Donald Trump really, really, really wants to sell America a wall.
President Trump announced on Monday that he would address the nation from the Oval Office on Tuesday evening to discuss what he called the crisis at the southern border, and the White House said that later in the week he would travel to the border as part of his effort to persuade Americans of the need for a wall — the sticking point in negotiations with Democrats which caused a government shutdown.
It was not immediately clear which outlets would carry his address. The four major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC — confirmed receiving the White House request on Monday for Mr. Trump to speak during the 9 p.m. Eastern Standard Time slot, but producers had not decided whether to grant him the time. Pre-empting prime-time coverage is an expensive proposition for television executives, who have sold millions of dollars’ worth of advertising against entertainment programming.
Mr. Trump’s remarks could also be covered by cable news networks, which have a much smaller audience. CNN has agreed to air the address, a spokeswoman said on Monday. But cable news stations are accustomed to cutting in for breaking news, and they reach a far smaller audience than traditional broadcast stations.
In the recent past, White House requests to interrupt prime-time programming on the nation’s broadcast networks were rare and usually reserved for moments of national import, like the death of Osama bin Laden, and networks usually granted the requests. There have been instances, however, where such requests were rejected by producers as insufficiently newsworthy.
So, another loyalty oath check for the news media, and it allows Trump to either scream and threaten the press with destruction again or they cover his sales pitch in prime time, a win-win for Trump. But Steve M brings up a very good point: when it comes to that national emergency that he wants so badly to declare, why not just get it over with and do it?
I know I'm supposed to regard Trump as a potential fascist dictator, but he seems reluctant to take a heavy-handed approach in this case.
I think I know why. Trump sells himself as the world's greatest dealmaker. He claims to be a guy who always triumphs as a dealmaker (no win-win scenarios for Trump). So it seems that he'd rather be seen as the Great Persuader than as the Great Dictator. He wants congressional Democrats to agree to give him 100% of what he wants.
Trump as the ultimate dealmaker is an important part of his mythos and once again his narcissism is getting in the way of what his party wants.
Trump could try brute force, but it's killing him that he can't sweet-talk America into the wall (especially when Fox keeps telling him that all real Americans want it). This is a weakness of Trump's. His party would let him get away with even greater abuses of power than he's attempted, but he'd rather prove that he's the world's greatest salesman. He really can't bear the thought that this might not be true.
That theory makes a lot of sense, actually. He knows he needs to get a win on the wall, and he's convinced that he can sell Democrats and the entire country on it rather than try to force it. Of course, the "dealmaker" image is so much garbage in reality, as Bloomberg's Tim O'Brien points out.
Trump, in reality, was never a peerless or even a particularly skillful dealmaker, and many of the most significant business transactions he engineered imploded. Instead, he made his way in the world as an indefatigable self-promoter, a marketing confection and a human billboard who frequently licensed his name to buildings and products paid for by others.
In Trump’s professional life, his inept dealmaking often came home to roost in unmanageable debts and serial bankruptcies. In his more recent political and presidential life it has revealed itself through bungled, hapless efforts to overturn the Affordable Care Act; forge a nuclear agreement with North Korea; wage trade wars with China, Mexico and Canada; retain control of the House of Representatives; turn military and diplomatic strategy on its head; lay siege to sensible immigration policy; and, now, force a government shutdown to secure funding for a prized project — a wall along the U.S.’s southern border.
Striking lasting deals requires intimacy with the finer points of what every party wants out of a negotiation, realistic goals, maturity, patience, flexibility — and enough leverage so the other side can’t simply stall or walk away from the table. Trump hasn’t met any of those prerequisites in his repeated efforts to fulfill his campaign promise to build a wall, a promise that played to the most xenophobic and bigoted portion of his base while not addressing any of the real shortcomings or necessary enhancements of federalimmigration policy.
“Policy” and “Trump” don’t really coexist, of course. The president lacks the interest or sophistication to steep himself in policy details, so he enters the immigration debate and dealmaking for his wall at a distinct disadvantage. For as much as he disparages politicians and public service, Trump is surrounded by Democrats and Republicans who have immersed themselves in immigration discussions for years. Expertise does matter, after all — and Trump doesn’t have it.
The most visible reminder of the raw amateurism that has undermined Trump’s dealmaking came in December during a memorable White House visit with a pair of Democrats, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Charles Schumer. As the trio gradually became unsettled over policy differences that could lead to a government shutdown, Trump, ready to perform for the media he had invited to observe the chat, sallied forth in a burst of bravado.
“I am proud to shut down the government for border security,” Trump told Schumer. “I will take the mantle. I will shut it down. I'm not going to blame you for it.”
So what happens when Trump is unable to make the sale and once again it doesn't work?
We'll find out soon, I imagine. It could be that Tuesday's address will be the emergency declaration anyway.
Who knows with Trump?