Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Pelosi Pulls the Plug on Trump

Just to be clear, I don't seriously believe that there is a problem providing for the safety of 535 members of Congress, various cabinet officials, nine Supreme Court justices and the president and vice president of the United States. It's a closed building; if the secret service can't handle that, we're fucked. So when Nancy Pelosi says Donald Trump should reschedule his State of the Union address until after the government reopens because of "security concerns," you can file that under "yeah, right."

The motive behind Pelosi's move could not be more obvious. She's sending a message to Trump loud and clear: If you want to close the government over a wall, knock yourself out, but I'm not giving you a platform to deliver a 45 minute infomercial. If it's a stage you're looking for, hold a rally and invite your minions.

It was a brilliant stroke of genius by this Speaker who is proving to be one tough cookie. If you have any doubts about Pelosi's chops, just ask Kathleen Rice. She opposed Pelosi as Speaker and for her efforts she lost out on a cozy appointment on the House Judiciary Committee. Do not think for a moment that what happened to Rice was lost on other members of the Democratic caucus. I'll bet you dollars to donuts that somewhere in Pelosi's office there's a copy of The Godfather, Part 2. Because just like Michael Corleone, this leader knows how to deal with her political foes.

Trump is learning the hard way that, unlike the last two speakers - both of whom were spineless - Pelosi actually has the cojones to do her job. If this were a TV Show it would be called Pinky and the Brain. Only Pelosi wouldn't have to bother asking Trump if he was pondering what she was pondering. I doubt the man knows what the word means. While Newt Gingrich encourages Captain Bone Spurs to resist negotiating with Democrats, Pelosi cleverly responded by "taking away" his TV, as Jennifer Rubin so adroitly observed. And this president is nothing without the airwaves.

Peter Beinart has an excellent piece in The Atlantic that I believe best describes the traits that make Pelosi a political force to be reckoned with. In a nutshell she has a penchant for playing the long game. Beinart writes that in 2005, right after winning a second term in office, George W. Bush decided he was going to spend some of the "political capital" he thought he had to privatize Social Security. The plan was to bait Democrats into offering solutions of their own. Get them to the table, as it were. But Pelosi and her caucus wouldn't take the bait and instead held firm: no changes to Social Security. Period.

It was one of several political blunders Bush made - the Iraq War being the biggest - that led to Democrats taking back Congress in the '06 midterms and the White House in the '08 presidential election. Pelosi understood that a house divided could not stand. And she is applying that same tactic with yet another Republican in the Oval Office, only this time the issue isn't entitlements but border security. Trump and his allies are looking to goad some centrist Democrats into funding for the wall. So far their efforts have proven to be in vain. If anything, the cracks are coming from the other side of the political aisle, as vulnerable Republican senators up for reelection in 2020 are hearing it from their constituents.

Trump has boxed himself into a corner and Nancy Pelosi has no intention of letting him out. Indeed, she appears to be going in for the kill, or, as Beinart put it more bluntly, "the emasculation" of Trump. It's a risky move that could blow up in her face, but against this president, my money's on Pelosi. As Mr. T might've said, "I pity the poor fool that underestimates this Speaker."

Or as Peter Beinart actually said, "For years, Democrats have wondered when their leaders would start playing tough. Turns out Pelosi has been doing so all along."

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