Trump Gambled Badly

The debacle of the dealmaker: Trump’s central campaign promise is on the rocks.

The numbers speak for themselves. For weeks, Donald Trump has been demanding a hefty $5.7 billion for his favorite project — a wall at the Mexican border. When Congress offered $1.6 billion in December, the president rejected it indignantly and plunged the country into a 35-day government shutdown. Now Republicans and Democrats have negotiated again. Their compromise: $1.375 billion. The offer is lower than two months ago. “I can’t say I’m happy,” admitted a contrite president.

Many are in favor of Trump relenting. A renewed shutdown would be extremely unpopular with the country. The Republicans in Congress are tired of the topic of the wall and finally want to advance other projects. The president hardly has any more leverage. At most, he could go it alone and declare a national emergency. That would provoke enormous trouble with his own party and in the courts.

If Trump now asserts that the wall will be completed and speculates that he can simply channel off a few billion dollars from the defense budget with a presidential order, it will sound more like an act of desperation than a strategy. He could have also rededicated the money in December without sending 800,000 government employees into a forced vacation. The truth is: The self-proclaimed greatest deal-maker of all times gambled badly. His central campaign promise is on the rocks. With the money, he can only build 88 kilometers (approximately 55 miles) of border wall, which cannot be concrete, along the 3,200 kilometer border (approximately 1984 miles). Fox News host Sean Hannity, an otherwise ardent Trump supporter, called it a “garbage compromise.” The president’s base might see it the same way.

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