Slack Chat: Shutdown III – Wag the Dog Slowly

T: Hey J, you nailed it on the shutdown. You win one internet; it’s in the mail.

J: Sure, and I promise not to come in –

T: Ok, it’s not really in the mail.

J: It’s good to see the end of the shutdown, even on a temporary basis. And I doubt they’ll play the shutdown game again. To quote Mitch McConnell: “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

T: Yeah, but mules are way smarter than Trump’s base.

J: Good point.

T: I’m sure Trump’s pea brain is working feverishly on a slick, branded nickname for Pelosi. Trump is so simple and obvious. In his mind, I bet he still thinks he can declare a national emergency and get away with it. Or shut down the government again.

Editor’s note: three days later, Trump threatened to do both.

T: I wonder where this ends? Donald Trump is simply not capable of admitting defeat. He’ll start hurling weapons before he admits defeat on anything. Will the cabinet and/or Congress stop him if he tries to pull a Wag the Dog?

J: We’ll see what comes out of these negotiations. I suspect the Dems will throw Trump a bone and allow a hundred feet of cyclone fencing in San Antonio or something and let him call it a wall.

T: That’s pretty much my guess, too, some sort of face-saving gesture they can give Trump without him burying them in spiked footballs and neener-neeners while he gloats. They’ll consent to “some fencing” and that will replace Trump’s big, beautiful wall.

J: That would be a positive thing, I think. He is allowed to save some face, too. It’s how this shit works.

T: I think the key for Trump is that he gets the number. 5.7 billion.

J: I wonder if he might do something in Venezuela, make some kind of intervention there to protect diplomats or something?

T: That’s got “Operation Dick Waving” written all over it.

J: It would be so great if they actually called it that.

T: Did you see the article, right before the vote to end the shutdown, where McConnell let loose that he was pretty much ready to act on a veto-proof bill? I suspect that’s what got Trump moving.

J: I didn’t see that in so many words, but I did see something in the Washington Post to the effect that McConnell told Trump that he (McConnell) was losing control of the caucus, and that it was time to bring it to an end. Plus the air-traffic controllers all walked out, along with the IRS employees… Trump finally realized that he was holding a losing hand and it was time to fold.

T: Yeah, the actual story was an implied, “it’s time to act, before it’s taken out of your hands” from McConnell, after the lunch where a bunch of republican senators yelled at McConnell. McConnell said, in return, “are you implying that I’m enjoying this?”

J: Yeah, that was the message. And Trump got it.

T: McConnell acted in keeping with his personality and history, I think. Pelosi, put in the same position, likely would have acted the same way.

J: Are you softening on McConnell?

T: Maybe a little. I’m not in his shoes, so I might need to cut him a little slack for his horribleness. He might only be kind of horrible.

J: Horrible rhymes with adorable.

T: I didn’t say I want to date the sumbitch.

J: Noted.

T: Thank you.

J: I’m sure McConnell wasn’t enjoying the shutdown, and he’ll enjoy it even less if Trump tries to do it again. Second kick of a mule, right?

T: Problem is, Trump is way dumber than your average mule.

J: Well, more stubborn, anyway.

T: He thinks he’s the kicker, but he’s definitely the mule.

J: Yeah, Trump doesn’t seem to realize that he is usually the kickee, not the kicker.

Pelosi treated him like a mule – or a small child – refusing to even consider anything the Senate sent over till the government was open.

T: Tough love?

J: I don’t think “love,” “Trump” and “Pelosi” should ever be in the same sentence.

T: The same slack.

J: Not unless I get advance notice, so I can get a condom and a barf bag.

T: Pelosi won’t sign anything that says “wall” – she’d get roasted worse than Coulter is roasting Trump now.

J: The conference committee will come up with some face-saving measure to allow Trump to say he got something… but Pelosi clearly won the battle and will likely win the war, too.

T: I suspect we’ll either get a deal early next week, or we’ll wind up with Trump waving his dick at us with a national emergency move, which will wind up in the courts.

J: I tend to agree.

T: He’s asking Ivanka if he can declare martial law now, I bet.

J: I doubt they’ll run the clock down again, although Trump would probably like the attention he’d get for a week of, “will he or won’t he sign the bill?”

But the adults will get something done sooner, and he’ll grumble and sign.

T: I dunno about that last sentence, though. The question there is whether the “adults” can convince Trump to accept a deal without the words “5.7 billion” and “wall” in the agreement. I think Trump will metaphorically fold his arms and hold his breath until they give him those two words.

He blinked this time, but what will it take to get him to actually say uncle? I don’t think there is such a thing as a compromise without those two words. Congress isn’t dealing with a dealmaker, are they? They are dealing with a toddler. Plus Coulter and Limbaugh and the rest of those jackals will be demanding those two words.

J: I think he retreats, using mealy-mouthed words to pretend he actually won. He is already shifting away from the wall… before, it was a “big beautiful wall.” Now it’s a “smart wall” or a “barrier.” He said he never proposed a big concrete wall from sea to sea, although of course he did.

Trump is realizing that he’s just not going to get anything from Pelosi, and he’s backing down, little by little, until he gets to something Pelosi will let through the House. Coulter and Limbaugh will bitch, but then get behind the new deals.

T: How far can he back up?

J: Here’s a good analysis from that well-known liberal rag, the New York Times.

Here’s the key paragraph:

“Mr. Trump, for his part, has softened his messaging, conceding in a speech in the Rose Garden on Friday that ‘we do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea — we never did.’ That semantic evolution could provide a face-saving way forward for both the president and Democrats, who have previously supported bills that include money for border fencing, though not a wall.”

T: Trump is trapped by his own lack of intelligence, isn’t he? Even in his conciliatory phrases, he still said, “we will build the wall!” I don’t think he ever cared about an actual wall, but he doesn’t know how to say anything else. He’s glib, but simple. He only knows a few key phrases – it’s all he’s ever needed.

Until now.

J: I don’t think he gives a shit about an actual wall either, except he feels like he needs it to placate his base. It’s important to them, so it’s important to him. If they lost interest, he’d lose interest. He has no interest at all in reaching out to anyone outside his base. That’s a losing long-term strategy, considering that the average age of a Fox News viewer is 66.

T: How many of his base (percentagewise) do you think actually cared about the wall before Trump made such a big deal out of it? I doubt it was even 10 percent. They care about the wall like they care about the players on their local football team.

If Trump dropped the wall, Coulter and Limbaugh would raise a ruckus, like a local sports-radio hack would if the star running back got traded, but his base would just follow the new one. He would lose some fans in the short-term, but I think most of them would come back on their conservative bungees.

J: I agree, 10 percent max. Before Trump, those people were way more concerned about the Second Amendment and health care than the wall.

The wall doesn’t really affect most of the people in Trump’s base; relatively few of them live in border states. But he appealed to their nativism and their racism, and he was able to make them care about something that didn’t actually have much, if any, effect on their day-to-day lives.

T: If Trump was smart, he would just stop talking about the wall. Give it a month and nobody would even care. He could — like you said — just brag that he got a good deal with all-around border security. I mean, he’s Mister Gaslighter. He can just keep saying he never said anything about a wall, and those morons will buy it in about ten seconds.

J: Just shutting up about the wall would be a smart play. It’d fall out of the news in a few cycles, and then they could quietly pass a border-security bill that didn’t include wall money and he could say that he got the bigliest deal ever on border security.

T: Bigly rhymes with jiggly.

J: Stop it.

T: Cake and Trump-y, sitting in a tree.

J: Egads.

T: k – i –

J: l – l – y – o – you.

T: Ok, ok … I’ll stop.

J: I need one of those flashers from Men in Black now.

T: Ok, so he’d get his bigly, jiggly deal.

J: Just bigly. But that’d be the smart play, which is why he won’t do it. He needs media attention like he needs oxygen. Maybe more so. “Quiet” just isn’t in his vocabulary.

T: He’s doing the #NeverTrump cause a huge favor by obsessing over the wall.

J: He’s giving the 2020 Democratic nominee, whoever it is, a whole lot of ammunition to use against him. People won’t forget about this shutdown; it did a lot of damage to a lot of people, hurt credit ratings and mortgages and budgets all over America.

T: Does Trump even run? I suspect he’ll know how bad it is (assuming he doesn’t get a lot more popular in the next year) and not want to risk his ego in what could be an embarrassing loss.

He’ll be a million years old, too.

J: There’s growing talk that he’s going to get primaried. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he, in his heart of hearts, welcomes it if it happens.

T: At this point I would put a second term at about 5/1 against, and I think it’s only going to get worse.

J: Unless he starts a war.

T: Wag the dog.

J: Yep.

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