‘It’s going to take a big national event to move things. I mean, we’re at a standstill….’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Call it a Tale of Two Shutdowns. At 28 days, both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi remain firmly entrenched in their positions over the $5 billion in requested funding for a southern border wall, which has led to the longest partial government closure in history.
The Democrats, whose votes we need in the Senate, will probably vote against Border Security and the Wall even though they know it is DESPERATELY NEEDED. If the Dems vote no, there will be a shutdown that will last for a very long time. People don’t want Open Borders and Crime!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 21, 2018
With no end in sight, the greatest crisis thus far has been that the furloughing of some 380,000 nonessential federal employees might start to become old news.
It has left many Americans wondering: If the government can absorb these losses and still function as usual, what’s next? And exactly how long will this go on?
However, the two sides see the end-game playing out in very different ways: While the Left is pushing fear tactics, prognosticating an epic disaster that could possibly eclipse even global warming, some on the Right see a master strategy in which Trump lays the groundwork for permanently draining the swamp.
Given his flair for the sensational, it is small wonder that Drudge Report proprietor Matt Drudge found his banner story on Friday in the left-leaning Atlantic.
With the initial wave of shutdown stories having failed to create the necessary public panic, the magazine took a page straight from the Al Gore playbook by torquing up the doom-and-gloom scenarios in a mostly anonymously-sourced rundown of “macabre hypotheticals.”
Wrote Atlantic author McKay Coppins: “For a deal to shake loose in this environment, it may require a failure of government so dramatic, so shocking, as to galvanize public outrage and force the two parties back to the negotiating table.”
The article at times felt like it was dropping suggestions, exhorting its social justice warriors in the Resistance army to take action. Among the possible outcomes slouching toward their inevitable conclusion on Capitol Hill:
- A legion of starving masses encamped in Trump shanty towns outside the White House once food stamps expire in March
- A maverick TSA worker, more enterprising than usual due to disgruntled desperation, routing a plane into the ground
- A backlog of USDA approvals leading to an outbreak of tainted, sub-quality beef
- And, of course, terrorism
Likely, the Leftist press would find a way to deflect such a terrorist attack back onto Trump—even if it happened to be one of the many jihadists who entered the U.S. via the unprotected southern border.
After doing all it could to ding the president for creating both sides of this two-way impasse, The Atlantic concluded, “And so the quiet catastrophizing continues. … Even if some of their worst-case shutdown scenarios remain unlikely—there are still plenty of paths forward that don’t include body counts…”
‘This Is All Pageantry’
As President Trump and House Speaker Pelosi proved this week, neither is above trolling tactics in the current appropriations standoff.
Pelosi set out to passive-aggressively pique the president’s ego by disinviting him from Congress for the State of the Union address.
Trump reciprocated by canceling Pelosi’s flight as she was about to embark on an international public-relations mission.
“This is all pageantry,” a Democratic House aide told The Atlantic. “It’s going to take a big national event to move things. I mean, we’re at a standstill.”
Unlike Obama, who deliberately sought to enhance public misery during the 2013 shutdown by unnecessarily shuttering funded services, Trump has downplayed it, even injecting sardonic humor into the situation by inviting the NCAA-winning Clemson football team to a self-funded fast-food feast.
Some, such as ESPN, naturally cried “racism” over the banquet.
But The Atlantic gave voice to what most of the Left felt deep in their chafing craws.
“Now that he’s in the fight, Trump seems to be relishing the opportunities for showmanship that the shutdown affords him,” it wrote.
“Why bother governing—a job he has rarely seemed to like—when he can spend all day doling out Quarter Pounders to college-football players, plotting publicity stunts, and trading barbs with political enemies?”
Meanwhile, on the Right, some wondered if behind the showmanship and pageantry, Trump might be setting a trap.
From an optical standpoint, Trump and the Republicans may never be able to prevail in the courtroom of the mainstream media, no matter how many “Chuck and Nancy” memes crop up.
As many have observed, the anti-wall position that Congressional Democrats are now firmly entrenched against is one they have publicly supported in the past, meaning their principled stand is against the president himself.
Trump’s only way, thus, to fulfill a crucial campaign promise may be a bait-and-switch.
….I am doing exactly what I pledged to do, and what I was elected to do by the citizens of our great Country. Just as I promised, I am fighting for YOU!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 14, 2019
Indeed, the president may have just such a solution for the border wall by declaring a national emergency and having the Pentagon provide the funding—although it’s likely to be subject to many 9th Circuit injunctions and eminent-domain challenges.
Still, the purpose of a protracted shutdown may be something entirely different than funding the wall if Trump is set on fulfilling another campaign promise: draining the swamp in Washington, D.C.
Bucking ‘The Process’
Writing for the conservative site American Thinker, Thomas Lifson posed the question, “Has President Trump suckered Democrats and the Deep State into a trap that will enable a radical downsizing of the federal bureaucracy?”
Lifson’s main point of reasoning was a little-known bureaucratic procedure from the federal Office of Personnel Management known as a Reduction in Force. It stipulates says after 30 calendar days a furloughed federal employee may be downsized.
“For all practical purposes, a government RIF is the same thing as a layoff,” explained Michael Roberts on The Balance.
The brilliance of the tactical move stems from the fact that it may be otherwise virtually impossible to fire many government employees. Even if there are performance related reasons, the federal bureaucracy often finds itself slave to the “process” of avoiding lawsuits by transferring, promoting or simply ignoring problem employees.
“Process is what we serve, process keeps us safe, process is our core value,” wrote a a senior Trump administration official in an anonymous op-ed published Monday by the Daily Caller. “It takes a lot of people to maintain the process. Process provides jobs. In fact, there are process experts and certified process managers who protect the process.”
The Daily Caller piece effectively confirmed the theory that Trump had an altogether different game in mind. “The lapse in appropriations is more than a battle over a wall” said the writer. “It is an opportunity to strip wasteful government agencies for good.”
The author noted that many of those within the federal public sector create more inefficiencies than productive contributions. “On an average day, roughly 15 percent of the employees around me are exceptional patriots serving their country. … But 80 percent feel no pressure to produce results. If they don’t feel like doing what they are told, they don’t.”
Even worse, many seek to undermine Trump’s efforts, said the source. “Most of my career colleagues actively work against the president’s agenda. This means I typically spend about 15 percent of my time on the president’s agenda and 85 percent of my time trying to stop sabotage, and we have no power to get rid of them. Until the shutdown.”
Since the reductions, argued the author, government offices have found it necessary to reorganize, and often they have become more efficient as a result.
Likewise, as furloughed employees find themselves without paychecks, many of those seeking to supplement income may simply be reduced through attrition.
“President Trump has created more jobs in the private sector than the furloughed federal workforce,” said the source. “Now that we are shut down, not only are we identifying and eliminating much of the sabotage and waste, but we are finally working on the president’s agenda.”
Late Friday, Trump announced via Twitter that he would be making a major announcement tomorrow concerning the border wall and the shutdown.
I will be making a major announcement concerning the Humanitarian Crisis on our Southern Border, and the Shutdown, tomorrow afternoon at 3 P.M., live from the @WhiteHouse.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 18, 2019
Only time will tell how it unfolds, but as long as Trump controls the narrative, the one thing Americans can be certain of is that the ongoing saga is not likely to become old news.