Did Trump cave? Time will tell. But, let’s look it over:
We were at an entire impasse. The Trumpist base was delighted with the shutdown and fully prepared to wait forever for the government to reopen. The Democrats were also delighted with the shutdown and fully prepared to wait until Trump agreed to a permanent spending bill with no wall. Neither side felt any desire to move – and, in fact, both sides faced the wrath of their own base if they did move. What was the end game on this?
Sure, Trump could have just continued with the shutdown and used emergency powers to build the wall. But, he said very clearly that he still may do that. Meanwhile, there are other things to do, none of them getting done if the shutdown goes on and on. Someone needed to take the Base Hit and move. Trump decided to move. He has said that he’ll give it a few weeks to see what the Democrats do, and then either return to a shutdown or just build the wall. Our real trouble here is that we don’t know what Trump fully has in mind, and as I’ve noted before, in the really crucial policy moves, there are no leaks from Team Trump.
There are things moving in the world, and while we all do feel delighted with the shutdown, there are things that we want done which are hampered by the shutdown. Then there is the thing of foreign and defense policy which can’t sit in suspension forever. The fast-moving situation in Venezuela once again informs us that we have to be nimble. Trump has a grave responsibility as President and I don’t think it would have been wise to just keep going and going and going. He showed that he’s ok with it – longest shutdown in US history, after all – but, in the end, when you’ve reached an impasse, you have to do something different if you want to break it.
I’m in the position of trusting Trump’s instincts on this. If it was a mistake, then that will just have to be endured. But if Trump has something up his sleeve (perhaps inside knowledge of coming events which will make the shutdown moot?), then we all might wind up very pleased after all is said and done.
We’ll just have to wait.