On the EDge: Pelosi wins first round of brinksmanship tug o’ war

Stock image, St. George News

OPINION — Rookies never do well in the game of political brinksmanship.

There are seasoned players out there with switchblade instincts who will cut you up, whether you are a washed-up reality TV star or innocent neophyte with the noblest intentions.

It does not matter how adept you claim to be at the art of the deal or how much you can bully your competition in the relatively small-potatoes world of real estate, your pecuniary skills mean nothing when you square off against a battle-scarred veteran of the United States Congress, as the president learned after placing 800,000 federal workers in limbo for 35 painful days when he shut down the government.

He got schooled along the way by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who will be remembered, like her or not, as the most powerful woman in the history of American politics. Pelosi is now serving in her second appointment as speaker after previously holding the roles as House minority leader and House minority whip. There’s a reason why she attained the position of second in the line of succession to the presidency, just a heartbeat behind the vice president, and it is a testament to her political savvy and strength. This woman does not scare easy, as she proved in her recent face-off with the president.

Of course, this was really a no-brainer because the president couldn’t even muster the solidarity of a Republican Party that is wading through quicksand at the moment and the fact that Pelosi as representing the will of the people who don’t want a wall built along the southern border, either.

Now, although the very vocal, neoconservative voices of Southern Utah may disagree, only 4 in 10 Americans, according to a survey by the Program for Public Consultation at the University of Maryland, are in favor of a wall.

They are right, you know, because history has shown that walls simply do not work.

The Romans learned this when Hadrian’s Wall, built in the year 122, failed.

The French learned this when the Maginot Line failed to deter Germany during World War II.

The Great Wall of China may seem like an impressive barrier, but except for a few raids, it did not stop enemy troops from a number of incursions, including the toppling of the Ming Dynasty.

And, of course, there was the Berlin Wall, a nasty symbol of East-West enmity that stood from 1961 until it as toppled in 1989. It was a desolate stretch that ran 96 miles in length along the curve of the Luisenstadt Canal and included what they called the “death strip,” a no-man’s land guarded by armed guards on the east side of the wall where those trying to cross to freedom were gunned down. The wall was not impenetrable, however.

At this very moment, there are 77 walls that dot the globe, most of them serving as flashpoints for violence instead of deterrents except for a 450-mile stretch in Finland intended to prevent reindeer from crossing into Russia.

I’m not sure how successful the wall in Finland is at keeping the reindeer from crossing over into Russia, but all of the others have done more to distance one nation from another and little to end violence or illegal entry.

The proposed wall along our southern border was a campaign promise made by the president.

At first, we were told, it would be paid for by Mexico.

But Mexico has refused, as it should.

The wall would do nothing to deter undocumented immigrants from crossing the border. It would only serve as a testament to racism and fear, a symbol of arrogance and an exercise in ignorance.

But the president felt he had to do something to appease his base and that something was to dig in his heels on the wall, a campaign promise, resulting in the longest federal government shutdown in history.

In the end, he caved when Congress passed a stopgap measure that will carry through funding for another three weeks.

If there is no resolution to the tug o’ war between Congress and the president, who is insisting on $5.7 billion in funding for his wall, you can count on another shutdown. While the first furlough cost the American people in the neighborhood of $6 billion, a second shutdown would result in even greater damage to the economy, whose reserves were exacerbated the first time around.

Congress is highly unlikely to flip on this.

The president, however, has said he could declare a national emergency and immediately secure the funding he so desires.

While Congress has granted broad powers in the past, it is doubtful it would not challenge such an order.

Illegal immigration has been an ongoing political issue for decades, there is no evidence of people crashing the border in excessive numbers and no sense of imminent threat.

Considering that the president had a majority in Congress for one year and still maintains the edge in the Senate, yet has been unable to achieve his wall funding is an indication that opposition to such a move would be strong. The courts would have to determine if such an order was created simply as a political strategy and whether it would solve the problems cited by the president.

Meanwhile, the government would remain unfunded because funding for the wall is tied into funding our day-to-day operations as a nation. A declaration of national emergency by the president would likely stir enough opposition to render him impotent in any further negotiations with Congress.

The empirical evidence suggests a standoff that would result in a constitutional crisis with a president intent on using the machinations of a sovereign and not those powers normally at the disposal of an elected official. It would be deleterious to the nation and a system that has worked, albeit not without controversy or conflict, for nearly 243 years.

It becomes a matter, now, of saving face, of trying to make the proverbial lemonade out of sour lemons, for the president to salvage some political dignity.

Except in this game of brinksmanship, he blinked.

And he blinked large, a fact not lost on Speaker Pelosi and Congress.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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