Commentary: For weeks, Donald Trump has behaved like a sulking rich kid who'll take his football home if he doesn't like how the game was going.
Before he suddenly blinked Friday, Trump's pointless and devastating shutdown did us deep and lasting damage. I hope he got sufficiently burned that he'll approve whatever compromise his Republican pals and the Democrats reach in these three weeks; but there's no guarantee!
Trump owned this shutdown. He welcomed it, and admitted to owning it, before walking out on Democratic Congressfolk one day. He's refused to budge from “$5.7 billion for a border wall” even though experts and most border residents find that simplistic, even counterproductive.
Needed or not, the wall was certainly not the “Emergency” Trump may declare it to be. In fact, whether it's here or in Calexico, California, border towns aren't into Trump's wall. Nationally, only about 22% see it as an emergency, and 70% say a wall's not worth the shutdown. More U.S. citizens see the shutdown as an emergency than call the wall one. Texas Congressman Will Hurd (ex-CIA) called the crisis “a myth” and the wall “the most expensive and least effective” solution.
But Trump's gotta do the craziest things Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh dare him to do. That too reminds me of boyhood. In fourth grade, I had to do whatever mischief the other kids dared me to do, even if it was stupid, just to keep up my “rep.”
We can't yet see the full extent of the harm the shutdown did. After the 2014 shutdown, just 16 days, Standard and Poor's estimate of the damage to our economy was $24 billion.
It isn't just middle-class office workers having to dip into savings, or your passport being delayed; or even New Mexico's Workforce Solutions Department shifting all resources to help furloughed federal workers.
It's unnecessary pressure on air traffic controllers, airport inspectors, and others whose competence we rely on daily. Career controllers admitting they're making mistakes they've never made. (Friday, LaGuardia stopped flights to LaGuardia, for safety.) Trump could “own” an airliner crash. It's the FBI complaining that child sex-trafficking investigations and other important cases are stalling. (Friday the Trump-appointed Director confirmed he was angry over the shutdown.) It's a woman getting thrown out of the home she just found where a fence keeps her two autistic kids off the street getting thrown out. It's seeing furloughed federal employees, embarrassed, line up for meals or groceries in the Community of Hope.
It's also the disruption. Because government is so complex, and does so much, it's not like closing a factory for six weeks, then re-opening it. People were suffering lasting harm. Skilled government employees were leaving for better-paying and steadier jobs with corporations.
The shutdown symbolized our inability to compromise; but it might have made Trump the greatest unifying force since September 11.
So why did Trump cave?
His troops were wavering. Congressional Republicans saw that the madness was hurting them. Six Republican senators voted with Democrats to open the government, creating a majority but not a 60-vote majority. Then came the bipartisan move toward a “clean” three-week re-opening, with government open during a discussion of border security. (Initially, Trump rejected that too, then accepted it hours later, denying he was backing down.)
Possibly even Donald realized his tantrum was hurting him.
And some Italian kid's mom quietly but firmly told him “No!” and stuck to it.