Most indications are that President Trump will sign the emerging border deal, but Rebecca Ballhaus and Kristina Peterson of the Wall Street Journal report that at least one adviser is pushing him to veto it:
One of Mr. Trump’s advisers believes the best approach for him would be to veto the congressional proposal in the expectation that lawmakers would override the veto. That would require votes from two-thirds of the chamber, meaning 20 Republicans, who now hold a 53-47 majority, would need to vote to publicly cross the president, assuming all Democrats voted to override.
Mr. Trump could then tell his core supporters that he held out for more money but was blocked by Congress. “He can go to his base and say he fought for them,” the adviser said.
He can go to his base and say he fought for them! Awesome!
Yes, politicians of both parties often do questionable things for the sole purpose of shoring up their core support at critical moments. But we really need to step back and remind ourselves once in a while just how abnormal this has gotten with Trump in particular.
Trump has never made any kind of serious public substantive case to the rest of the country for his wall. Given how often he buttresses his calls for the wall with outright lies and fabrications, you could argue he never felt the slightest obligation to even try to justify it to the rest of the country. Indeed, as Jonathan Bernstein points out, the wall is such a monstrous absurdity that even congressional Republicans never really wanted to give it to him, including when they controlled all of Congress. The fact that they negotiated a deal that essentially compels him to surrender on the wall only underscores that point.
Yet, even though members of his own party have told him it’s time to move on, and even though we just had an election in which a majority of the country rejected his vision of the border and the wall and the larger set of values it embodies, and even though this wall obsession has put us through a government shutdown that harmed untold numbers of real people, Trump and at least one adviser appear most worried about the “problem” of managing perceptions of his climbdown in the eyes of — as always — his base.
Indeed, White House advisers are scrounging high and low for money taken from other purposes to put toward the wall, just to persuade the base that Trump is not surrendering at all and is actually acting decisively to get it done. The threat of a national emergency is similar: Everyone knows perfectly well the idea that the border constitutes such an emergency is based on preposterous fantasies and lies, and declaring an emergency almost certainly wouldn’t even result in anything approaching the wall, yet Trump threatened to create a crisis in this manner, anyway, because his base must be kept persuaded that the wall will become a reality someday, no matter what the cost.
It’s highly doubtful that Trump will veto the emerging deal. But if he did, either Republicans would help override it (which would badly divide the party and create all kinds of difficulties for Republican members) or they will ultimately side with him (which would force another government shutdown, with all the damage that would inflict). In neither scenario would Trump end up getting the wall he wants, yet inside the White House, this has actually been raised as a real possibility, solely to sustain the impression that he’s fighting for his base for as long as possible.
It’s often observed that Trump is obsessed with his core voters. What’s discussed less often is the level of seething contempt for his institutional role this obsession often leads him to display.