Donald Trump made quite a fuss about the fact that he was in the White House over the holidays in late December, though the president didn’t appear to do any meaningful work on his government shutdown. In fact, Trump didn’t bother to reach out to congressional Democrats at all during the holidays, and he reportedly didn’t speak to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi at all between Dec. 11 and Jan. 2.
There was some interaction between the Republican president and House Democratic leader on Jan. 4, when Trump hosted some negotiations, though he opened the meeting with “a 15-minute profanity-laced rant about impeachment.” Five days later, Trump welcomed congressional leaders to the White House for another meeting, but when Pelosi said she wouldn’t approve funding for the wall the president feels entitled to, Trump threw a little tantrum and literally walked away from the negotiating table.
Today, the White House made a curious argument about the possibility of negotiations.
The president earlier this month said only the “principals” will strike a final deal. But on Monday, a White House spokesman signaled no new negotiations between Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi – who have been locked in a bitter back-and-forth battle – are on the horizon.
“She won’t even have a conversation with the president,” Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley said Tuesday.
I’m reasonably sure that’s wrong. In fact, by all appearances, the president hasn’t tried to have a conversation with Pelosi since he walked away from the negotiating table two weeks ago after being told his demands wouldn’t be met.
A spokesperson for Pelosi told Roll Call, “We have received no request to meet or even to have a phone call.”
If the idea is that the House Speaker won’t hold substantive negotiations over immigration policy during the shutdown, that’s true. Democratic leaders have said that genuine bipartisan talks can’t credibly happen in the midst of a crisis, so before there can be meaningful talks, Republicans are going to have to agree to re-open the government.
But the idea that Pelosi is refusing to have a conversation with Trump doesn’t appear to be true. In fact, there’s little to suggest the president has even tried, aside from occasional tweets in “Nancy’s” direction.
As the fiasco continues, I keep thinking about the instances in which Trump told Americans how easy it would be to avoid debacles like these. As regular readers may recall, in September 2013, when congressional Republicans shutdown the federal government for 16 days, Trump wanted Barack Obama to get the blame. “[P]roblems start from the top and they have to get solved from the top and the president’s the leader,” Trump said at the time. “And he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead. [Obama] doesn’t do that. He doesn’t like doing that. It’s not his strength…. It’s very embarrassing worldwide.”
A week later, asked how he would negotiate a deal to avoid a shutdown, Trump added, “Well, very simply, you have to get everybody in a room. You have to be a leader. The president has to lead…. Unfortunately, [Obama] has never been a dealmaker. That wasn’t his expertise before he went into politics. And it’s obviously not his expertise now.”
More than five years later, the Republican’s rhetoric appears almost laughable. Trump orchestrated a partial government shutdown on Dec. 21, and since then, the president hasn’t assembled “everybody into a room,” hasn’t played the role of “dealmaker,” and hasn’t even tried to “lead.”
It’s almost as if it’s “obviously not his expertise.”