On January 8th, Donald Trump made his first “oval office” speech to the nation; a plea for his wall. It didn’t work, but we learned ten things:
1.The oval-office format didn’t flatter Trump. He read from a teleprompter and, to say the least, seemed uninspired (some would say soporific). Trump repeated the “red meat” immigration claims he routinely throws out to his rabid fans, but in a monotone, as if he’d rather be somewhere else. (Mar a Lago?)
2. Trump advertised the event with a fundraising blast to his base: “I will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM EST on the Humanitarian and National Security crisis on our Southern Border… I want to do something so HUGE, even Democrats and the Fake News won’t be able to ignore… We need to raise $5OO,OOO in ONE DAY.”
It’s not clear if the response was HUGE, but Trump’s Nielsen ratings were lower than those for the Pelosi/Schumer rebuttal (https://qz.com/1519766/trumps-nielsen-ratings-were-lower-than-pelosis-and-schumers/ )).
3. By my count, Trump’s nine-minute oval-office speech contained 14 lies. The mainstream media anticipated this, and immediately after Trump concluded, rigorously fact checked his claims. For example, The Washington Post fact checker (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/01/09/fact-checking-president-trumps-oval-office-address-immigration/?utm_term=.98dfe040f31e ) observed: “The first misleading statement in President Trump’s Oval Office address Tuesday night came in the first sentence. Trump…warned of a “security crisis at the southern border” — even though the number of people caught trying to cross illegally is near 20-year lows.”
As another example, “[Trump stated] ‘The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico…’ During the campaign, Trump more than 200 times promised Mexico would pay for the wall.” (Show me the pesos!)
4. Trump’s speech was mostly about the wall; he ignored the consequences of his shutdown. Towards the end of the speech, Donald said, “The federal government remains shut down for one reason… because Democrats will not fund border security… How much more American blood must we shed before Congress does its job?’
Trump unapologetically acknowledged that he is holding the government hostage in order to get his wall. He didn’t seem to care about the 800,000 federal employees that are not being paid. (Trump isn’t known for his empathy but even by his (already) deplorable standards this speech was a new low.)
5. This was Trump’s standard immigration rant with two twists: Trump has softened his demand that Mexico pay for the wall and he is now threatening an indefinite government shutdown until Congress approves the funding. (Perhaps Trump’s muted affect was due to his belated realization that he’s backed himself into a corner.)
6. The website 538 indicates that most voters blame Trump for the shutdown (https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/trump-has-lost-ground-in-the-shutdown-blame-game/ ): roughly 50 percent place the responsibility with Trump versus 32 percent that blame Democrats. The oval-office speech was an attempt by Trump to swing public opinion in his favor. It didn’t work.
7. Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer delivered the rebuttal to Trump’s oval-office speech. They were VERY grim; as if they were police officers dispatched to inform you that your loved one had been run over by a bus.
8. Pelosi had two themes: “Much of what we heard from President Trump throughout this senseless shutdown has been full of misinformation and even malice.” And, “President Trump has chosen to hold hostage critical services for the health, safety, and well-being of the American people, and withhold the paychecks of 800,000 innocent workers.”
9. Similarly, Schumer had two themes: “[Trump] having failed to get Mexico to pay for his ineffective, unnecessary border wall… has shut down the government.” “We don’t govern by temper tantrum. No president should pound the table and demand he gets his way or else the government shuts down.”
10. Trump’s running out of options. Democrats aren’t going to back down, and the longer Trump’s shutdown goes on the more harm it does and the higher the probability that something dreadful will happen — like an airline accident because a bunch of flight controllers didn’t show up for work.
What’s most likely is that Trump will be declare “a state of emergency” and tell his base that he’ll reallocate DOD funds to build his wall. The government will reopen and the locus of action will shift from the oval office to the Federal courts — where Democrats will argue that there is no state of emergency and Trump is abusing his power.
So, we haven’t heard the last of Trump’s wall. But Donald’s had a big fall.