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The odds of a shutdown compromise just hit a depressing new low

Posted: 5:33 PM, Jan 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-17 21:12:28-05

Donald Trump, petulant and impetuous, never lets a slight go unanswered. Because, at the end of (every) day, it’s all about him — and what he wants.

Witness Trump’s last-minute decision Thursday to cancel House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned trip to Afghanistan as a way to punish her for her request that he postpone his State of the Union speech until after the government is reopened.

To be clear: Pelosi’s move, like Trump’s, was political. She wanted to drive home two things to the President: 1) Congress is on equal footing with the White House, according to the Constitution, and 2) The shutdown could be made to impact him, too.

There was some hope — amid Trump’s silence in the wake of Pelosi’s SOTU letter — that he might not take the bait, that he might, for once, see that engaging in a tit-for-tat political knife fight with Pelosi didn’t help the 800,000 furloughed federal workers or the country more broadly.

But that hope, like the hope that Trump would act more presidential once he was the GOP nominee or once he was elected president or once he was sworn in or once, well, you get the idea, was doomed from the start.

Trump is Trump. Over and over again — in both the campaign and in the White House — Trump has shown that his first priority is doing what he believes is best for him (or gives him the most immediate satisfaction), not the right thing for the country.

Whether you blame Pelosi for provoking or Trump for his totally unpresidential response, the result is the same: The chances of a compromise that would resolve this already-longest-ever government shutdown went from “not very good” to “very, very bad” on Thursday.

And, what’s all the more remarkable — and by “remarkable” I mean “terribly, terribly depressing” — is that what we are talking about is an inability to keep the government open, the single most basic task of our elected officials. This ain’t complex foreign policy or some sort of broad-scale deal on entitlement reform. This is keeping the lights on. Basic stuff. Easy stuff.

The Point: This political pissing match represents a failure of our government the likes of which we haven’t seen — even in an era in which it feels like every political norm has already been smashed.