It’s understandable that the president’s invitation to congressional leaders to attend a White House “briefing” on border issues from the Department of Homeland Security got a lot of attention, since it ended days of virtual noncommunication on the issues underlying the ongoing partial government shutdown (aside from Trump’s communications to the whole world via Twitter).
But now that get-together has come and gone, and appears to have been a big nothing-burger, per the Hill:
A partial government shutdown showed no signs of ending Wednesday as congressional leaders left what appeared to be an unproductive meeting with President Trump.
Before and after the meeting, there was little talk of compromise as Trump and Democrats battled over his demand for border-wall funding, all but assuring the shutdown will barrel into a third week.
Politico reports the session never even got close to any genuine dialogue:
The meeting stretched for more than hour, but the group of senior lawmakers and White House officials didn’t seriously discuss a single new proposal to break the impasse, according to several attendees. Besides setting the date for a [subsequent] Friday meeting, there were no clear steps toward resuming negotiations that have been stalled since before Christmas.
At three different points, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked Trump why he won’t support reopening the other areas of the government that don’t have to do with the immigration dispute, according to a source familiar with the meeting. Trump replied: “I would be foolish if I did that.”
The “briefing” from Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen barely got off the ground, not that she was likely to change any minds.
What this showed was that bipartisan talks won’t necessarily accomplish a whole lot on their own until both sides — and particularly the vainglorious president — are convinced they’ve wrung enough political capital from hanging tough, and have hung tough enough to preempt charges of premature surrender. That could take a while. Additionally, they need a starting point for serious negotiations that gets them out of their prepositioned ramparts. Perhaps Lindsey Graham’s formula for reviving DACA-for-Wall talks will offer that, but nobody knows for sure.
More generally, in politics, diplomacy, and even in business, talks between principals rarely achieve major progress unless they are at least half-wired by staff well in advance. That clearly hasn’t happened yet. And indeed, last time the principals got together, well prior to Christmas, Trump lost his cool and headed down the path to shutting down the government in order to prove that he could.
Furloughed federal employees should not expect those paychecks too soon.