President Donald Trump walks to the podium to address participants of the annual March for Life event, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington,...
Manuel Balce Ceneta

Trump’s Obama-era rhetoric on shutdowns comes back to haunt him

Just a few weeks after the 2013 government shutdown was resolved, Donald Trump published a tweet offering his definition of leadership: “Whatever happens, you’re responsible. If it doesn’t happen, you’re responsible.”

It’s a safe bet the Republican didn’t realize at the time that he’d soon be president, desperately trying to avoid responsibility for his own failures.

In 2011, when Republicans appeared poised to shut down the government, Trump sat down with NBC’s Meredith Vieira and focused his attention on one man: Barack Obama.

VIEIRA: So if there were a partial shutdown of the government come Friday, that would be OK with you.

TRUMP: In my opinion – you know, I hear the Democrats are going to be blamed and the Republicans are going to be blamed. I actually think the president would be blamed. If there is a shutdown, and it’s not going to be a horrible shutdown because, as you know, things will sort of keep going…. If there is a shutdown I think it would be a tremendously negative mark on the president of the United States. He’s the one that has to get people together.

He kept going (and going). “I’m a deal man,” Trump added. “I’ve made hundreds and hundreds of deals and transactions. He never did deals before. How can you expect a man that’s not a deal man that never did a deal, other than frankly becoming president of the United States, he never did a deal, how’s he going to corral all these people to get them to do a deal?”

Asked how he would prevent a shutdown, Trump boasted, “I would get everybody together and we’d have a budget and it would get done.” Reminded that the relevant officials had already gotten together, he added, “[T]hey don’t have the right leader. You don’t have the right leader.”

By this reasoning, the fact that the government shutdown is apparently proof that we don’t currently have the right leader.

What’s more, this wasn’t the only quote along these lines.

In September 2013, Trump declared, “[P]roblems start from the top and they have to get solved from the top and the president’s the leader. 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. And that’s why you have this terrible situation…. It’s very embarrassing worldwide.”

He added that no one cares who has what power in Congress, because “when they talk about the government shutdown, they’re going to be talking about the president of the United States, who the president was at that time.”

A week later, asked how he would negotiate a deal to avoid a shutdown, Trump said, “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.”

I especially enjoyed the words “very simply” – because in Trump’s mind, governing was supposed to be easy. Political difficulties before Jan. 20, 2017 were obviously, from Trump’s perspective, the result of widespread stupidity and incompetence. Once we had a very stable genius in the White House, who’d “get everybody in a room,” we’d soon see how easy it is for a historic leader to reach seemingly impossible agreements.

All it takes is “a dealmaker” in a position of power.

By Trump’s own reasoning, he’s failing spectacularly.