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Watching the Sausage Get Made

There’s a wise old saying, apocryphally attributed to Otto Von Bismarck, that “Laws are like sausages, it is better not see them being made.” In this reality show age of politics and food shows the gruesome spectacles are always on display, however, so Tuesday brought the live-on-television opening round of negotiations between President Donald Trump and Democratic congressional leaders Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Chuck Schumer over an upcoming spending bill. Suffice to say it provided more melodrama than anything the competing soap operas had to offer.
To sum up the episode up in a TV Guide-sized synopsis, Trump insists any spending bill include at least $5 billion for a big and beautiful wall across America’s entire southern border, Pelosi and Schumer don’t want want to give it to him, and Trump is threatening a partial government shutdown if they don’t. Most followers of the ongoing political saga already have a rooting interest in either Trump or Pelosi and Schumer, and will cheer their heroes and boo their villains accordingly, but for those of us worriedly watching from the sidelines it just seems a damned mess. At this point in the plot our best is guess is that there won’t be any significant funding for a wall, there will be a partial government shutdown of unknown duration, and no one comes out of it looking good.
Nobody looked at all good on Tuesday. Trump and Pelosi and Schumer each played their reality show parts to their usual hilts, and their discussion of the nation’s pressing issues was as full of sound and fury signifying nothing as a typical cable news show’s panel debates or one of those pro wrestling skits Trump used to participate in, with both sides asserting their dominance rather than making rational arguments based on agreed facts.
As far as that went, we’d have to say that awful Pelosi woman and that awful Schumer guy got the better of the power play than that awful Trump fellow. Trump boasted live-on-air that for the next few days he can muster the votes in House of Representatives to give funding for his border wall, but he also admitted that because of the 60-vote rule for spending bills he didn’t have the needed votes in the Senate, and Pelosi could rightly note that when a sizable Democratic majority is installed in the House early next month he won’t get any border wall funding there. The Democrats clearly have the stronger hand, to borrow a poker metaphor, and even after seeing all his casinos go bankrupt Trump still doesn’t seem to know when to cash in.
Trump can rightfully boast he somehow how has the powers of the presidency, including the veto power that would lead to a partial government showdown, but we can’t see how that does him much good. Even partial government shutdowns are always unpopular, and Trump once “tweeted” back during the Obama that they were proof of a failure of presidential leadership, now he’s boastfully threatening one, and although that big beautiful border wall is always an applause line at Trump’s rallies it also doesn’t poll well. Pelosi and Schumer are more veteran players of politics, which is still mostly played by the constitutional and legal and traditional rules Trump is still learning, so we don’t see them folding to a president who has preemptively claimed credit for an unpopular government shutdown over an unpopular wall.
A more objective and deliberative consideration of government and border security would be welcome, but both sides would be still look bad. Those damned Democrats are far too weak on border enforcement for our tastes, and some of them are downright crazy about despite Pelosi’s and Schumer’s assurances, but Trump’s longstanding pledge of a big and beautiful border wall has always struck as one of the most cockamamie campaign promises ever made. Even if Trump could keep somehow keep his even more cockamamie campaign promise to have Mexico happily pay for it, which he no longer mentions, the wall is opposed by most Americans residing near the southern border and all of their Republican and Democratic representatives, its cost would surely exceed Trump’s pie-in-the-sky budget estimates just in court expenses for eminent domain seizures that offend our old-fashioned conservative sensibilities, and the money could surely be better spent on high-tech surveillance, border walls at a few essential points, and cracking down on the vast majority of illegal immigrants who arrived via airplane and outstayed their visas.
A smart and fair and vigorous enforcement of America’s border laws would surely round up several employees of Trump’s still wholly-owned businesses, and probably cause some Democrats much embarrassment along the way, so we don’t see that happening. Instead we expect a prolonged partial government shutdown and legislative gridlock, plenty of booing and hissing according to partisan preferences, and that separate subplot about the special counsel investigation into the “Russia thing” proceeding apace to its cataclysmic conclusion.
Oh well, at least it could be worse if either side were to win.

— Bud Norman

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A Controversy Made to Executive Order

President Donald Trump’s executive order imposing temporary restrictions on admitting visitors and immigrants from certain certain Middle Eastern countries has kicked up quite a fuss, of course, and so far both he and his most fervent critics are looking rather foolish.
Most of the loud and anguished outrage of the left is against the very idea of imposing even temporary restrictions on admitting visitors and immigrants from any country, which is exactly the sort of leftist nonsense that got Trump elected. The arguments for unfettered immigration from countries where the more troublesome interpretations of Islam prevail are increasingly hard to make with each passing terror attack here and in Europe, and were soundly rejected in favor of Trump’s slightly less crazy rhetoric about “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what’s going on,” yet the respectable press and the rest of the loony left continues to embarrass itself in the effort. The executive order is far less sweeping than the campaign promise, and Trump seems to expect that we’ll figure out what’s going on well enough to let it lapse in a mere 120 days, and although the countries on Trump’s list conspicuously don’t include some terror-prone countries where he still has business holdings it’s also the same list the Obama administration used for its “no fly” restrictions that also restricted some innocent American citizens, and Trump is still allowing 50,000 refugees, which is less than what Obama had ordered for this year but about as much as he welcomed in while still in office, yet the left is once again invoking the Statue of Liberty and seemingly sympathetic asylum-seekers and still thinking it has a winning political issue.
Trump is unlikely to make the argument that his grand gesture isn’t really such a big deal, or that Obama wasn’t the open borders fanatic that everyone on both sides thought, but so far he’s done a surprisingly good job of not making it all about Islam. He rightly notes that past policies had admitted relatively few Christian refugees from Syria, where they were targeted for genocide, and with a similar concern for Bahais and Sikhs and other persecuted minorities the policy adheres to the unassailable and quite religiously-neutral logic of aiding those most in need, and we expect his clipped “tweets” will be more persuasive than our paraphrasing. We hope he’ll also reverse that Obama executive order that reversed the longstanding policy regarding Cuban refugees, which has resulted in several brave asylum-seekers that the left doesn’t care about being sent back to the cruelty of their homeland’s communist government, and that the left embarrasses itself trying to argue that at the same time they’re telling all those sob stories about brave asylum-seekers from the Middle East.
Even with such a half-assed measure and overwrought response and all the compelling arguments on his side, Trump has somehow managed to misplay such a winning hand. The executive order was apparently written by some high-ranking political staffers without any help from the high-ranking appointees who actually knew how to go about doing such sensible things, which is already a popular administration storyline in the press, and the result was predictably messy. Some specific language about immediate implementation meant that some green-card-holding people who had done nothing wrong wound up in airport hell as they made long-planned trips that concluded just after the order was signed, which led to some great sob stories for the press, some Middle Easterners who had bravely volunteered their help to to the American military during its recent activities in the Middle East were also affected, which also makes for a hell of a story, and all sorts of embarrassing clarifications and other retreats ensued. The exclusion from the list of all those Islamist countries where Trump still has business holdings will also be an ongoing controversy, even if it is the same list the reputedly open borders fanatic Obama used for his “no fly” list, and for the next 120 days or until our representatives figure out what’s going on there should be plenty of arguments that spring from this sort of fuss. Already Trump has fired an acting Attorney General left over from the Obama administration who objected, and it looks like he’ll have to fire a lot of other State Department employees who also object to his half-assed and almost Obama-esque measures, and the press will treat it like Nixon firing Archibald Cox, if Trump remembers that, and although his fans will love the familiar “you’re fired” shtick we’ll only be on his side until that inevitable “Saturday Night Massacre” when he fires the people insisting on the law.
We hope it all works out, but we expect that Trump and his most fervent critics and all the rest of us will wind up looking rather foolish.

— Bud Norman