Mania at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Yesterday in the Oval Office, Donald Trump’s “Art of the Deal” business skills turned into Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream,” that iconic portrayal of a man who is overwhelmed and contorted by anguish. Here are the takeaways from the mania between our Republican president and the top two Democrats in Congress at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

First, Trump learned the hard way that there is a big difference between a president with a shrewd negotiating posture and one who thinks he can just push people around. Pushing people around may work in the New York City real estate deal, but it doesn’t work when the real estate is Washington, and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer are in the room.

{mosads}Second, Vice President Mike Pence demonstrated for the American people what a deer in the headlights looks like when the deer is sitting frozen in place in the Oval Office.

Third, Pelosi demonstrated clearly to House Democrats why they need a heavyweight against Trump. When he blustered about currently having the votes in the House for a massive border wall, she challenged him to call the vote. When he spun, she put the brakes on him. She demonstrated that this president has not figured out how to solve an issue beyond reciting an empty campaign promise.

Fourth, Schumer served as an equally effective foil to combat the flood of obfuscations coming from the president. When Trump tried to downplay Democrats taking over the House by pointing out that Republicans had victory in the Senate, Schumer answered him very directly, “When the president brags he won North Dakota and Indiana, he is in real trouble.”

Fifth, Schumer reminded us that Trump is willing to close the federal government because Congress refuses to fund a wall that he promised would be paid for by Mexico. Remember that? The president unwittingly set up himself and Republicans to take the blame for a shutdown.

Political battles over shutdowns are won and lost by whom the public perceives is unreasonable and at fault. In 1998 and 2013, the public held House Republicans responsible. It is true that the longer shutdowns go on, the more equally blame is shared. In this case, we have a president who said, “I will be the one to shut it down.” If there is such a shutdown, expect that quote to air on cable news as frequently as “I Love Lucy.”

Sixth, Trump displayed that he is not a Teflon president but instead has thin, if orange hued, skin. When Pelosi needled Trump during the meeting, it was like she jabbed him with a serrated knife, sending the commander in chief to the behavioral equivalent of Defcon 1. The real problem here is that foreign leaders learn from this display of how to get under that skin.

Finally, the one person watching this who might have felt some shred of relief was outgoing White House chief of staff John Kelly, who knows he will no longer have to sit through many more of these chaotic meetings.

Steve Israel represented New York in Congress for 16 years. He served as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is a novelist whose latest book is “Big Guns.” You can follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael and Facebook @RepSteveIsrael.

Tags Chuck Schumer Congress Democrats Donald Trump Government House John Kelly Mike Pence Nancy Pelosi Politics Republicans Senate Steve Israel White House

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