Trump will have to lead — for once — ahead of next budget deadline

Trump will have to lead — for once — ahead of next budget deadline
© Greg Nash

The short-lived #TrumpShutdown has come to an end with a Republican commitment to deal with the "Dreamers" and other key issues in legislation by Feb. 8.

Progressives will not be thrilled, and I am one of them. However, with as little leverage as they have, I was thrilled Democrats stood strong in defense of Dreamers — immigrants who arrived in the U.S. before turning 16 and have lived here continuously since June 2007.

I'm also happy Democrats advocated for increasing domestic spending and funding the Children’s Health Insurance Program, community health clinics and disaster relief, among other issues.

This action laid bare Republicans’ inability to govern and the complete incompetence and political ineptitude of President TrumpDonald TrumpEx-Trump lawyer Cohen to pen forward for impeachment book Murkowski says it would be 'appropriate' to bar Trump from holding office again Man known as 'QAnon Shaman' asks Trump for pardon after storming Capitol MORE a year after taking the oath of office.


President Trump was supposed to be the “Art of the Deal” expert; the savior who was the only one “who could fix it.” Three times he seemingly cut deals with the Democrats on the issue of Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and three times he blew up the deal after being coerced to reject it by his hard-right, anti-immigrant advisors. He is not the deal-maker, he is the deal-breaker.


Trump was also the one blamed President Obama during the last shutdown, saying Obama was the leader of the country and the one who should bring people together to resolve it. Trump also called for a government shutdown on May 2 on Twitter because it would “fix the mess.”

Well he got what he wished for. Appropriately, on the first anniversary of his inauguration, he celebrated a historic achievement: He's the first president to preside over a government shutdown while his own party controls the White House, the House and the Senate. Congratulations Mr. President, you should be very proud.

Astoundingly, Trump has remained very quiet during his shutdown. There have been no words from the commander in chief to a country in disbelief over a governing party in disarray. Nor have there been words of comfort about how he is working to ensure the shutdown is short-lived. 

It is no wonder the majority of Americans blame Trump and the GOP for the shutdown. Democrats bent over backward to keep the negotiations going in order to find a solution. In fact, the last deal that Sen. Chuck SchumerChuck SchumerNikki Haley unveils PAC ahead of possible 2024 White House bid Trump calls for 'NO violence' amid concerns of threats around inauguration Amazon cites death threats in push to keep Parler offline MORE (D-N.Y.) offered Trump before the shutdown even included funding the the wall. Trump rejected it.

This whole debacle not only demonstrated Trump’s farcical and fake reputation as a deal-maker, it also exposed his cluelessness and naiveté when it came to knowledge of the actual policies being debated.

We saw this clearly when Trump in public view at his White House meeting, accepted Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinBottom line Trump vetoes bipartisan driftnet fishing bill Dumping Abraham Lincoln? A word of advice to the 'cancel culture' MORE’s (D-Calif.) wish for a “clean DACA deal” until Rep. Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyMcCarthy won't back effort to oust Cheney GOP senators call for commission to investigate Capitol attack Here are the House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump MORE (R-Calif.) had to rescue him, saying that he didn’t think that is what Trump wants.

It was obvious Trump had no idea what a “clean” bill meant. His lack of depth on policy knowledge is breathtaking and embarrassing.

Now that the government is open once again, Trump’s deal-making ability, policy knowledge and spine will be tested once again. 

Progressive Democrats are not enamored with this deal because we know hard-line Republicans in the Senate and the House will not agree to giving Dreamers a pathway to citizenship, nor will Trump’s base.

We also know Sen. Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump seeks to freeze .4 billion of programs in final week of presidency McConnell about to school Trump on political power for the last time Murkowski blasts Trump's election claims, calls House impeachment appropriate MORE (R-Ky.) has not shown he can be trusted to carry out a plan when he has no clue whether Trump will accept it or not. He has already pleaded publicly with his boss to indicate where he stands, only to be met with silence. Trump also cannot be trusted, because he has repeatedly said one thing before doing the opposite.  

Trump does not care about Dreamers. He pretends he “feels for these kids,” and the media has fallen for it. He has used them as political fodder for his anti-immigrant base since he launched his campaign.

Even now, a pro-Trump group is running a deeply offensive ad that blames Democrats for murders committed by undocumented immigrants, and Republicans are trying to blame Democrats for shutting the government down to protect “illegal immigrants.” What a crock.

But now, Trump, McConnell and Republicans in the House are on the hook to prove they can lead and govern. Between now and Feb. 8, they are committed to bringing up legislation to protect the Dreamers and to deal with other issues.

My guess is that the hardliners in the White House will try to prevent any deal that gives Dreamers a pathway to citizenship and that House hardliners will not accept legislation to that effect. Trump will have to give them political cover, tell them to vote to protect the Dreamers and seal the deal McConnell just made with Schumer in order to re-open the government.

In other words, Trump will have to lead.

Will he surprise all of us and do just that? Will he show he can have a spine and a moral compass? If past is prelude, we should not hold our breath. History does not give me confidence Trump can stand up to any of the political pressure that is about to be exerted on him. History has not shown that Trump has ever fought for a cause greater than himself.

But for the sake of the country — and their party — Trump and Republicans had better step up. Feb. 8 is just around the corner, and America is watching.

Maria Cardona is a principal at the Dewey Square Group, a Democratic strategist and a CNN/CNN Español political commentator. Follow her on Twitter @MariaTCardona.