It is an epic confrontation: Pelosi v. Trump. Who will blink? Who will bend? Who will break? The answer it pretty simple: it depends on whether you live in reality or not.
New stories about the government shutdown have a frothy head of excitement about the utter intractability of the two opposing positions. Giddy reporters behave like they have been tipped off and know the location of the railroad crossing where a high speed train will next smack into a stalled SUV. It’s a CNN wet dream: you know exactly where there is going to be a colossal explosion, so you can carefully put all camera crews in place while Anderson Cooper cools his heels in a nearby trailer.
The combustible ingredients are all here. Nancy Pelosi could not have been more clear in saying that the Democrats would not approve a single dollar for building an “immoral” wall. Donald Trump has said that he will keep the government shut down for “years,” if need be, but that he will never cave in on his demand that Congress provide $5.6 billion funding for the wall. Somebody’s bluff is going to get called, and that is certain to be a humiliating surrender… right?
Wrong. Sadly, it is easy to predict how this is going to get resolved. Sure, there may be a slight variations on the script, but it is likely to go down looking something like this...
As the shutdown drags on into its third week, the notion that only one side is “winning” or “losing” fades, and lawmakers begin to feel an urgency to find a solution. In frustration, Trump, Pelosi, and Schumer try to create the illusion of progress by announcing that their staffers will meet “around the clock” until they can come up with an agreement that re-opens the government.
That group drafts a bill which allocates $3.0 billion for “border security.” The supposed win/win is that it is more money than Pelosi wanted to allocate, but substantially less than Trump demanded. While the bill cannot literally detail how each and every penny will be spent, the parties agree on the phrase that the funding “will be used only for concrete measures that have been proven to be effective in protecting our Southern Border from illegal entry into the United States.”
Pelosi is as sharp as a tack and is all over the language in this bill. Not only does she demand that it contain absolutely no authorization to use the funds to build a wall, she requires that it specifically rule out that any of the funds be allocated to wall design or construction. She agrees to support it because it requires a clear measure of efficacy and accountability prior to implementation, and Trump does not get the $5.6 billion budget he has labeled as non-negotiable. Pelosi even requires that the only public statement about the bill must be endorsed by her personally. Her agreement ensures that the new bill is approved by the House, and news services characterize it as a welcome compromise.
Still, however, many have doubts. Trump has said that he will not sign anything that does not include $5.6 billion for the wall, and many say that the new bill will arrive DOA to the Senate, where McConnell refuses to allow legislation to reach the floor for a vote unless the President has signaled that he will sign it. Yet in a seemingly puzzling maneuver, McConnell authorizes a vote on the bill. Some expert Senate watchers wonder if McConnell is actually publicly counting his votes to try to prove to Trump that he can override a veto. With McConnell’s implicit support, the bill is passed in the Senate.
Thirty minutes later, Trump begins a fusillade on Twitter.
“BORDER WALL FUNDING SECURED! Big win for USA, for Republicans, and most of all for TRUMP!” he exhorts.
Three minutes later:
“A big beautiful wall will soon be on our Southern Border, folks! Dems cave to TRUMP! Great news for all Americans who care about keeping our children safe from murderous caravans of invading drug lords!”
Two minutes pass.
“Mexico will pay for wall, as promised by TRUMP! Dems too dumb to understand how fantastic new TRUMP Mexico trade deal provides billions for Wall. PROMISES KEPT! MAGA!”
A half-hour later, Donald Trump walks out into the Rose Garden, pumps his fists in victory, signs the bill in public and shouts to the world that he has won the battle, securing funding for the wall. Pressed to explain his position, he will crow that he Pelosi caved under his pressure, because there is language in the bill to authorize a wall.
Trump proceeds to read from the bill, quoting the phrase that authorizes “concrete measures that have been proven to be effective in protecting our Southern Border.” A wall, Trump notes, is clearly a “concrete measure.” Indeed, he exclaims, what else could possibly be a “concrete measure,” if not a wall?
Just hours later, Trump is giving a rare live, prime-time interview to Sean Hannity, explaining to the Fox News host how he won the battle. Nancy Pelosi races to MSNBC studios to give a rebuttal on Rachel Maddow, but by the time she is on the air, all of Fox Nation has the word directly from the President’s mouth. “It’s simple, folks, I won,” Trump blathers. “The Dems are weak… they are weak on national security, weak on immigration, weak on protecting our borders, and weak negotiators. I have been saying all along that Trump is best negotiator in, well, probably the universe – who knows? Maybe there is another Trump on some amazing planet out there, Sean? You never know…”
Hannity brings Trump back to topic. “The wall, Mr. President…?”
“Yes, a great win for me, Sean. I knew I’d win. When Mitch called me today and told me the language about ‘concrete measures,’ I told him, ‘fantastic job, Mitch.’ Mitch was very happy that I am allowing him to help me make America great again. I have decided that I am not going to fire him... for now, anyway. Yes, there will be a big, beautiful wall, Sean. I’ve heard that many people want to call it Trump Wall, or maybe ‘The Great Wall of Trump.’ Many people. It has a nice ring to it, I like it.”
Hannity cuts to a hastily-rendered illustration of an enormous concrete wall that stretches from sea to shining sea, followed by a second graphic, in which the words “The Great Wall of Trump” have been crudely photo-shopped onto what appears to be The Hoover Dam, with the “Getty Images” watermark clearly visible. Hey, it was a rush job.
Trump nods, appearing pleased but deserving. “I bet you will be able to see it from the Moon,” he notes.
Hannity bobs his head furiously from his position always a bit out over his skis. “No question, Mr. President. There’s a wall like this in China, and I have heard that the NASA astronauts who walked on the moon wondered why China had a wall and the U.S.A. didn’t. Thank Jesus that you are our leader, Mr. President.”
Over on Rachel Maddow, Nancy Pelosi insists on reading the funding portion of the bill in its entirety to clarify that there is absolutely no money for a wall. It is crystal clear, she says repeatedly. She is cool and collected, but she knows what is going on over on Fox.
Her segment is interrupted by breaking news from the White House that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker has just announced that he will cut off funding for the Mueller investigation on March 1. Maddow gingerly coaxes the Speaker to complete her sentence so that she can squeeze in a commercial break before turning to a hastily assembled panel of Constitutional law experts.
Sorry, CNN. This is the way the shutdown ends... not with a bang, but a whimper.
O.k., maybe the resolution will not be something as stupid as a phrase like “concrete measures,” but you know what? It could easily be even more stupid than that.
The point is simple. One way or another, Trump is going to declare victory. Moreover, he will declare it to an audience that is already convinced that he won, much as if Chicago Bear fans could decide whether Cody Parker's kick bounced through the uprights instead of back onto the field.
In reality America, there will be no money for the wall. There is no need for the wall. There is no way to build the wall. The wall does not exist. It will not exist. It will never exist.
But over in fantasy America, there on Trump’s Twitter feed, Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ podium, and on Fox News, The Great Wall of Trump is big, beautiful, and Mexico is paying for it.
The wall that Donald Trump is building never needed to be built with concrete, mortar, and steel in order to do its job.
All along, Donald Trump has been building a wall in the imaginations of the bitter, angry, and alienated Americans in his base so that they could envision murderous, villainous, drug lords and rapists shut out of “their” country.
Donald Trump has all the money he needs to keep building that wall.
Except for some right wing screamers like Ann Coulter, Trump's followers do not care if the wall is ever built. They are not going to travel to El Paso to look for construction workers and concrete mixers. All they need is Sean Hannity and the Fox News graphics department.
Trump’s followers do not care if there is actually money approved for the wall, as long as Donald Trump tells them that there is money approved for the wall. If Trump is bragging on television that he beat up those wimpy elitists leftists from the coasts, then all is well in the world.
Because the next day, the government will be open, and there will be an entirely new crisis to deflect our attention away from the stupid one we are experiencing today.
We will forgot about the wall, and it will be months until Ann Coulter can shove Trump’s testicles back in the vise.
Many journalists think that Trump has painted himself into a real corner this time… that he has given himself no way out, no way to win.
That, of course, is because journalists tend to live in Reality America.
Trump is content to simply win the war of perception in the minds of his pliant, supplicating, and willfully gullible supporters.
It is an entirely different world from reality.
It is almost as if Trump’s fantasy world is wholly separate, a moon that is orbiting earth at a permanent, fixed, unchangeable distance.
And from that moon, you can already see The Great Wall of Trump.
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