This week’s White House Report Card finds President Trump and congressional Democrats still battling over a border wall and the resulting government shutdown, with no solution in sight.
Democratic pollster John Zogby gave Trump a failing grade for the handling of the shutdown. But national security analyst Jed Babbin said foreign policy saved the week for the president when Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blasted Obama-era foreign policy.
The government shutdown continued for the third week with no end in sight. President Trump’s battle for the border wall is one that neither he nor the Democrats can afford to lose. Neither side moved an inch.
The president’s big Tuesday night speech didn’t do the three things that Oval Office speeches are supposed to do: First, announce a major, newsworthy policy change; second, contrast the reasons for the change with the intransigence and wrongheadedness of the opposition; and, third, call on the American people to rally to the his support. The best thing that can be said about Trump’s lackluster speech is that it was vastly better than the reply by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Their “liberal Gothic” pose, spoken in a loose concatenation of old Democratic talking points, struck out entirely.
Trump wants to talk about border security, and his opponents only want to talk about the hardships on furloughed government workers. It’s going to get a lot uglier.
In a border visit Thursday, Trump again threatened to declare a national emergency and fund the border wall with Pentagon funds, bypassing Congress. It’s a nice idea but would be stopped quickly by the courts.
The foreign policy side was much brighter. A U.S. drone strike killed Jamal al-Badawi, the terrorist who led the attack on the USS Cole in 2000 that killed more than a dozen sailors. National security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have tempered Trump’s impulsive announcement of immediate withdrawal from Syria, though troops have begun to leave.
Pompeo, meanwhile, hit it out of the park in a Cairo speech. The speech was the most direct and devastating criticism of the Obama-era Middle East policy from the Trump administration so far. It was a speech the president could have (and probably should have) delivered himself. The Washington jungle drums are beating out rumors that Pompeo could be the next secretary of defense. If that happens, Bolton or White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney could take over at State. Bolton wants that job more than any other.
This week has been both disgraceful and tragic.
President Trump, people are actually not being paid; many are actually going into work, while others are calling in sick. Neither situation is a good one. Word is that as early as next week, programs like WIC (Women, Infants, Children), which provides nutrition for millions of young kids may close. This is all very real, and this whole government shutdown has nothing to do with principle.
I know that Trump has told us repeatedly since 2015 that a good negotiator never reveals his hand or his strategy. It is all a part of the mystique of the ‘art of the deal’. But it is so hard to see any upside for him on this government shutdown. About 3-in-5 Americans blame him for it, and there has been no polling since the first paychecks were missed. Many people are being hurt as of now. It is both devastating and preposterous.
The Democrats have time on their side; Republicans are getting panic-struck with each day. The stories of government workers being one and two paychecks away from disaster are striking a chord. For a wall? For dubious arguments about its need? If this is all a part of a winning strategy, then I am missing it. And if I am the grader, the president is screwed.
Jed Babbin is an Examiner contributor and former deputy undersecretary of defense in administration of former President George H.W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter @jedbabbin
John Zogby is the founder of the Zogby Poll and senior partner at John Zogby Strategies. His latest book is We are Many, We are One: Neo-Tribes and Tribal Analytics in 21st Century America. Follow him on Twitter @TheJohnZogby