When Donald Trump issues an emergency declaration later this morning, granting himself the power to redirect funds toward a border wall, the political world’s focus will shift to an extraordinary new fight. In the coming weeks, there will considerable drama as Congress takes up a measure to block the White House’s new gambit, which will coincide with a series of contentious lawsuits.
But before we collectively go too far down that road, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge a simple truth: Trump picked a high-profile fight two months ago, and it’s now obvious that the amateur president failed spectacularly.
The New York Times had a good piece along these lines earlier in the week, before the White House officially said the Republican would sign the spending bill and prevent another shutdown.
In pursuit of a wall, President Trump ran into one. A single-minded drive to force Congress to finance his signature campaign promise has left Mr. Trump right back where he started, this time seeking a way to climb over the political barrier in his way after trying to charge through it did not work.
As he inched closer to reluctantly accepting a bipartisan spending compromise without the money he demanded for his border wall, Mr. Trump offered no acknowledgment on Wednesday that his pressure tactics had failed even as aides sought to minimize the damage by tamping down criticism on the right.
Making matters a little worse, to say Trump is “right back where he started” is probably a little too generous: the president is actually slightly worse off than he was when he first picked this fight in December.
Though it’s unlikely we’ll ever hear him admit it, Trump knows that the bipartisan spending bill he’ll sign today is his latest stinging defeat. As recently as yesterday, the president was so opposed to the bill that he toyed with the possibility of rejecting it, prompting yet another shutdown.
“Zero chance you could spin this as a win for Republicans,” Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), head of the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, conceded to the Washington Post. The North Carolinian condemned the bipartisan deal as “a total capitulation.”
The article added:
Privately, Trump complained vociferously about the final deal and said he felt Republican negotiators had failed him and that he might not sign it, according to one person who spoke to the president. “Everyone thinks this is terrible,” Trump told this person on Tuesday, echoing the criticism from some of his supporters in conservative media, including Fox News host Sean Hannity.
But Trump did not have the stomach for another shutdown and told aides it had generated nonstop negative coverage.
The trouble, of course, is that Republican negotiators were left with few credible options – because Trump had created untenable circumstances for them.
The president picked a fight with no plan to succeed and no strategy to get out of it. The result is a failure that’s all his own.