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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Trump Makes an Offer That Everyone Can Refuse
      •  Women March Nationwide, But in Smaller Numbers Than in 2017 and 2018

Trump Makes an Offer That Everyone Can Refuse

Donald Trump may have a few things in common with Vito Corleone, like being from New York, having a sleazy lawyer who works as his fixer, and running a business that many suspect is a front for illegal activity. One way in which they differ, however, is that the Godfather knew how to make 'em an offer they can't refuse, while the President does not appear to have that skill.

On Saturday, Trump gave his much-ballyhooed speech about the government shutdown. Well, his latest much-ballyhooed speech about the government shutdown, if we want to be entirely accurate. In this speech, Trump recycled most of the talking points from his Oval Office address last Tuesday. He also offered the following concessions to the Democrats:

  • Three years of legislative relief for 700,000 DACA recipients, giving them access to work permits, social security numbers and protection from deportation
  • A three-year extension of Temporary Protected Status for immigrants whose protections are facing expiration
  • $800 million in humanitarian assistance
  • $805 million for drug detection technology
  • 2,750 border agents and law enforcement professionals
  • 75 new immigration judge teams to reduce the backlog of court cases

On its surface, this may seem like a reasonable olive branch, but it's not really an offer at all, for a number of reasons:

  • The "crown jewel" is a cubic zirconia: Trump actually put almost all of these things on the table a month ago; to the extent that there's anything new or intriguing about the proposal, it's that he went slightly further in terms of his commitments on the TPS and the dreamers. However, it's still an empty offer, because it would basically maintain the status quo. The folks benefiting from the DREAM program and TPS are currently being protected by the courts, which have stepped in to stop Trump from implementing his directives. They are also being protected, to an extent, by city and state governments that are unwilling to play ball with the President.

  • Trump giveth what he tooketh away: It is also worth pointing out that the main chip that Trump is throwing into the pot is one that he stole from the pot 18 months ago. As Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) put it: "It was the President who single-handedly took away DACA and TPS protections in the first place—offering some protections back in exchange for the wall is not a compromise but more hostage taking." For the dreamers to become an actual bargaining chip, one that makes the Democrats sit up and take notice, Trump would need to start talking about permanent protection for them, at the very least, and probably citizenship.

  • The other concessions are nothing to write home about, either: Keeping in mind that it is Congress, and in particular the House, that has the power of the purse, the other items on the list are also non-concessions. If the House agrees to appropriate money for humanitarian assistance, drug detection technology, more border guards, or more immigration judges, those things would undoubtedly sail through the Senate and would get a presidential signature. Speaker Nancy Pelosi & Co. don't need to negotiate with Trump to do these things. It's only a concession if it's an expenditure that he and the Senate would not otherwise approve. If he offered, say, $2 billion for the NEA, or for gun-control advertising, or Planned Parenthood, then that would be a concession.

  • It's disrespectful: Anytime that anyone tries to conduct a high-profile negotiation in public, using TV/the press/the Internet/etc., it invariably aggravates the situation, as it is very disrespectful to the other side of the negotiation. What it communicates is: "I don't care about your actual concerns, I care about selling the public on how reasonable I'm being." Maybe this should not matter, but it does. And someone who is as thin-skinned as Trump is, and who gets insulted by anything and everything, can hardly claim the moral high ground here.

  • It's off target: As we and others have noted, the Democrats' position is crystal clear: No negotiations until the government is reopened. They are going to stick to this because their base would be furious if they did not, and because they simply cannot allow Trump to walk away with the lesson that he can hold the federal government hostage to get what he wants.

As we have learned in the past two years, whenever Trump says "Jump!", Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says, "How high?" So, Trump will send his "new" proposal to the upper chamber, and McConnell will bring it to the floor. This would seem to be at odds with the Majority Leader's declaration that he will not participate in "having show votes," since the bill has zero chance of becoming law. After all, the President hadn't even finished his address before Pelosi had rejected his offer via Twitter:

So, the bill is not going to pass the House. Actually, to be entirely accurate, the House is going to pass its own bills incorporating the "not really a concession" items that we listed above: the humanitarian assistance, drug detection technology, immigration judges, etc. But the Trump bill is DOA. It's also not terribly likely that the Trump bill will actually pass the Senate, either. First, because the Democrats can filibuster it, if they choose. And second, because the right flank of Trump's party is not happy about any movement on the dreamers, regarding it as a form of amnesty. So, when McConnell holds his vote sometime this week, it will be a textbook example of a show vote.

Sooner or later, then, Trump is going to have to go back to the drawing board, because Saturday's address isn't going to help any more than last Tuesday's address did. And it remains the case that he's taking an absolute beating in the polls. By large margins, voters perceive the shutdown as the White House's doing, don't believe the wall will solve any problems, and don't approve of federal workers and services being held hostage to a political agenda. Worst of all for Trump, his support is even slipping with the base. He's down a dozen points with evangelicals, half a dozen points with non-college-educated white men, and 8 points with Republicans as a whole. This is a double whammy for him: Not only is he working with a razor-thin margin as it is, but after the first time someone has seriously considered the possibility that Trump is not a good president, that bell cannot be unrung, and it makes it much more likely they will stay off the bandwagon, or re-abandon it after future setbacks.

In any case, Trump is going to sit back for a few days to see if his address moved the needle. Since Congress is out of session, anyhow, there's no reason to believe that this situation is going to be resolved before the shutdown reaches the one-month mark, which will happen on Wednesday. (Z)

Women March Nationwide, But in Smaller Numbers Than in 2017 and 2018

Donald Trump's speech wasn't the only big news on Saturday; there was also the third installment of what have become annual women's marches. The good news for supporters of this particular activism is that there were approximately 300 marches around the world, and attendance was brisk at the biggest of them, particularly in Washington and in New York City.

The bad news is that attendance as noticeably down from the first two events. In part, that is because it is hard to maintain enthusiasm for something that happens every year, as opposed to only once (or twice). In part, it was because the weather was especially bad this year. However, the primary issue appears to be that the leaders of Women's March, Inc., which handles the organizing, have been accused of anti-Semitism. Reportedly, a couple of the principal leaders—Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez— have been hanging around with Louis Farrakhan, who has himself been accused many times of being an anti-Semite. It is also alleged that the duo made remarks at a meeting claiming that Jews bear special responsibility for the oppression of people of color. Mallory and Perez deny all of this, but the claims are credible enough and toxic enough that many prominent Democratic women have distanced themselves from the movement, while many local chapters of Women's March, Inc. have disaffiliated themselves from the national organization. Time will tell if better weather (and, possibly, better leadership) leads to a bounceback next year, though it's also very possible that the looming presidential election will stoke enthusiasm. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan19 Cohen Soap Opera Takes Some Twists and Turns
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