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What on Earth does President Trump want?

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- As the federal government hurtled toward a shutdown this last week, lawmakers played a now-familiar parlor game: What on Earth does President Trump want?

On Wednesday, the White House issued an official statement saying it supported a 30-day spending bill to avert a shutdown that included a six-year extension of the popular Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP.

But Thursday dawned to see Trump declaring the opposite. "CHIP should be part of a long term solution, not a 30 Day, or short term, extension!" he exclaimed on Twitter.

There was so much head-scratching at the Capitol, they had to bring in a Zamboni to clear all the dandruff.

As The Washington Post reported, Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the chamber's No. 3 Republican, said he was "at a loss."

And Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) gave voice to the grievance of many: "We don't have a reliable partner at the White House to negotiate with."

 

Perhaps that's because the president is always negotiating with himself.

Exactly a week earlier, Trump had thrown the Capitol into similar chaos when he tweeted out criticism of a surveillance bill his administration supported. Later the same day, he rejected, in colorful fashion, a bipartisan immigration compromise he had said just two days earlier he would embrace. And this last week, on the same day lawmakers puzzled over the president's actual position on the spending bill (the White House eventually returned to its original stance), Trump was contradicting his own chief of staff, John F. Kelly, who said Trump had "changed his attitude" and "evolved" on the nature of a border wall.

Trump replied that the wall "has never changed or evolved."

The New Testament warns: "For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?" Trump isn't playing an uncertain trumpet so much as he is randomly switching between a vuvuzela and a slide whistle.

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