It’s an old idea. Aristophanes’ Lysistrata was a comedy about an odd mission to end the Peloponnesian War between Greek city states by denying all the men of the land any sex. Lysistrata persuades the women of the warring cities to withhold sexual privileges from their husbands and lovers as a means of forcing those jerks to negotiate peace – and they do. The only battle left is the battle of the sexes. Who controls whom? The play was first performed in 411 BC but it still works today:
Taking a cue from the literature of ancient Greece, actress and political activist Alyssa Milano called for a “sex strike” Friday in response to the “heartbeat” bill that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed into law.
The new law outlaws abortions in the state at six weeks into the pregnancy. Georgia is one of several states in recent weeks that have passed legislation forbidding doctors from ending pregnancies when a heartbeat can be detected, which is roughly at six weeks… Critics of such legislation have argued that many women don’t discover that they’re pregnant in six weeks…
“Our reproductive rights are being erased. Until women have legal control over our own bodies we just cannot risk pregnancy,” Milano tweeted. “JOIN ME by not having sex until we get bodily autonomy back. I’m calling for a #SexStrike. Pass it on.”
And people did pass it on, not that that did much good:
Milano was able to garner support from other feminists on Twitter, many using “#Lysistrata2019.”
But others mocked Milano’s efforts and pointed out that such abstinence would likely be endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence.
And then, after a flurry of snark, everyone forgot the whole thing. Alyssa Milano is not a major star. Her voice was too small. And the play is too obscure now. And no one can spell Aristophanes. This was never going to work. Anything like this would need a big voice, one that could make real demands, and actually withhold something that was desperately needed and not just talk about doing that. The threat of going on strike must be credible, not just talk. And it must be a threat of real pain.
Donald Trump showed Alyssa Milano how it’s done. Donald Trump went on strike. He will not work with Congress, specifically the House of Representatives, on anything at all, until the House drops all their investigations of him, every single one of them. Until then, there will be no discussion of infrastructure, or of wage growth and income inequality or of our wars abroad, or of anything else. He’s going on strike, as the New York Times’ Peter Baker and his team notes here:
President Trump abruptly blew up a meeting with Democratic congressional leaders on Wednesday, declaring that he could not work with them until they stopped investigating him and lashing out at Speaker Nancy Pelosi for accusing him of a cover-up.
He then marched out into the Rose Garden, where reporters had been gathered, and delivered a statement bristling with anger as he demanded that Democrats “get these phony investigations over with.” He said they could not legislate and investigate simultaneously…
The tempestuous clash between Mr. Trump and Ms. Pelosi suggested that efforts to forge bipartisan legislation on issues – already a long shot – may effectively be frozen for the foreseeable future while the president and his opponents wage war over the various investigations now underway.
This will mean things will actually shut down. Trump is on strike, because Nancy Pelosi was mean to him:
The confrontation came on a day when talk of a possible impeachment raised temperatures on both sides of the aisle. Restive House Democrats pressed Ms. Pelosi to open a formal inquiry aimed at removing the president from office for high crimes and misdemeanors while both sides sought to gain the upper hand in the escalating conflicts over testimony and documents.
The Justice Department struck a deal with the House Intelligence Committee to provide some secret material related to the special counsel investigation of Mr. Trump and Russia, while a second federal judge ruled against the president’s efforts to block the release of financial information sought by lawmakers.
Things were tense, and then they exploded:
Mr. Trump and Democratic leaders were to meet on Wednesday morning to develop a $2 trillion plan to rebuild the nation’s roads, bridges, airports and other infrastructure. But Ms. Pelosi first met with Democrats on Capitol Hill to deflect pressure on impeachment, which she has opposed. Emerging from that meeting, she sought to signal sympathy with Democrats angry at the president’s efforts to block their investigations, declaring that “the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.”
Mr. Trump saw the comments and did not hide his fury when she and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader, arrived at the White House. The president walked into the Cabinet Room and did not shake anyone’s hand or sit down, according to people in the room. He said that he wanted to advance legislation on infrastructure, trade and other matters, but that Ms. Pelosi had said something “terrible” by accusing him of a cover-up.
After about three minutes, the president stalked out before anyone else could speak.
And then he was on strike, and things got odd:
Returning to Capitol Hill, the Democratic leader expressed disappointment, and said they were ready to make a deal with the president on infrastructure.
“He just took a pass and it just makes me wonder why he did that,” Ms. Pelosi said. “In any event, I pray for the president of the United States and I pray for the United States of America.”
Mr. Schumer expressed shock at the outcome. “To watch what happened in the White House would make your jaw drop,” he said.
But there was more:
Mr. Schumer said Mr. Trump’s eruption was hardly spontaneous, noting the preprinted sign on the lectern. Instead, he suggested that the president had staged it because he had not come up with a way to pay for such an enormous spending package.
“Hello! There were investigations going on three weeks ago when we met, and he still met with us,” Mr. Schumer said. “But now that he was forced to actually say how he would pay for it, he had to run away. And he came up with this preplanned excuse.”
And there was this:
Ms. Pelosi did not back down later in the day at a forum sponsored by the left-leaning Center for American Progress. “In plain sight, this president is obstructing justice and is engaged in a cover-up,” she said. “And that could be an impeachable offense.”
Or the man is just touchy to the point of something like paranoia:
The blowup at the White House was reminiscent of a meeting in January when Mr. Trump erupted at Ms. Pelosi during the partial government shutdown as he sought money for his promised border wall. After she refused to go along, he said “bye-bye” and stormed out.
In this case, Mr. Trump has been in a foul mood since Monday, snapping at aides about his rally in Pennsylvania and complaining about news media coverage of the investigations. In his view, people close to him said, Democrats are seeking to render his presidency illegitimate.
Yeah, yeah, everyone is out to get him, and that’s just not fair: Everyone knows how he thinks by now:
When Mr. Trump entered the Cabinet Room for Wednesday’s meeting with the Democrats, he did not take his seat near the center of the table and instead stood at the end of the table and admonished his guests, according to an account from two people in the room, one Republican and one Democrat.
After Mr. Trump walked out, Ms. Pelosi turned to other Democrats there and recounted a story about how Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt had each brought people together to solve infrastructure problems.
“I knew he was looking for a way out,” Ms. Pelosi concluded. “We were expecting this.”
Perhaps they were, because, as Burgess Everett notes, she’s got his number:
Something about Nancy Pelosi just gets under Donald Trump’s skin.
On Wednesday, for the third time in barely six months, a meeting between the president, the speaker and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blew up in spectacular fashion.
And in each case, Trump handed Pelosi a huge gift, a priceless moment that helped unify the Democratic Caucus behind her at a crucial time.
“She’s smarter than him, and she’s tougher than him, and I think that bothers him,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), a Pelosi ally. “It’s hard to get inside that head of his and figure out what drives him, other than an oversized ego and an undersized sense of ethics.”
That is what he is:
“Guess what? He behaves like a child. This is what we have in the White House now,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who served under Pelosi in the House. “I’m used to it. I’m not expecting a grown-up any longer. I’m not expecting him to grow into the role.”
And for Pelosi, the timing is perfect. As the drumbeat for impeachment grows within her caucus, she can argue that what they’re doing is already working. Trump clearly doesn’t know how to respond to the barrage of Democratic investigations; they’re winning in the courts and he’s throwing fits. So why bother with impeachment, especially when Democrats know that a GOP-run Senate isn’t going to remove him from office?
Meanwhile, the Trump-Pelosi confrontations are getting to be recurring spectacles, and even Republicans know it hurts the president’s image.
“It’s a disaster,” said a senior Republican who requested anonymity. “It plays right into her hands.”
And he cannot do much about this:
Last December, Trump clashed with Schumer and Pelosi over his border wall in front of TV cameras. Then during talks to end the ensuing government shutdown in January, Trump slammed his hand on the table and walked out when Pelosi refused to yield on funding for the wall.
“It seems like anytime she strikes a nerve… he freaks out,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.). “I think he realizes the walls are closing in on him.”
That may be:
A new poll finds that a strong majority of voters believes that President Trump does not deserve a second term in office.
A Monmouth University survey released Wednesday found that only 37 percent of voters believe Trump should be reelected, while 60 percent said they think it’s time to have someone new in the White House.
That’s the highest percentage of voters saying they’re eager for change since Monmouth first began asking the question in November. The numbers come weeks ahead of Trump’s expected official launch for his 2020 reelection campaign.
He’ll have work to do, but perhaps these voters see what Dana Milbank sees:
Nobody seemed to know what to make of the explosion. White House officials reportedly said they tried to stop Trump from making the Rose Garden appearance. And for good reason: With Wednesday’s public announcement that he won’t negotiate with Democrats, the president has taken ownership of the lack of progress on infrastructure and other legislation – much the way he took ownership of the government shutdown.
And for what? The remark Pelosi made that apparently set Trump off – “we believe that the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up” – is something Democratic leaders have said before and something well supported both by the Mueller report and by Trump’s steadfast refusal to cooperate with congressional inquiries.
Trump used to sneer and dismiss such “nonsense” and move on, but not now, and that means something is up:
What changed, apparently, is the president’s state of mind. People often describe him as “unraveling,” but that implies he was once fully knitted. Whatever his mental starting point, those seeking the method in Trump’s madness lately have encountered less of the former and more of the latter.
The rage, the Nixonian paranoia and the scattered thinking suggest that he feels walls closing in on him. But his own actions are causing the walls to close.
Democratic leaders don’t want to impeach him; Pelosi’s “cover-up” remark was in the context of her fighting off members of her caucus who wish to proceed immediately with impeachment. And Trump, even if he thinks impeachment will help him politically, surely doesn’t desire to become only the third president so stained. Yet, each day, his belligerence and refusal to cooperate leave Democrats with less of a choice. He’s stumbling toward impeachment.
That seems to be the case:
On Wednesday, he started tweeting before 6 a.m. about “NO COLLUSION” and impeachment and “PRESIDENTIAL HARASSMENT!” From that fragile mental state, all it took was one line from Pelosi to propel Trump to the Rose Garden with a poster taped to the presidential lectern announcing such things as “NO Collusion” and “18 Angry Democrats.”
“I don’t do cover-ups,” announced the man who paid hush money to an adult-film star and who is now fighting legal battles to conceal his tax returns and business records. “I’m the most transparent president, probably, in the history of this country,” he also said.
Milbank can agree with that:
In one sense, that’s true: Trump’s state of mind is utterly transparent, revealed in real time. At the moment, he seems to be transparently mad.
And that may be why he declared a strike. He’s on strike. He won’t do his job as president until those Democrats in the House stop picking on him. Nothing will get done.
He’ll withhold the presidency, just like the Greek women in the Aristophanes play withheld sex, for the greater good. It may be time for an intervention.