Shutdown may reap benefits

Although it was messy, the short shutdown appeared to have reaped benefits for people of goodwill in both parties. Unlike the contentious House of Representatives, the Senate actually proceeded in good order and with good sense. Mitch McConnell, tiring of White House games, managed a small compromise that not only ended the shutdown but gained medical funding for disadvantaged children. Moreover, he gave assurance that DACA would be amply debated. McConnell deserves some credit, but another leader shined in the moment.

Chuck Schumer only achieved a significant, albeit small, triumph. But his greatest achievement might be his overtures to President Donald Trump. Although the Friday lunch did not prove successful, it did open a lane to the White House. Trump, after all, requested the meeting and seemed eager to avoid a showdown. Of course the two guard dogs, the supposed moderate General John Kelly and his mutley Stephen Miller, prevented a compromise.

But the exercise might not have been in vain. Trump and, to an extent, Paul Ryan are prisoners of a fanatic minority of anti-immigrationists who are fighting the last battle. I doubt Trump is temperamentally given to ideological rigidity; the problem with Ryan is he actually believes the nonsense he espouses. Schumer sensed the president desired a way out and was blocked by his staff. Another overture may be in order.

Kelly particularly is a bit of a puzzle –being depicted as some kind of middle of the roader. Naturally, pundits automatically assume a particular kind of wisdom to anyone who wears the uniform. But apparently any assumption as to the virtues of General Kelly are misplaced. It makes you yearn for the days of Rence Priebus and Steve Bannon.

Schumer appears to have noticed that something was amiss; after all, it was Trump who made the overture. Sensibly, McConnell chose to show reason and the DACA act lived another day.

Trump, however, is largely responsible for his dilemma. His lack of discipline, Twitter fetish and inability to keep a civil tongue allows for “the adults” to keep him controlled. His instincts are for a deal, but his handlers are ideologues whose ideas on compromise demand complete and utter victory. For Trump this should be a time where he can build relationships with those who legislate. He got a tax cut, but another such triumph and he will be undone. Party line victories often do not last; ask former president Barack Obama.

If the president is unable to shed his staff, he is doomed. The economy and the stock market are booming, but they were under Obama. If the business climate sours, Trump will be even more dependent. Had he stayed in bed his first year and taped his mouth shut, his number would have been 70 percent or better on approval. He squandered his first year and gave many the impression that he was ill-tempered, dyspeptic and obsessed with his reputation. Not good. But if Trump sees his opportunities for a deal with Democrats, it will free him from his political prison. The skirmish of January 2018 might yet prove a fortuitous triumph.

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