By Ralph Hallow
The reaction to President Trump’s signing a continuing resolution that reopens government for 21-days but without $5.7 billion for border security is like this winter’s weather – colder than some people would like but warmer than expected.
The Trump-bashing news media — also known as the American press, the mainstream media and the semiofficial organs of the Democratic party — said he “caved” to the smarter, more powerful Nancy Pelosi.
No Trump basher, Willes Lee, president of the conservative National Federation of Republican Assemblies, is “aghast” at the way Mr. Trump ended the shutdown. “Here’s hoping the president can do his magic with Pelosi and Schumer,” Mr.Lee says.
“I will take back any ill will I feel from Friday’s announcement if, in three weeks, we have funding for the border [thing]. But I am not holding my breath.”
Some other normally pro-Trump commentators tried stay that way and still pass the truth test. “He didn’t have much choice,” said Institute for Policy Innovation innovator Merrill Matthews. “He faced nonstop negative coverage from the mainstream press and Democrats and decided to cut his losses. A prudent move.”
Mr. Matthews sees a rose amid the shutdown’s rubble. The president, he says, can make the border thing a campaign issue. He can use it to win his own reelection, win back the House big time and win an even bigger majority in the Senate. And that way have enough votes to assure money for the border thing.
Talk about lemon-to-lemonade and win-win-win formulas.
Utter objectivity makes room for even more nuanced assessments, like these:
Mr. Trump gave what he needed to keep his head just above water in the great pool of public opinion. That would be the one into which he had dived 35 days ago when he thought he could win a shutdown war.
Mrs. Pelosi, the Blue Team’s coolly unideological, consummate strategist — who is also tactician, team manager and quarterback — gave him her favorite cross-aisle gift: an erect digit.
Speaking of digit presenters, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich knows a thing or two about taking down Democratic political titans — former Speaker Jim Wright would tell you if he were still with us. Mr. Gingrich texted me this about Mr. Trump’s partial shutdown tactic: “It was not working. Now he has given Congress three weeks to solve it and then will sign an emergency decree if Congress fails.”
That irksome impasse over the $5.7 billion in seed money the president wants for the thing he is determined to have built along a few hundred miles of our border with Mexico.
“The key is not getting Pelosi to compromise,” Mr. Gingrich says.
No compromise. Really? Why?
“Because her Left won’t let her compromise,” said Mr. Gingrich.
Aha! A Republican who understands it’s not about rigid ideology but understanding the chessboard better than the other guy or gal.
Republicans didn’t fund the border barrier for Mr. Trump when they had both houses of Congress. Why? Because lawmakers get to be lawmakers because people elect them to do what they tell them to do.
Enough GOP lawmakers have enough constituents in the soft center who would rather eat nails than chant “Build that [thing].”
Paul Ryan, the House speaker going into the 2018 elections, told Mr. Trump he’d get him his $5.7 billion for the border thing but it would have to wait till after the November elections. Why? Too many of Mr. Ryan’s fellow House members up for reelection feared their constituents would dump them if they voted for the Trump border thing.
Same for Mrs. Pelosi. Her constituents who fly with a left wing and no prayers aren’t about to shower her with kisses and candy if she jumps the “build/don’t build” border separating the Blue and the Red teams in the House.
If her left wing won’t let her tear down her opposition to that thing Mr. Trump wants, then how does he give his base that thing he promised?
Mr. Gingrich says go back to what House Speaker Tip O’Neill did with his Democratic caucus way back in 1981. The year before, ex Buffallo Bills quarterback Jack Kemp, a Republican House member, had sold Ronald Reagan on a three-year, 30 percent tax cut. Partly on that tax plank, Mr. Reagan won a landslide 489 electoral college votes to Jimmy Carter’s 49 in 1980.
Mr. O’Neill’s constituents weren’t hot for the Reagan tax-slash proposal, but the American electorate was overall. So Mr. O’Neill let develop a compromise tax-rate reduction to which enough legislators on both sides of the aisle could turn thumbs up for passage. Mr. O’Neill’s own thumb went unseen. It worked.
Mr. Gingrich’s point? Mrs. Pelosi can let a similarly bipartisan compromise magically develop in the shadows of the House, claim no part of it and watch it pass. And save the 116th Congress from becoming the 116th do-nothing Congress.