When Wheels of Government Breakdown, We The People Become The Final Arbiters

by | Jan 8, 2019 |

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The ridiculous accusation by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) that the President “is holding the country hostage” is absurd on its face. If anyone is holding the country hostage, it is the Democrats, who have flatly refused any of the President’s offers for a resolution to the partial government shutdown, which began on December 22. It is the Democrats who have refused to negotiate. Period.

Before leaving for a luxury Christmas holiday in Kona, Hawaii, Pelosi suggested that a shutdown would benefit the President by giving him more time to play golf. But, unlike Pelosi, Trump canceled his planned Christmas and New Year’s vacation to South Florida because of the shutdown.

“I am in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come on over and make a deal on Border Security,” he tweeted on December 29.  And instead of playing golf, the President remained in the White House for the entire holiday week, except when he left Washington on Christmas day and flew to Iraq to meet with American troops stationed there.

While President Trump stayed in, Pelosi flew off to her week-long vacation in Hawaii, more than 4,700 miles away. She stayed at the Fairmont Orchid resort, a luxury Hawaii Island resort and spa, where the price of just a standard room is $800 a night and can go as high as $3,499 for the most expensive suite. Pelosi has a well-earned reputation for extravagance, so this comes as no surprise.

But the pity of it is that none of the people for whom she cries her crocodile tears, those government employees, who either must go to work every day without pay or are furloughed and are simply have no job to go to, could afford a fraction of what she undoubtedly spent during her lavish vacation. The excuses she has given for her vacation are tone deaf to the concerns of those for whom she so hypocritically complains.    

Pelosi’s snarky response to critics of her lavish vacation did her no favors. “The president may not know this,” she said, “but Hawaii is part of the United State of America, maybe he doesn’t realize that. I don’t know if the president observes the religious holiday of Christmas, do you?”

Really, Nancy? Is that the best you can do? Attack the President’s knowledge of geography? Or his religion? How about an explanation to the 800,000 government employees who are not getting their paycheck this week, because you blew off ten days in which you could have been negotiating on their behalf! And, by the way, Florida is also in the United States, and the President chose to stay in Washington and work while you were relaxing in Kona.

The bill that the Democrats passed in December stripped the funding for the wall completely, while providing $1.3 billion for border security, such as fencing, cameras, electronic sensors, and other relevant technology. It specifically stated, however, that this money could not be used for a ‘wall’.

What seems apparent here is that the Democrats are not really against the wall. They are vehemently against Donald Trump, and will do everything necessary to deny him a victory on any battlefield.

So instead of making an effort to arrive at an agreement, Pelosi continues to stir the pot. Before leaving on her Christmas holiday, she gave an exclusive interview to USA Today and called the President a “fear-monger.” She said, “He talked about terrorists coming in over that particular border, which wasn’t so. He’s using scare tactics that are not evidence-based, and it’s wrong.”

Pelosi who was wrong. In December, she attended a presentation by Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, in which the Secretary laid out the facts about the realities along the border. Nielsen presented data about the drug smugglers, and the members of violent gangs and terrorist groups hiding in the caravans, who use women and children as human shields as they near the border. She showed statistics about the thousands of unaccompanied children who have been smuggled in the caravans and abused by the dangerous ‘coyotes’ (Mexican smugglers).

But, Nancy Pelosi rudely interrupted Nielsen’s presentation to say, “I don’t accept your facts.”

Nielsen immediately responded, “These are not my facts. These are the facts”. She later posted the comment, “I am disappointed that Dems did not want to hear from @DHSgov about the security & humanitarian crisis we are facing at the border. They didn’t want to hear about criminal aliens, drug smugglers, smuggled & abused children, or violent caravans trying to breach the border wall.”

So What Next?

The impasse continues and at the moment, there seems to be no ready solution. The intransigence of the Democrats seems preposterous, given the cost to their own constituents. But the President’s insistence on the need for a serious barrier along the border is, he says, a matter of national security. And he is not giving up.

It is not clear how or when when this will end, except that we know it will eventually end. The government will then get back to business as usual. But at what cost? What will be the political damage to the two sides?

As things stand today, the Democrats may have more to lose than the President, since his base firmly supports him. According to a year-end Gallup Poll, his most recent favorability rating among Republicans was an astonishing 89%,.

White House Advisor KellyAnne Conway summed up what must be done to end the impasse. “They need to come to the table and do their job,” she said. “A fully functioning democracy demands that both parties come together and that the Congress and the executive branch work together.”

On January 7, President Trump took another path. Understanding that the construction of ‘the wall’ was the centerpiece of his campaign in 2016, he must have recognize that his failure to keep this promise will certainly play a role in his ability to win a second term in 2020.  And the progress of the negotiations were not promising.

He therefore announced that he will take his message directly to the American people in a nationally televised, prime time speech. It is expected that he will present his case that there is a crisis along the border, and tell Americans that both the border wall and an open, functioning government are essential for the future security of the country. He will ask Democrats and Republicans to negotiate an agreement that both funds the border wall and reopens the government. 

This is the way our country should work. When the wheels of government breakdown, it is the people who become the final arbiters. Franklin Roosevelt did it, so did John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan. And Donald Trump.

The country is deeply divided, just got a bit worse. Before the ink on the press release was barely dry, Democrats demanded equal time on all the television networks that will carry the President’s speech. In a prepared statement, Schumer and Pelosi wrote with particularly harsh and hateful language, “Now that the television networks have decided to air the President’s address, which if his past statements are any indication will be full of malice and misinformation, Democrats must immediately be given equal airtime.” 

Like him or not, Donald Trump is the President of the United States. This speech is about national security and the broken systems that allow the government to close its doors. There is no rule about equal time when the President speaks. The demand is patently absurd, but seems to follow the trend to derail the President at every turn.

The sides are drawn and the Democrats are apparently unwilling and unable to find a middle ground. It is now up to the President to lead this country back to sanity and the principles that made our nation great 245 years ago. Godspeed. Image: (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Ilana Freedman

Ilana Freedman is a veteran intelligence analyst with more than thirty years in the field. She was trained in Israel, where she lived and worked for sixteen years. After returning to the U.S., she served as CEO of Gerard Group International in Massachusetts, providing major corporations and government agencies with intelligence-led support for their homeland security programs. Her global network of specialists and field assets has provided her with an ongoing resource of critical, real-time intelligence and domain expertise. Today, Ilana is an independent consultant and author of hundreds of articles on terrorism and the geopolitical landscape. She has written four books on Islamic terrorism, and is currently working on a comprehensive book on China - past, present, and future.

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