‘I think the nation’s fourth graders know this is no way to run a lemonade stand…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) As the 2018 legislative term careens to a halt, President Donald Trump has customarily dominated the news cycle this week with blockbuster policy moves that have felt sometimes off-the-cuff.
He’s laid the groundwork for some potential legacy items, with a successful district court challenge to the constitutionality of Obamacare, and successful passage of a House bill funding his border wall. Moreover, the successful passage of a major farm bill package and criminal justice reform have given Congress something to crow about as they return to their districts for the holidays.
On the other side of the coin, Trump has rattled his base somewhat, announcing a Justice Department-imposed ban on bump-stocks, a proposed withdrawal of Middle Eastern forces and the departure of trusted members of his Cabinet.
A less robust economy, courtesy of Federal Reserve interest hikes, might also weaken his hand as he approaches the new challenges of an actively hostile chamber of Congress and countless other partisan forces aligned against him.
The chaos surrounding these events has left some Trump allies—and NeverTrumpers alike—clamoring for method in the madness.
On Thursday, RealClearPolitics columnist A.B. Stoddard gave voice to the tensions in a discussion with Fox News anchor Bret Baier.
“I think the nation’s fourth graders know this is no way to run a lemonade stand,” fretted Stoddard, referencing Thursday’s passage of a House funding bill driven by the pro-Trump Freedom Caucus that faces grim prospects in the narrowly-split Senate.
“This is completely irresponsible,” she said. “The markets are rattling on the prospect of a shutdown that’s turning on Ann Coulter’s tweets.”
Stoddard took particular issue with the perceived unpredictability of the process, as Friday marked the final deadline for the current legislative body to approve funding for several crucial areas of the federal bureaucracy.
“The president time and again is contemptuous of process and of compromise,” said Stoddard. “… It requires presidential leadership—he refuses to do the hard work.”
Although Congress had earlier passed a stop-gap funding measure to push the appropriations debate into January, Trump threatened to veto it and has continued to insist on a full $5 billion to fund the U.S.–Mexico border wall as part of its Homeland Security spending, or else force a shut down to parts of the government over the Christmas holiday.
The shutdown mainly would affect nonessential services, such as national parks and monuments, certain State Department functions and the furloughs at the IRS (since tax season has not yet begun).
Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., has given no indication that he will flinch on the wall funding.
The Democrats now own the shutdown!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
Stoddard did not limit her rebuke to the Oval Office, calling to task the Freedom Caucus members of the House of Representatives—including Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Mark Meadows, R-N.C.—who were pushing for the political showdown in Congress.
“They don’t know what they’re talking about,” Stoddard said. “This is political malpractice. They’re wrong.”
Other frequent Trump allies also broke ranks on some of the president’s recent policy moves, notably Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who condemned the surprise decision to withdraw troops from Syria and Afghanistan. Although Trump has touted the eradication of ISIS, Graham warned that the lack of a U.S. presence there will lead to a resurgence of terrorist activity.
Meanwhile, a gaggle of NeverTrumpers—among them Sen. Marco Rubio, R.-Fla.; Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb.; and Bill Kristol, co-founder of the erstwhile Weekly Standard—all weighed in on the departure announcement of Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis.
Just read Gen. Mattis resignation letter. It makes it abundantly clear that we are headed towards a series of grave policy errors which will endanger our nation,damage our alliances & empower our adversaries. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/ztc0Yihccn
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 20, 2018
Although the liberal Huffington Post gleefully painted it as a panic among conservatives, the alarmism did not mark a major departure from past anti-Trump commentary. Kristol has even floated the possibility of a Trump primary challenge that would include Mattis on the ticket.
But despite the perceptions of dire doom and gloom, Trump has often proved his pragmatic leadership style thrives under such conditions and that he is at his best when being underestimated.
One thing Americans can count on is that there will be plenty of surprises yet to come this holiday season—and not just under the Christmas tree.