The date is January 19, 2017. House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell sit down to visit with President-elect Donald Trump who tomorrow will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.
Ryan opens by saying, “Mr. President-elect, we know you won this election because you promised the American people you were going to build a wall to secure our border with Mexico. Republicans in House couldn’t agree more. I think it should be the first piece of legislation we tackle, and we should do it within the first 30 days of your being sworn in.”
Senator McConnell, so excited he’s shifting in his seat, echoes the sentiment. “That goes for me and the members of the Senate. We are so grateful for the opportunity you’ve given the Republican Party. Let’s get it done!”
Donald Trump smiles, shakes their hands, and offers profound thanks for their support. As the two leave, they know they just cleared the path to protect American borders.
Oh snap! That never actually happened, did it?
As I’m writing this, people are pouring through the details of the new budget deal that gives President Trump a measly $1.4 billion for the purpose of starting to construct a border fence on the southern border with Mexico. It is a fraction of the $5.7 billion he had requested and a fraction of a fraction of the $25 billion he really wanted to get the job done.
As has become a familiar refrain, both Trump critics and Trump supporters have joined together to either joyously or angrily proclaim that the president has just been handed a defeat by Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. They scoff at the master negotiator having overplayed his hand. They bemoan that Trump lost his courage and backbone after the prolonged partial government shutdown failed to have the effect of caving in the opposition.
Despite this, the president’s job approval rating hovers in the low 50 percent range. The president’s approval is high because many people recognize he is the only reason we are even having this discussion, let alone being able to begin to build a structure that will help to reduce the flow of illegals into this country. He has stood virtually all alone within elected Washington government as the one attempting to bring to reality the will of most Americans.
The real failure in this effort lies with Ryan, McConnell, and the rest of the Republicans who held a majority in both the House and Senate for two years prior to this latest battle. They had the ability to make the border wall happen. They were the ones who were supposed to be loyal to the man who against all odds routed the shoe-in favorite to win the election, Hillary Clinton.
Yet, they did nothing. Senator McConnell now washes his hands and shakes his head as he reports how he just didn’t have the votes. Paul Ryan, likely back at home planning a sure-to-fail 2020 challenge to the president, gets to avoid the problem altogether as under his management the Republicans managed to lose the House.
Feckless is the word that comes to mind.
It has been said that President Trump is divisive. I agree that’s true. For people who don’t believe in the exceptionalism of America, the president is anathema.
But he isn’t the only president of recent memory who was divisive. For those of us who believe in the Constitution, limited government, and American exceptionalism, the administration of Barrack Obama was as repulsing as eight years of any administration could be. What separates these two divisive administrations?
One key difference is that during the 2008 presidential election campaign, Senator Barrack Obama ran on a promise that he would have government take control of the healthcare system under what we now call Obamacare. In the first two years of his administration, the only two where his party had control of both chambers of Congress, his party’s Congressional leaders, Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, got his legislation passed. The process was messy, and the final form of the legislation was nothing that any one person could read and understand, but they got it done.
They had their president’s back. The Republican House and Senate in the first two years of President Trump’s administration did not do the same for him.
I have people ask me why the president waited to create the conflict over border security until the Republicans had already lost the House? Why didn’t he create this kind of fight earlier? The question is fair, but the answer is the opposite of how the Republicans have treated the president.
Had President Trump gone to war with his own party, he would have certainly destroyed them. While they ended up semi-destroying themselves in the midterms, he wasn’t going to make that happen at his own hand. He was giving them every opportunity to come around and get behind his major initiative that has such popular support.
They never did. The Republican Party, as represented by their elected Washington leaders, has forsaken the people and fled.
I don’t know what the president will do next. If he declares a national emergency and appropriates more money, you can be 100 percent certain there will be a lawsuit filed and an injunction sought which will be granted. Then the wall will stall. (Oh no. I just gave open border folks a slogan.). And if the wall ever does emerge from the courts with a victory, the president will need a second term in order to make real construction progress.
Nobody is going to pick this project up behind him. He is it. Without him we would be nowhere on this. Let’s try to continue to appreciate the efforts he has made and let us please lay the blame for this current situation squarely where it belongs.
Charlie Kirk is the founder and president of Turning Point USA.