After shutdown slap-down, will Trump learn to change tactics?

SHARE After shutdown slap-down, will Trump learn to change tactics?

Nancy Pelosi, having been there before, understood the impact and political optics of the shutdown. | Getty Images

Like the emperor with no clothes, President Trump’s deal with Democrats to reopen the government revealed that there’s no there there.

Without Republicans’ total control of Congress to bolster his unpopular policies and weaken checks on his authority, he’s little more than an empty suit.


Powerless to bend House Democrats, Senate Republicans or lagging poll numbers to his whim, Trump finally caved last week after insisting he would not. In exchange for agreeing to reopen the government, he didn’t get a dollar in border security. He got nothing at all.

And, in threatening to shut the government down again on Feb. 15 if he doesn’t get a deal on his wall — from a party that has zero incentive to give him one — he also revealed he’s all out of ideas.

Within less than a month of taking power of the House, Speaker Nancy Pelosi effectively manhandled the president of the United States into submission, using her new authority and majority to dig in and let him sink himself on the ill-conceived shutdown.

Having been through this before, she knew the optics and the impact of furloughing 800,000 federal workers over a symbolic, political prop that anti-immigration zealots like Ann Coulter have turned into an almost sexual fetish, would come back to haunt him. For Trump’s part, it’s clear he had no plan, other than to hope his mere powers of persuasion would be enough to stave off the inevitable.

But as it turns out, the American people disapprove of not paying a branch of the military, they get skittish over the idea of airplane disasters and they like their food inspected and their tax questions answered. Moreover, they blame the person who bragged about getting us in this mess – imagine that.

So, predictably, Trump found himself stuck between a rock and a hard place – or a Coulter and a Pelosi. And for folding, he’s earned the former’s wrath. Coulter tweeted, with her characteristic ghoulishness: “Good news for George Herbert Walker Bush: As of today, he is no longer the biggest wimp ever to serve as President of the United States.”

Now, he has a decision to make.

He can keep governing for an audience of one, to his own detriment, or he can do what he should have been doing since he took the job instead of tweeting, rallying and bullying: building coalitions in Congress, finding out where the pockets of support and areas of compromise are, laying out a clear agenda that Republican leadership can trust will be there if they back it, and listening to the American people instead of Fox News between the hours of 6 and 9 a.m. and 8 and 11 p.m.

The question now is, will he let Pelosi back the car up and run over him again? Or will he realize he’s got to change tactics in this new era of divided government?

It’s time to see if an old dog like Trump is capable of learning new tricks.

S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.

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