Opinion makers split along party lines in their reactions to President Trump’s volatile immigration meeting with incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
The Post reported that Trump lost the border wall fight with his actions on Tuesday, while Fox News’s Tucker Carlson said, “If body language is any indication, Chuck Schumer has never hated anything in his whole life more than he hated that moment you just saw.”
But the news pages were certain who came out better from the exchange.
The Washington Post veered off the track of straight news from the headline of its story, “‘This has spiraled downward’: Democrats introduce Trump to divided government,” by Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Robert Costa.
It was Trump who got schooled and introduced to his new reality, in which Democrats – who control half of one branch of government – name the tune in Washington.
“In his first two years in office, President Trump operated without a clear chick on his power,” Rucker, Dawsey and Costa wrote in their lead. “With his party controlling both houses of Congress, he issued demands from his bedroom in the form of early-morning tweets, and legislative leaders got in line. He rarely was personally confronted about his untruths and misstatements. And he mostly ignored congressional Democrats, choosing to spar instead with journalists.
“That all came to a crashing halt Tuesday,” they wrote, when “the combustible president confronted for the first time the enormity of the challenge he will face over the next two years: divided government.”
Pelosi and Schumer “called out Trump’s falsehoods,” the Post wrote. “They exposed him as malleable about his promised border wall. They lectured him about the legislative process and reiterated to him that he lacked the votes to secure the $5 billion he seeks for the wall.”
They were just getting started. In addition to those humiliations, the Democrats “also needled him for his party winning Senate contests last month only in reliably red states. They provoked him by highlighting the softening of the economy and the gyrations in the stock market. And they extracted from him a claim of personal responsibility for the current budget brinkmanship.”
Trump’s onslaught produced the unseemly video of Pelosi wanting to take the debate off camera and away from the voters. “The point is that there are equities to be weighed, and we are here to have a conversation,” she said. “So I don’t think we should have a debate in front of the press on this.”
The New York Times, in its “5 Takeaways from Trump’s Meeting With Pelosi and Schumer,” referred to this – under the subhead: “This is what divided government looks like” – made it plain there was a new power structure in town “as she stood up to Mr. Trump …” by asking that he take the cameras off the debate.
Another subsection of the Times story was headed, “’Mansplain’ to Pelosi at your peril.” It said Trump “became piqued” after Pelosi noted a loss of Republican power in Congress, saying, ‘And excuse me, Nancy, did we win the Senate? We did.’”
Trump then said Pelosi “is in a situation where it is not easy for her to talk right now.” The Times reported: “Ms. Pelosi’s riposte? ‘Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.’”
At this point, Schumer said, “Elections have consequences.” Trump responded – and his response is on video but not included in any mainstream media coverage – “That’s why the country is doing so well right now.”
Its final takeaway was: “Trump would own a shutdown.” Trump “made clear that he wants a shutdown,” and Pelosi pre-named it the “Trump shutdown.”
Then, the Times wrote, “Being the first to frame a debate is a studied art in Washington. Mr. Trump accepted the responsibility. ‘I will take the mantle,’ Mr. Trump told Mr. Schumer. ‘I will be the one to shut it down. I’m not going to blame you for it.’”
It did not admit Trump had indeed been first to frame the debate.