Monday, January 14, 2019

The Apprentice: The White House Edition

Trump can add the longest government shutdown to his resume.  He achieved it over the weekend with Congress not in session.  It isn't like the Democrats didn't try to reopen government.  The House passed a temporary spending bill last week that even had a few Republican signatures, but Mitch "The Turtle" McConnell rebuffed the bill in the Senate.  While the base of the party continues to stand behind Trump, his support in Congress is crumbling.  Even Lindsey Graham now says Trump should reopen government.  So, where does this leave Trump?

Given his obstinance we can be sure that Trump will pad his record by a few days just to make sure he leaves this as a lasting legacy.  He brought in border sheriffs wearing ten-gallon hats from to his cabinet meeting Friday to bolster his claim that America needs this wall, but Congress had gone home early, no longer amused by his grandstanding.

He has pulled back his threats to declare a national emergency, given he has no legal standing for such an audacious claim.  Even still, he is eyeing federal relief money earmarked for Puerto Rico, California and other states and territories ravaged by natural disasters these past two years.  Surely, there is $5.7 billion he can find to build his wall.  If nothing else, he can use the other half of  the $12 billion of the federal relief from the Department of Agriculture he ordered for farmers when China and Mexico sought to buy soy beans and corn elsewhere.  Apparently, only $6 billion has been appropriated thus far.

To date the shutdown has cost an estimated $3.6 billion.  That's money the federal government will never get back.  In addition, he has created hardships for countless federal employees, which he brazenly claimed were on his side, then when they revolted, called them all Democrats and criminals.  The childish rants are enough to give anyone pause, but Mitch refuses to respond.  Like a turtle, he has drawn into his shell and decided to wait this one out, as he does all tough problems.

Adding insult to injury, Gofundme shut down the Border Wall campaign, as it fell far short of its billion dollar goal, and is refunding all those who contributed to this doomed project.  No matter, its founder Brian Kolfage has set up a private fundraiser based in Florida to reach his goal.  Trump should have invited the triple amputee to his cabinet meeting to elicit support.

If all this looks familiar it is because Trump approaches the White House the same way he did The Apprentice -- as a reality show.  For him it is all about ratings.  He netted 41 million viewers last week with his Oval Office address.  That's more than watched Netflix's premier of Bird Box, which has become a viral sensation with everyone doing the "bird box challenge," and not to very good effect.  The same problem with Trump trying to use his cornball tactics to force Congress to sign onto his wall.  He's made a fool of himself but refuses to recognize it, so he lashes out once again at "Jeff Bozo" and Pocahontas and whoever else has caught his ire over the last three years.  If one shtick doesn't work, try another.

Vladimir Putin no doubt is enjoying the show, as I imagine is Xi Jinping.  Nothing they love to see more than America making a fool of itself, which it has been doing for the last two years.  For our allies, this must be very painful to watch, as they have long counted on the United States to be a stable force that has its back, but now they have come to accept the very real prospect that the US can no longer be relied upon.  It's not just Trump, but the fact that Congress is utterly powerless to do anything about him.

If Trump was truly worried about national security, he would have approached it long before now.  The only thing that got him going on the wall was the prospect of losing his base after Fox pundits cried foul when he backed away from his pledge.  Trump is a cornered animal, trapped between his rabid conservative base and the rest of the country.  Given a choice, he takes the side of his conservative base, figuring it is better to go down as a martyr than be seen as the weak-kneed president that he is.

It all would be fine if this was a reality show and we could go back to our regularly scheduled programming, but there is no escaping Donald Trump.  Just ask the 800,000+ federal workers who missed their first pay check this past Friday and are now scrambling for funds to pay off their mortgages and other monthly payments, something our dear president knows nothing about.  The longer this shutdown drags on the more it makes America look bad, not just Trump.  

Since Mitch has yet to come out of his shell, Lindsey better devise a way for Trump to retreat with dignity, what little bit he can salvage, so that this country can move forward once again.  Otherwise, it is going to be a very bleak week on Wall St.

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