Monday, January 07, 2019


Twice in the past three days, President Trump has said that he's considering an emergency declaration in order to build a border wall without congressional approval. I was puzzled by these pronouncements -- not because I couldn't believe that Trump would do an end run around Congress, but because I couldn't figure out why he wasn't just doing it.

On Friday he said:
Absolutely we can call a national emergency because of the security of our country, absolutely. No, we can do it. I haven’t done it. I may do it. I may do it. But we can call a national emergency and build it very quickly. And -- it's another way of doing it. But if we can do it through a negotiated process, we're giving that a shot.

On Sunday he said:
I may declare a national emergency dependent on what’s going to happen over the next few days.... I think we're going to have some very serious talks come Monday, Tuesday, Wedndesday.

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.

And now we learn that he wants us to agree, too. Public opinion polls have been against him -- but he wants to win us over using old-fashioned persuasion:
President Trump wants to address the nation about the government shutdown on Tuesday night, and later in the week plans to travel to the southern border as part of his effort to persuade Americans of the need for a border wall — the sticking point in negotiations with Democrats who are eager to reopen shuttered agencies.
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.

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