In the end, of course, President Donald Trump couldn’t show even a little reason. He proclaimed, when the brief government shutdown ended, that the Democrats “came to their senses.” Right. It was all the Democrats.
Not Stephen Miller, the 32-year-old Steve Bannon disciple who coaxed the president into the hardest line on DACA, the program for young people brought to the country through no decision of their own, and on the ever-sillier “border wall,” the one for which Trump wants billions of taxpayer dollars, though he originally promised Mexico would pay for it. Not Trump himself, who seemed to twiddle his thumbs during the shutdown negotiations – except when he appeared to go along with Democratic ideas in a public meeting, before he changed his mind.
Not Republicans in Congress, who should have never allowed a shutdown at all.
After all, the GOP controls the Congress and the White House and Cabinet departments. The responsibility for the shutdown was theirs and theirs alone, despite the president’s protestations that the Democrats were to blame.
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The ineptitude in this White House was never more evident than in the days leading up to the shutdown, as Trump went AWOL and his aides seemed utterly confused about what was going on. Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan vainly searched for a solution, battling the extremes in their own party.
It was so ludicrous that even Wall Street, normally sensitive to even the prospect of a shutdown, seemed oblivious and was unaffected by all the rhetoric going back and forth.
Adulthood may have prevailed – McConnell, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Minority Leader Chuck Shumer of New York found a way out of the mess, kicking the DACA and border wall cans on down the road.
But if Trump thinks he emerged from this episode as a leader, he’s woefully mistaken. He just wasn’t there, and it’s clear he didn’t want to be there, probably because Trump has shown, time and time again, that he really has no concept of how the government works. Every time something like this happens, he gets less and less significant and his presidency grows ever weaker.
As for Miller – he may find the shoulders a little cold at 1600 Pennsylvania. Chief of Staff John Kelly has led people in war, and he has no tolerance for loudmouth radicals who are serving their own egos above all else. Witness the quick exit of Bannon after Kelly took over. But it’s a sorry commentary on Trump that Miller was allowed to gain as much influence as he did, while he did.
It’s hard to see, frankly, how Donald Trump’s presidency becomes anything more than what it is: a stumbling, bumbling, occasionally vociferous, often silly and irrelevant episode of “The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.”
And just think: Fresh from this battle, Trump’s confrontation with Special Counsel Bob Mueller will most assuredly re-dominate the media. Mueller seems to be closing fast in his Russia-influence probe on people close to the president, including people related to the president.
Donald Trump came to the presidency in an election that surprised even him. But the American people are weary of endless surprises about how little Trump knows about this job or seems to care about it. The buildup to the shutdown was a perilous political road. But there are some rougher twists and turns and climbs ahead.