I remember when Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi first said earlier this year that they’d like to do an infrastructure bill, a lot of my friends said: What? What are they thinking? Why do they want to give this guy any cover? And what if a bill passes? Then they’ll just be going along with making Trump look bipartisan!
I countered: I bet it’s far more likely that they know that Donald Trump will win a Mr. Universe contest sooner than an infrastructure deal will ever happen. Something will happen to blow it up. Either he won’t put the kind of money on the table they’ll have in mind—or he will, in which case Mitch McConnell will kill it.
In the meantime, there still are a lot of people out there who want to hear nicey-nicey talk about bipartisan cooperation, people who’ve been sleepwalking through the last three (or 10 or 27) years and still think such things are possible. Talking about working with the president makes these people happy.
Schumer and Pelosi therefore figured: Hey, if a deal happens on our terms, then, yeah, maybe we’ve helped him some, but we’ve gotten something good done for the country. And if it never happens, they could always turn around after it blows up and say, “Hey, don’t blame us, we tried!”
So Wednesday afternoon in the Rose Garden, Trump blew it up. Surprise. Did Pelosi bait him with that “cover-up” talk? Could be. Seems more likely she was using that phrase as a way to placate her rah-rah impeachment members, and she did inch a little farther out on that limb Wednesday.
But she knows how to troll the guy. Like her post-tantrum speculation about how maybe he blew up because of “a lack of confidence on his part.” Whoa. Next thing you know she’s gonna borrow from Graydon Carter and mention his short fingers.
And Trump, as ever, is all instinct. All he does is react like a petulant 6-year-old. My daughter is 8 now. She’s far more mature than Trump, far more able to see around the corner, think ahead, be strategic. He can’t think beyond the next 10 minutes. His instinct told him here that Pelosi bruised his ego and she had to be punished. He stalks out of the Rose Garden and goes straight to the Twitter machine to say, “Mommy, the big kids are picking on me again!”
UPDATE: The tweet rage continued into the next morning--six tweets from about 8 am to 10:30:
What he did instead was free her to move more aggressively against him. I don’t know if that means impeachment next week. But I know what it does mean: It means that episodes like this tantrum will make more Democrats start saying that Trump is the one who’s being unreasonable by doing things like shutting down infrastructure talks, and he’s bringing this impeachment business on himself.
Dan Kildee of Michigan was on MSNBC an hour or so after the tantrum saying exactly that. I haven’t been there on impeachment, he said, but “I’m a lot closer to that position than I was a month ago. And it’s the president who’s getting us there… He may be painting himself into a corner where we have no choice.” More moderate Democrats have now been given leave to say the same thing.
That suggests the Democrats’ strategy in the coming days and weeks: goad him into more tantrums. Troll him hard. When the 6-year-old Donald appears in public, they win every time. The government shutdown—forgotten now, yes, about 2,356 outrages ago, but a disaster for Trump at the time. And now this one. MAGAmerica will side with Trump, but practically no one else will lay eyes upon the President of the United States whining for the 400th time about the Witch Hunt, and lying for the 4,000th time about “no obstruction,” and be proud.
So, the Democrats tried. They genuinely tried. Well, not exactly genuinely. About one-third genuinely. But in Washington, that’s about as close as anybody has any right to expect. And Trump walked right into the honey trap. Now the infrastructure collapse is his fault (pray to God this is last infrastructure week!), and Pelosi and Schumer can say, “We wanted to work with the president. Every other president we know of has continued to talk about substance while investigations went on. We’re certainly not dropping the investigation, because there are real questions there. It’s a shame that he dropped the substance.”
Trump, true to form, insisted late Wednesday that he hadn’t thrown a tantrum. “I was purposely very polite and calm, much as I was minutes later with the press in the Rose Garden. Can be easily proven. It is all such a lie!” he tweeted.
And yeah, it’s sad that we’re at this point. If it’s an infrastructure deal you really want, here’s what you need to do, my fellow Americans: 1) elect a Democratic president; 2) elect a Democratic House; 3) elect a Democratic Senate. That’s right. Republicans will never do an infrastructure bill. McConnell would sooner contract scurvy than pass an infrastructure bill. It requires spending. Even, God forbid, a tax increase. Oh, and 4) implore the president and the Senate to get rid of the filibuster so they can pass a bill with 51 votes. That’s how you’re going to get an infrastructure deal. Democrats negotiating with Democrats.
And in the meantime, Trump’s tantrum means the Democrats can stop pretending and go in for the kill. And as Trump keeps whine-tweeting, watch the hunting party grow.