It wasn’t Demosthenean or Ciceronian, and we could have done without the sonic evidence that the president was inhaling normally, but it was a preemptive knockout blow of the robotic tandem that followed. The president was clear, factually unchallengeable, and credible, and Speaker Pelosi and Senator Schumer looked and sounded like a waxworks animated illustration of the embalmer’s art and her ventriloquist, the bearer of the broadest forehead since Pericles. The president spoke of a national-security, economic, and humanitarian crisis, and they spoke of the federal employees who are about to miss a paycheck. After Tuesday night’s eight-minute speech by the president from the Oval Office, the satisfactory resolution of the impasse over the government shutdown is fairly obvious. The president cannot abandon the border-security issue now and the Democrats think they have him in a corner. The Democrats entered into this contest for the public’s support believing that as soon as the first paycheck is skipped, the lackey national media will be in 24-7 interviews with the sick wives, children, and relatives of the 800,000 unpaid federal employees. Public opinion will heave, the Republican senators will collapse and the president will be splendidly humiliated.
Everyone with the slightest familiarity with the issue as it has arisen has seen the Democrats go from semi-zealots of border security to vapid opportunists laser-focused on the simplest aspect of unpaid federal employees. The president reminded the country of the proportions of the illegal-immigration issue — of the humanitarian tragedy, of the drug crisis, and of the crimes of an appreciable number of the illegal immigrants. The tactical problem of the Democrats is that they are so cynical they think no one will notice that they have come down steadily from $1.3 billion for border security to zero, in their conviction that they can put the unpaid federal employees’ problems ahead of what is an immense national crisis. They evidently believe that the endlessly repeated mantra of “the wall” as immoral, like nineteenth century elocution students learning to spell by repeating such triumphalist expressions of literacy as “W-A-L-L spells wall,” will distract the country from the real problem. Their proposition to “open the government” (by Trump’s total capitulation and we will go back to interminable fruitless negotiation about the real problem) won’t fly. It is indicative of the serene complacency of the Democrats that they expect their control of the national political media to remain so airtight that no appreciable share of the public will dissent from their strategy, which is to give lip service to “border security” while portraying the president as peddling, as one of their lesser spokesmen put it last week, “a medieval fifth-century solution for a 21st-century problem.” The fact that he missed the middle ages by several hundred years is a rounding error for the Democrats, as they point to the Washington Post’s claim that the president has uttered 7,600 lies since he was inaugurated.