall Street terms, the agreement would give Trump about twenty-four cents on the dollar. As of Wednesday morning, he hadn’t yet agreed to the plan but it looked like he would. The Washington Post and CNN both reported that Trump intended to sign the spending bill.

He certainly knows how coercive deals work. When he was in the private sector, he was often on the other end of them. In 2006, Andrew Tesoro, a New York architect who designed the clubhouse at Trump National Golf Club Westchester, informed Trump’s representatives that he was owed a hundred and forty thousand dollars. They offered him fifty thousand, take it or leave it. Fearing he might get nothing, Tesoro submitted a revised bill for that amount. Then Trump called him up and said that he’d pay half of it. “I walked away with $25,000,” Tesoro told Forbes, in 2016.

In all of his businesses, Trump was known for behaving like this toward smaller venders and contractors. How did he get away with it? He had the leverage. To get paid in full, people like Tesoro would have had to take him to court, an expensive, risky, and hassle-inducing prospect. So, they tended to settle for dimes on the dollar, as Trump knew they would.

Now Trump’s the one lacking leverage. Having already folded when the shutdown damaged his poll ratings, his threat to cause another government closure isn’t credible. He’s also been threatening to declare a national emergency and seize some extra funds from the Pentagon budget, but Republican leaders on the Hill don’t like this scheme, which, in any case, would quickly get snagged in the courts.

Trump is stuck, so he’s resorting to yet more B.S. After registering his unhappiness about the spending deal to reporters, he went on, “It’s not doing the trick, but I’m adding things to it. And when you add the things I have to add, it’s all gonna happen where we’ll build a beautiful, big, strong wall that’s not gonna let criminals and traffickers and drug dealers and drugs into our country.” Later in the day, in a pair of tweets, Trump said, “Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources … Will be getting almost $23 billion for border security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak.”

Virtually nobody who has followed the story in any detail is falling for this spin. “One point three billion dollars? That’s not even a wall, a barrier,” Sean Hannity, who is arguably Trump’s biggest booster in the media, said to his Fox News Channel audience on Monday night. “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.” Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus, told Hannity’s colleague Neil Cavuto, “Only in Washington, D.C., can we start out with needing twenty-five billion dollars for border-security measures and expect applause at $1.37 [billion]. I mean, only in D.C. is that a winning deal.”

For once, Meadows was right. But, by Tuesday evening, there were signs that even some of the most rabid supporters of the wall had realized that further resistance was futile. Or, perhaps, they had been issued a new set of talking points. Speaking on his daily radio show, Hannity now referred to the $1.3 billion as “a down payment” and suggested that Trump could get more money for the wall from elsewhere in the federal budget, with or without declaring a national emergency. “In that case, he wins big time,” Hannity said.

This is what defeat looks like for Donald Trump and the maga Praetorian Guard: accepting scraps and describing them as a feast.

Update from the domain of the Coultergeist

I wondered what the Coultergeist thinks of all that. Newsweek informs with ANN COULTER BLASTS TRUMP, REPUBLICANS OVER BORDER DEAL: ‘WE THOUGHT TRUMP WAS GOING TO BE DIFFERENT’.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter lashed out at Donald Trump and other Republicans in light of reports that the president would likely sign a bipartisan deal to keep the government funded, even though it didn’t include much of the $5.7 billion Trump had demanded for a border wall.

“We thought Trump was going to be different,” Coulter lamented in a Wednesday Twitter post.

Coulter shared a tweet by Representative Mark Meadows, who chairs the House Freedom Caucus, which is made up of the most conservative Republicans. In the post, Meadows complained about how much he thought Trump and the Republicans had compromised when it came to meeting the demands for the wall.

While Trump has defended his border wall demands as a way to decrease crime and prevent drugs from entering the country, opponents have repeatedly pointed out that the structure would do little to affect either. Statistics show that the majority of drugs brought into the country from Mexico come through legal ports of entry, indicating that improved detection technology, not a wall, is what’s needed. Numerous studies also show that immigrants, documented and undocumented, commit crimes at rates significantly lower than U.S. citizens who were born here.. Although Trump has characterized the wave of immigrants and asylum seekers entering the U.S. at the southern border as a “crisis,” analysts have repeatedly explained that undocumented immigration actually remains at historic lows.

Regardless, Coulter and other conservatives have continued to push the president to fulfill his signature campaign promise and “build the wall.” In January, Coulter suggested that Trump’s re-election depended on the wall getting built. Although she wrote a book titled In Trump We Trust, Coulter has since become a harsh critic of the president, consistently mocking him for failing to construct the wall.

The Coultergeist might, just might be running a bit scared. What’s in her political wallet?

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