When Donald Trump announced that he would be delivering an Oval Office address on the border crisis in primetime on Jan. 8, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer unprecedentedly called for “equal time.” What was interesting was that when they finally delivered their “rebuttal,” based on remarks by the president they hadn’t yet heard, it wasn’t a rebuttal — or much of anything else. It was a bunch of disconnected recycled liberal talking points punctuated with accusations of malice on the part of the president.
It resulted in a setback for the Democratic leaders, who nevertheless have became more brazen in their intransigence — especially Pelosi. We saw this in her foolhardy plan to leave the country for a week as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East, and she would have gone had the president not done her the favor of grounding her transportation. Had Trump not intervened, the optics of the speaker making a non-essential excursion abroad in the middle of a government shutdown would have been dreadful.
Yesterday she doubled down on her belief that she holds — excuse the expression — all the trump cards in her standoff with the president. He made another Oval Office overture, this time offering concessions, including an extension for DACA participants and money for reunification of families separated in exchange for a border wall.
Pelosi’s response, again given before she knew what the president would offer, was essentially, “First reopen the government. Then we’ll talk and I’ll say no to your plan.”
In her statement, she called the president’s proposal a “non-starter,” cobbled together from “several previously rejected initiatives.” She also offered her own ideas of what constitutes “effective border security solutions,” among them “more customs personnel” and “more immigration judges.” These are obviously proposals designed to ease the arrival of more “asylum” cases and have little to with securing the border.
So far, the polls are in Pelosi’s favor, with Trump taking the lion’s share of blame for the shutdown. This is no doubt her primary motivation to play hardball. But this could all change, and abruptly. Those affected by the shutdown will reach a point where they are less concerned with who’s responsible than they are with who is the bigger impediment to reaching a compromise.
One wonders if Pelosi is prepared for that eventuality.