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Democrats caved on shutdown -- and their left is not happy

By Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

If every picture tells a story, the obviously staged photo released by the White House during the weekend-long shutdown of the federal government spoke volumes about Donald Trump's presidency.

The photo showed the president seated in the Oval Office behind his desk, stripped barren of papers, wearing a white "Make America Great Again" hat and holding a telephone up to his ear. He casts his gaze toward the camera as if to say, "See? I really am in charge."

The Twitterverse had fun with the photo. Images went viral that showed an electric train set, a plastic telephone and other toys on the president's shiny desktop.

Staged or not, the photo's timing illustrated a troubling reality of the Trump presidency. As a Washington Post headline put it, "White House shutdown strategy: Keep Trump contained."

It was the president, after all, who fanned the fires that led to the shutdown and made the crisis worse with vulgar comments about immigrants. His signals were so mixed that even Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell admitted to being unsure on Wednesday, two days before the old budget law ran out, of what the president would sign.

The confusion was understandable in light of President Trump's ambivalence, swinging from a willingness to sign just about anything Congress sends him to an insistence that the bill include extensive funding for a wall along the Mexican border.

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Two weeks ago, Trump declared that if Congress came up with a plan to protect the "Dreamers," undocumented immigrants brought here as children, while building up border security, he would sign it.

Two days later, he rejected a plan brought to him by a bipartisan group of senators -- and enhanced the drama by famously complaining about immigrants from "s---hole countries."

On Friday, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer appeared to seal a short-term agreement with Trump. But by the time he returned to Capitol Hill, as Schumer described it, Trump withdrew the deal. That caused a frustrated Schumer to remark that working with Trump is "like negotiating with Jell-O."

That's probably an insult to Jell-O. The combination of Trump's short attention span and persistent anti-immigrant pressures from his political base and immigration hawks in Congress apparently persuaded him to harden his heart.

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(c) 2018 CLARENCE PAGE DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.
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