Trump’s right to stand firm on ‘read my lips’ border promise

The securing of the United States’ southern border is President TrumpDonald John TrumpJimmy Carter: 'I hope there's an age limit' on presidency White House fires DHS general counsel: report Trump to cap California trip with visit to the border MORE’s “Read my lips” moment.

In 1988, then-Vice President George W. Bush stood before the Republicans’ national convention in New Orleans and proclaimed, in his acceptance speech for the Republican nomination for President: “Read my lips – NO new taxes.” Then, after he became president, he broke that pledge, albeit in good faith and with bipartisan support for a tax increase. Thereafter, he lost his re-election due in large part to the breaking of his fundamental promise. 

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Securing our southern border was a fundamental promise made by candidate Trump in his convention acceptance speech as well as during his campaign for the presidency. The president’s current slogan is “Promises Made – Promises Kept.” He cannot stumble, falter or fail in making good on that fundamental promise about the border.

The president’s current battle to make good on his promise leaves him no option but to make good on it. He is in far worse shape if he caves than if he stands his ground on the government shutdown and holds out for a bargain that fundamentally makes good on that promise.

We are stuck in a world of semantics with regard to border security. Trump calls for the building of a “wall,” and Democrats call for “border security.” The reality is that Democrats were for a wall before they were against it. In 2006, then-Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaObama meets with Greta Thunberg: 'One of our planet's greatest advocates' Trump: Cokie Roberts 'never treated me nicely' but 'was a professional' Obama, Bush among those paying tribute to Cokie Roberts: 'A trailblazing figure' MORE (D-Ill.) and Sen. Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerSchumer, Pelosi push Trump to back universal background check bill Sinema says she would back Kennedy in race against Markey Democrats threaten to withhold defense votes over wall MORE (D-N.Y.) took to the floor of the Senate to passionately orate in favor of “The Secure Border Act of 2006,” which called for more that 700 miles of “border fencing.” The act passed with wide bipartisan support.

Today, Democrats’ opposition to border security has everything to do with politics and little to do with security. They know that if Trump gets anything close to what he promised, he will have won and will never let them forget about it, since it will require many Senate Democrats and House Democrats to make it a reality.

The government shutdown is a stunt. It has no lasting effect on federal workers affected by it, and they are mere pawns in a partisan showdown and a game of political chicken. Since 1977 there have been 22 shutdowns; most never go more than a few days, and never have gone on for more than a month. In fact, the longest shutdowns have occurred during Democratic administrations — Carter, Clinton and Obama. No federal worker ever lost a dime. The pay is retroactively paid.

President Trump cannot and must not be extorted, and public employees should not be played. Democrats are being unreasonable: A $5 billion appropriation for border security is a deal that Trump will be willing to negotiate; Democrats can call it “border security” and the president can call it a “wall.” Everyone wins.

Perhaps the president needs to make this government shutdown the longest in history if Democrats will not deal, in order to make future government shutdowns a “third rail” that no one will want to touch in the future.

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If the shutdown is not over by the time of the State of the Union address, then the president will have a captive audience of House and Senate Democrats, as well as a broad audience of Americans, to publicly shame Congress and make his case for border security and for standing on principle. He should pack the gallery with real-life people who are examples of the need for border security.

The president cannot and must not back down. Democrats are fighting over relative pennies. Yet, the longer the shutdown continues, the more likely it is to cost our economy more than the actual appropriation sought by the president. There is a cost to this stunt — politically and economically.

Democrats are talking to a human “wall” when they meet with the president, and they know it. It is only a matter of time before they will cave; they should come to the table in good faith and seek a bargain. President Trump is a deal-maker – you have to give something to get something.

A deal is only as good as it is for both parties when you have a divided government. And compromise is the only way a deal can be made.

In this case, Democrats face an adversary who is not going to be bullied. Whether they want to deal today, tomorrow, next week, a month from now — or longer — to reopen this partial government shutdown, is totally up to them.

Advantage Trump.

Bradley Blakeman was a deputy assistant to President George Bush from 2001 to 2004. A principal of the 1600 Group, a strategic communications firm, he is an adjunct professor of public policy and international affairs at Georgetown University and a contributor to Fox News and Fox Business.