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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

For ‘got-to-lead’ Donald Trump, the shutdown buck stopped elsewhere

The president was against government shutdowns before he was for them, then against them again.

President Donald Trump's remarks about government shutdowns and

President Donald Trump's remarks about government shutdowns and the dreamers are criticized as inconsistent. Photo Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

Maybe consistency is just something for all those non-geniuses living outside the White House to worry about.

Citizen Donald Trump blamed President Barack Obama for the 2013 government shutdown. It happened when the Republican-controlled House rebelled over the nation’s health care laws.

At the time, Trump didn’t blame Congress or the major parties or anyone else — just the man in the Oval Office. On Sept. 20 of that year, Trump told “Fox & Friends,” which since has become his safe space for publicity, “Problems start from the top, and they have to get solved from the top, and the president’s the leader and he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead.”

And yet, five months into his own term as Obama’s successor, Trump tweeted that the U.S. might need a good “shutdown” — so the GOP could further curb the need for Democratic votes in the Republican-controlled Senate by changing the rules for approving key legislation.

He got his earlier wish. It began Friday night. By Saturday, Eric Trump, his son, publicly called the interruption “a good thing for us,” politically. The president accused Democrats of holding the military hostage to allow unfettered illegal immigration.

So it looked as if Trump was against shutdowns before he was for them, then against them again, and then sunny about how he’d come out of this one.

But by the time the standoff was resolved Monday, it appeared the “dealmaker” president’s role may have been limited to grandstanding and finger-pointing.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, the Democratic minority leader from New York, and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), majority leader, announced terms to end the shutdown.

Both will take some measure of flak from party colleagues — Schumer for agreeing to resume spending without concrete action to help so-called dreamers, and McConnell for opening a path to immigration legislation. It was a compromise.

In the heat of the shutdown showdown, both sides seemed to treat Trump as something of an irritant, suggesting that his White House seemed passive and unclear about how it wished to proceed.

Trump’s remarks about government shutdowns weren’t the only ones that have proved perishable.

Only a year ago, Trump sang a softer tune about the dreamers, who were brought to the United States illegally as children and grew here.

Referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, he said, “We’re going to show great heart. DACA is a very, very difficult subject for me. . . . But you have some absolutely incredible kids — I would say mostly. It’s a very — it’s a very, very tough subject. We are going to deal with DACA with heart.

“I love these kids,” he said. “They shouldn’t be very worried.”

But in September, Trump’s Justice Department announced an end to the dreamer program. Still, he gave Congress a six-month window in which he indicated he wanted them to make it law rather than the legally iffy product of executive order. The program expires in March.

Trump said Monday he was “pleased” the Democrats agreed to back continued government spending. More ambiguously, the president said: “We’ll make a long-term deal on immigration if, and only if, it is good for the country.”

Perhaps Congress will craft such a deal with Trump on the sidelines. Whether his prior public statements fit together may not matter too much.


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