BOSTON (CBS) – President Trump’s announcement of a three-week reprieve from the government shutdown was a tale of two politicians.
As he opened his remarks by accepting a Democratic proposal to pass the appropriations necessary to pay those 800,000 federal workers – a deal he could have had weeks ago without the poll-eroding fiasco that ensued – the president’s body language was noticeably un-Trump-like.
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His tone was muted and his hands were far less active than normal; only occasionally would an open palm (a Trump body-language trademark that conveys openness and command) show above podium level.
But as he moved past the cave-in acknowledgment and returned to the pro-wall rhetoric of his recent Oval Office address, the hands rose and his confidence returned.
And the lies and distortions flowed: the patently false claim that furloughed federal workers “did not complain” and the undocumented one that “many” of them “encouraged me to keep going,” the insistence that “we never proposed” miles of concrete wall (late December tweet: “An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media”), and the widely-debunked tale of how women are bound and gagged and smuggled into the country along the border rather than seduced into willingly accompanying traffickers through ports of entry.
But the key whopper was the president’s claim that Democrats have “finally and fully acknowledged that having barriers or fences or walls or whatever you want to call it will be an important part of the solution.”
That hasn’t happened.
Unless it does, according to Mr. Trump, we’ll be right back in the soup again in three weeks, with the added excitement of a highly controversial use of presidential emergency powers to grab funds for the wall that even top Republicans have been warning against.
What happened to prompt today’s concession?
Tanking poll numbers, no doubt, and increasingly emphatic warnings from Senate Republicans, six of whom bailed on the party line in yesterday’s vote. Trump-era lore holds that he is a master of distraction, so maybe the prospect of shifting some limelight away from the Roger Stone indictment played a role.
Perhaps the debate over border security that is now supposed to unfold will put Speaker Pelosi on the defensive and elicit more support for the White House position.
Then again, five weeks worth of presidential jawboning just achieved the opposite.