An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. But that’s too glib. There are analytical realists. They look at that past year, at what happened. They look at why that happened. Then they consider the New Year. Sentiment has nothing to do with any of that. This is linear extrapolation. Whatever happened will continue to happen, with more intensity – more intense and prolonged hurricanes and massive wildfires, more intense and prolonged xenophobic nationalism with another spike in hate crimes – more bombings and whatnot – and more calls to shut our borders to everyone. Trump will become more “Trump” than ever. His base will dig in and defend anything he does. Those who think that Trump is now beyond dangerous will dig in too – and now they outnumber his base two to one. That assures that things will get hot – so there’s nothing new about the New Year. It will simply be hotter, again. Things will get worse.
The Democrats will make things hotter. They hold the House of Representatives now. They can investigate everything. They can subpoena everyone. They can make trouble because they can get answers to this and that, but all of that comes later. New Year’s Day is a Tuesday. Two days later they assume control of the House, and they have one immediate objective. The Washington Post’s Erica Werner and Seung Min Kim explain that:
Democrats will take control of the House on Thursday with a stark challenge to President Trump, voting on legislation that would fund the federal government while denying Trump the money he has demanded to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
GOP leaders in the Senate said they would support only a proposal that has the president’s backing. And without additional wall money, the Democrats’ offer is unlikely to break the stalemate that has shuttered large parts of the federal government since Dec. 22.
But the strategy Democrats announced Monday would usher in a new era of divided government in Washington with a dare to Trump, aimed at forcing him and Senate Republicans to take their deal or prolong a partial government shutdown.
This is a dare. Do you guys want to keep everything shut down, for what? They have an alternative. Go with what you agreed to before Trump had his tantrum:
House Democrats plan to use their new majority to vote through measures that would reopen nearly all of the shuttered federal agencies through the end of September, at funding levels Senate Republicans have previously agreed to. Those spending bills contain scores of priorities and pet projects for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.
The Democratic proposal holds out one exception: The Department of Homeland Security, which oversees border security, would keep its current level of funding, with no new money for a border wall. The plan would also extend the department’s budget only through Feb. 8, allowing Democrats to revisit funding for key parts of Trump’s immigration policy in a month.
They said that was fine until Trump’s tantrum. Do you really want to tie yourself to that? And that’s the trap:
“The President is using the government shutdown to try to force an expensive and ineffective wall upon the American people, but Democrats have offered two bills which separate the arguments over the wall from the government shutdown,” read a joint statement from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), the likely next House speaker, and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Republican leaders would have the option to pass the bipartisan bills, reopening much of the government while the border fight continued, but doing so could diminish Trump’s leverage as he demands billions in taxpayer funding for a wall.
Separate the arguments and keep the government open. Then talk about the wall. That’s reasonable, but things are not changing:
On Monday, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Senate, which will remain under Republican control, will bring up only legislation that has the president’s blessing.
“It’s simple: The Senate is not going to send something to the president that he won’t sign,” Don Stewart, McConnell’s spokesman, wrote in an email Monday.
The president has asked for $5 billion in border money, far beyond the $1.3 billion that Democrats plan to vote through this week. Trump on Monday invited Democrats to continue negotiations but reiterated that he had no plans to back down.
“They can come over right now. They could’ve come over anytime. I spent Christmas in the White House. I spent New Year’s Eve now in the White House. And you know, I’m here, I’m ready to go. It’s very important,” he said in an interview with Fox News that’s airing Monday evening during the network’s New Year’s Eve programming.
“We are not giving up. We have to have border security, and the wall is a big part of border security,” he said.
Ah, no, you’re not, but nothing is changing:
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) said that Democratic leaders in Congress have “American blood” on their hands by not providing funding for a proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
President Trump has requested $5 billion in funding for the wall – which he has called integral for border security – prompting a partial government shutdown that began Dec. 22. The president has continued to push for the wall, tweeting Monday morning that the border has long been an “‘Open Wound’ where drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals” could enter the United States.
In an interview with WAAY TV, Brooks, a representative for Alabama’s 5th Congressional District, took Trump’s sentiment a step further. He specifically blamed presumptive House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) for the deaths of “thousands” of Americans each year because of illegal immigrants. He did not offer facts or statistics to support his claim.
But the Open Wound! All the drugs, criminals (including human traffickers) and illegals! Well, forget that:
In June, the Washington Post’s Philip Bump reported that data shows immigrants – including those who enter the country illegally – commit crimes at lower rates than native-born Americans. Trump has rejected that idea.
Expect more of that, but Tom Toles, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Washington Post, notes how that eventually works out:
The big myth in U.S. politics has been that the GOP is the more “adult” of the two parties. The bigger myth that was inaugurated along with Donald Trump was that these “adults in the room” would keep the new reality show in check. Instead, the so-called adults surrounding President Trump in the White House have been emptying like a toy box into the dumpster out back on a regular basis. And then the so-called adults in Congress staged a romper-room raid on the cookie jar, passing a deficit-busting tax cut for the rich. And collectively, all these so-called adults tried to finger paint Trump’s lies to look like responsible governing, including the lie that climate change can be addressed by ignoring it and burning more coal.
In effect, the Republicans have instead rebranded themselves as quislings, collaborators and fellow travelers, or, more accurately, fellow toddlers. Why did they do this? Because they wanted to get what they could get when they could get it. See also: toddlers.
Now they are stuck with Trump on his sinking ship of fools. They can’t get off the ship or stay on it. They can’t live with Trump or without him.
That may be a bit harsh, and sarcastic, but it does match the facts:
Voters don’t love Democrats, but what are you going to do at this point? Democrats are the only ones who have talked any sense whatsoever on taxes, health care, budgets, climate, immigration, you name it. Trump has reacted to voter repudiation in November by shutting down part of the government over one of the most childish of his manic obsessions, his big high wall of blocks. And his party has responded by – what? Their ethical piggy bank is as empty as the federal one they transferred to the wealthiest of their diminishing numbers of supporters.
And so 2019 dawns as the contest between the real adults in the room and the children still mostly in charge. You can expect one side to be screaming a lot and throwing and breaking many things.
In short, expect more of the same. The past is prologue, and Heather Digby Parton reviews what just happened:
Trump hurled some personal insults this year that were truly obnoxious, even for him. He called adult film actress Stormy Daniels “Horseface.” He said dozens of times in his rallies and his twitter feed that Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat, is “low IQ” (while at the same time declaring himself a “very stable genius”). He called his former staffer Omarosa Manigault Newman “that dog” and cruelly mocked Dr. Christine Blasey Ford for her testimony during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination hearing. He tweeted, “Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn’t easy to do. I like Mike!”
Members of his own administration weren’t spared, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who Trump tweeted was “dumb as a rock” and didn’t have the “mental capacity” for the job.
Expect more of that:
We can assume that 2019 will bring similar tweets about soon-to-be-former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, whose resignation letter angered Trump greatly once the pundits on TV explained to him what it meant. His insults toward former members of the intelligence community are too many to list, but one of the big low points of the year was his impulsive decision to pull the security clearances of former CIA director John Brennan in a fit of pique.
It goes without saying that Trump has spent most of the year decrying Robert Mueller’s investigation and making wild accusations against anyone and everyone he believes threatens him. (He often simply tweets “Witch Hunt!” as a sort of primal scream into the void.) Nothing threatens him more than the media, which he calls the “enemy of the people.” This is an ongoing low point for the presidency — no single comment or tweet stands out. His Twitter freak flag flies on a daily basis, every day bringing a fresh outrage.
So, expect more tweets, but Parton is worried about something else:
Trump’s infantile rhetoric is one thing. Perhaps the republic will be able to restore some semblance of maturity and decency to the office once he’s gone. But his policy decisions and behavior on the world stage are something else.
Trump hit the ground running in January with a series of belligerent tweets taunting the North Korean dictator, Kim Jong-un. The most memorable would be the one in which he wrote, “please inform him that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his, and my Button works!” The president later cast aside all normal protocol and met with Kim in an elaborately staged but substance-free meeting in Singapore which Trump later described as the moment he and the murderous dictator “fell in love.”
This qualifies as a low point for a number of reasons. Despite the fact that Trump’s bizarre approach to diplomacy, more or less by accident, temporarily ratcheted down the tensions he had ratcheted up, he showed the world that he’s a sap. If that only embarrassed the U.S. – that would be one thing. Americans can take it. But the consequences could be a lot more severe if other ambitious leaders with a little more savvy decide to push the envelope.
But wait, there’s more, there’s Trump’s “summit” with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki:
Remember: That came on the heels of him making an utter ass of himself, first at the G8 meeting in Canada and then the NATO meeting in Europe, where he went out of his way to insult every one of America’s allies and even showed up late to meet the Queen of England. It was a performance that made the Singapore pageant looks downright stately by comparison.
It was clear Trump was champing at the bit to get to his big meeting with Putin. The two leaders met in private in an unrecorded session for two hours and then emerged for a press conference in which Trump behaved as if he were the Russian president’s majordomo. In one of the most memorable moments of his presidency thus far, he made it clear that he did not believe his own intelligence community was more credible than the Russian leader, even saying at one point he didn’t see any reason why the Russians would have tried to sabotage his rival in the 2016 election. (He later fatuously asserted that he’d really meant to say that he didn’t see why they wouldn’t, which made no sense at all.)
That press conference was a turning point for a lot of people, I think. Trump’s performance was so outrageously weak and sycophantic it became hard to deny that something was extremely awry in that relationship. Putin seemed very pleased, however.
So, expect more of that, and more of this:
The whole year is a low point. But to my mind nothing is lower than the fact that Donald Trump believes that separating children, even infants, from their parents at the U.S. border putting the kids in cages and then losing track of hundreds of them as their parents were deported – was a justifiable “deterrent.” Trump reportedly calls their nations “shithole countries” and threatens their leaders with a cutoff of aid if they don’t somehow keep their citizens from seeking refuge in the U.S. (Does he want them to build a wall to keep their people in?)
Trump has created a crisis where none existed – illegal immigration and asylum claims are quite low by historical standards – out of bigotry and rank political opportunism. His administration has changed the rules and procedures, forcing people to take more and more dangerous risks. And now children are dying. Two kids under age 10 have died in government custody under dubious conditions in the past month.
And it’s New Year’s Eve:
It is the very end of 2018. The government is shut down over Trump’s demand for a wall at the border, while refugee children die in our government’s custody. Our president does not show even a scintilla of empathy or take any responsibility. That’s low, even for him. I hesitate to think what 2019 is going to bring.
An optimist stays up until midnight to see the New Year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves. And there are analytical realists. They’re not sure anything ever changes.