Time magazine delivered another in a long line of Trump v. Pelosi stories on Thursday, but it was clear from the text from writer Molly Ball which side the magazine hopes will prevail in the current government shutdown.
In “Trump and Pelosi Are Locked in Their First Battle. Neither Can Afford to Lose,” Ball sketches the state of play:
“A new year has dawned in Washington, and this is what it looks like: a partial government shutdown in its third week; a new Congress sworn in only to sit on its hands; an emboldened House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing to cede an inch; and an angry President Donald Trump abandoning negotiations to take to Television to make the case for crisis measures.”
Pelosi was emboldened; Trump was angry.
But “step back from the sordid details,” Ball wrote, and you have “two powerful leaders with their credibility on the line, both convinced they hold the winning hand.”
Ah yes, but Pelosi “takes up the first battle of her new speakership with a fired-up Democratic majority that saw the midterm results as a mandate to take on Trump and a repudiation of his stance on immigration, which he made the focus of in the election’s closing days.”
She’s also “legendary for her legislative savvy,” but that may not be much of an advantage with Trump because “How does even the savviest negotiator deal with a president with such an unusual tolerance for conflict, uncertainty and the suffering of others?”
Trump on the other hand is not savvy at all. He doesn’t recognize the “wall is unpopular with the public and disdained by experts on both sides of the immigration debate.” Later, Ball wrote that Republican Senators knew “a physical wall isn’t feasible or effective on some areas of the border.”
Ball wrote this apparently unaware Mark Morgan, who served as head of the Border Patrol under President Obama, said walls “absolutely work” on the Tucker Carlson Show.
It’s not about effectiveness anyway, Ball wrote. Trump is “obsessed with playing to his hard-core base of supporters – and with his own self-image as a dominant alpha male – and caving would be an epic humiliation that could render him a premature lame duck and weaken his position ahead of a tough re-election campaign. Trump has been, if you will, pushed to the wall.”
It could be argued it is Pelosi who is risking it all to play to her hard-core base and her political self-image. After all, Ball admitted Pelosi became speaker again only after she “stamped out murmurs of dissent in her ranks.”
Later in the piece, she conceded that if “Pelosi’s nerve falters and she cedes ground, she would immediately risk losing the confidence of the fractious caucus she’s labored to control” and that if she succeeds, it will send “a signal that Congress, which has spent the past two years kowtowing to the president, now has the power to thwart him. That momentum could carry forward into numerous investigations the House is preparing to unleash.”
Ball then asserts without evidence that Trump did not want to give his prime-time address on Tuesday night, “but his advisers convinced him that making the argument to the public was his best hope to shift the momentum of a fight he seemed to be losing.”
Yet, also on Thursday, Brad Parscale, campaign manager for the president’s re-election campaign, tweeted that Trump’s approval rating had reached its highest point since he has been tracking it and that 42 percent of Americans believe the border is in crisis and another 37 percent believe it is at least a problem.
Perhaps it was inevitable a president whose administration has been in a state of virtual breakdown since its inauguration should preside over this shutdown, Ball wrote.
“Trump, true to his tendencies, acts on impulse, prevaricates, shreds norms and takes unilateral actions of questionable legality. … Meanwhile, the speaker, true to her tendencies, unites her wayward party behind a carefully chosen, logical course of action, but her best-laid plans may still be no match for an extraordinary moment.”