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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Dems Gain Leverage After Trump’s Second Oval Office Disaster

If the early reviews of Trump’s televised shutdown pitch are a reliable indication of the outcome of the struggle for a credible immigration policy, Democrats have sharpened their edge. Described as a “nothingburger” by Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin and worse, far worse by GOP strategist Rick Wilson, Trump’s whiny rant provides a case study of a poorly-reasoned and weakly-delivered “bully-pulpit” speech.

At New York Magazine, Ed Kilgore noted:

It was a message he could have conveyed in a tweetstorm or a press availability or a photo op or a tossed-off comment to reporters as he came or went from the White House. Since he was determined to blame the government shutdown he stumbled into on Democrats, he could have at least expressed some sympathy for the government employees and contractors who have been furloughed or who are working without pay, or the many Americans affected by interruption of services or benefits (or as he obliquely put it, “those who are impacted by the situation”). But his one-note nine-minute address had no space for any of that…And he gave fact-checkers a fresh opportunity to point out how much of his manufactured crisis is based on lies and misleading half-truths, including such howlers as another assertion that somehow Mexico will pay for the border wall.

Trump’s short speech was riddled with easily-disproven lies and distortions, as has already been documented by fact-checkers here and here, in addition to the source noted by Kilgore.

new Politico/Morning Consult poll, reported hours before Trump’s 2nd Oval Office disaster in a month, “Nearly half of voters, 47 percent, say Trump is mostly to blame for the shutdown, the poll shows, while another 5 percent point the finger at congressional Republicans,” notes Politico’s Steven Shephard. “But just a third, 33 percent, blame Democrats in Congress…Nearly two-thirds, 65 percent, say the president shouldn’t shut down the government to achieve his policy goals, while only 22 percent say a temporary shutdown is acceptable to change policy.”

Given the awful reviews of Trump’s televised speech, it’s more likely than not that support for his  shutdown will soon be headed further south.

In their joint rebuttal, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer did a good job of spotlighting the lies and meanness of Trump’s remarks, despite the strange optics of their sharing a small podium, which invited an SNL skit. Unlike Trump, however, they left an impression of mature adults committed to a bipartisan solution to end the shutdown and establish a sensible border security policy.

During the 2016 campaign, Trump and the GOP successfully mischaracterized Democratic immigration policy as favoring “open borders.” Schumer, Pelosi and other Democrats have done a good job of correcting that distortion. Now their challenge is to insure that the Democratic Party is branded as the party of genuine border security, which emphatically includes airports and seaports, as well as our northern and southern borders.

The bottom line, as reported by NYT’s Emily Cochrane and Catie Edmonson:

But it was perhaps Representative Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the No. 5 House Democrat, who most succinctly summed up his party’s response: “We are not paying a $5 billion ransom note for your medieval border wall,” he tweeted, with a castle emoji. “And nothing you just said will change that cold, hard reality.”

NYT’s Peter Baker reports that today Trump “will host congressional leaders from both parties to resume negotiations that so far have made little progress.” If Trump’s media handlers are smarter than they have appeared to be in recent weeks, they will keep TV cameras out of the Oval Office. But you wouldn’t want to bet on it.

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