A thankless job
Even many Donald Trump's supporters will admit to one reservation about him: They wish he would tweet less. In 2018, they did not get their wish. A tally by Politico counted 2,843 Trump tweets through Saturday versus 2,227 in 2017.
The president closed out his year on Twitter with bangs at typical targets (Democrats, "Fake News") and whimpers about how he suffers a singular victimhood.
"If anybody but Donald Trump did what I did in Syria, which was an ISIS loaded mess when I became President, they would be a national hero," said one. "I am the only person in America who could say that, 'I’m bringing our great troops back home, with victory,' and get BAD press," said another.
Then again, only Trump would describe his critics, besides "Fake News Media," as "some failed Generals who were unable to do the job before I arrived."
Trump didn't name the generals he brands as "failed" but the ranks of former four-stars on his bad side have been expanding. Besides Mattis, they include Stanley McChrystal, the former commander in Afghanistan, and now, perhaps, exiting chief of staff John Kelly.
In reality, the dissent over Trump's decision to declare ISIS beaten and announce a sudden withdrawal without consulting allies has come from across a broad spectrum of Democrats and Republicans in Congress and from national security officials who were with him after he arrived, including the departing defense secretary, Jim Mattis.
For all his chest-thumping, he may be listening to critics of his original plan, such as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who met with him at the White House on Sunday. Trump slipped into one of Monday's tweets that the troops will be coming out "slowly." and The New York Times reported that the president has agreed to stretch out the timetable from two weeks to about four months.
Failed to the chief
The "failed generals," whoever they are, join a list of more than three dozen people and things Trump has belittled as "failed" or "failing" since he began running for president in 2015, as recorded on the Trump Twitter Archive."
A partial list: The New York Times; Ohio Gov. John Kasich; Hillary Clinton, former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama; House Speaker Paul Ryan; billionaire Mark Cuban.
Also, CNN president Jeff Zucker; Mitt Romney; Sen. Elizabeth Warren; GOP consultants Karl Rove, Stuart Stevens and Cheri Jacobus; conservative writers and commentators Bill Kristol and Glenn Beck; Kristol's Weekly Standard (which actually folded in early December); and 2016 GOP primary rivals Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham and Rick Perry.
Also, Obamacare, The Wall Street Journal, Politico, NBC's Chuck Todd and the Republican establishment.
Before he ran, he stuck the "failed" insult or hits variants on Obama, Rosie O'Donnell, Vanity Fair editor Graydon carter and comedian Bill Maher, among others. Since be began on Twitter in 2011, he's tweeted or retweeted those F-words 499 times.
On the wall, off the wall
Trump on Monday contradicted Kelly's recent remarks that the idea of a concrete wall on the Mexican border was scrapped in the early days of the administration in favor of other types of barriers and new security measures.
"An all concrete Wall was NEVER ABANDONED, as has been reported by the media. Some areas will be all concrete but the experts at Border Patrol prefer a Wall that is see through (thereby making it possible to see what is happening on both sides). Makes sense to me!" Trump tweeted.
Trump tried a new argument for his wall on Sunday — claiming "President and Mrs. Obama built/has a ten foot Wall around their D.C. mansion/compound. I agree, totally necessary for their safety and security."
That's false. Obamas' neighbors told The Washington Post that there is no such wall around the house, which is not a compound. The 8,200-square-foot structure, despite several security features, is completely visible from the street. “There’s a fence that goes along the front of the house, but it’s the same as the other neighbors have,” one said. “It’s tastefully done.”
Janison: A wall win-win?
If the will is there, the partial government shutdown could be easily ended because there always appears to be a way to spin a win for those who need to show one, writes Newsday's Dan Janison.
Trump could go back to the package once discussed — and later rejected — to combine border security money with protection for the dreamers.
If that's too big a lift now, he could claim any increase in the security funding as a win. He can even call it a wall — the administration's elastic definition of one doesn't seem set in stone — even if Democrats call it an extension of the status quo.
On Monday, House Democratic leaders said they will sponsor legislation on Thursday to reopen the government through a series of separate spending bills that would fund the Department of Homeland Security through Feb. 8, allowing more time for negotiations, while paying for other agencies through the rest of the fiscal year, reports Newsday's Laura Figueroa Hernandez.
Warren's step toward 2020
Elizabeth Warren, the Democrat from Massachusetts, took a big step Monday toward a long-expected campaign for the presidency by announcing she has formed an exploratory committee, with a video announcement that highlights her working-class Oklahoma roots, her crusades as a consumer advocate and her battles as a Donald Trump antagonist.
"I run for office because I'm grateful down to my toes for the opportunities that were given to me, and I'm determined that we will give those same opportunities to not just some of our kids but to all of our kids," Warren said.
Trump, who has taunted her as "Pocahontas" because of questions over her partial Native American ancestry, took a peculiar pivot toward innuendo of another kind when asked in a Fox News interview on New Year's Eve if she could win. "You’d have to ask her psychiatrist," the president said.
Man without a party
Trump tweeted a video message for New Year's Eve. It was a touch melancholy.
"While I'm at the White House working, you're out there partying tonight, but I don't blame you. Enjoy yourselves. We're going to have a great year. Have a really, really happy new year," he said.
What else is happening:
- A North Carolina Republican, Rep. Walter Jones, suggested Trump use some of his own money to pay for a border wall. “As a wealthy man, the president might consider pledging some of his own funds ... Whatever it takes, just so long as we don’t add to the debt that is bankrupting our great country.”
- George Conway, Kellyanne's Trump-trolling husband, tweeted about one advantage to a border barrier made of steel slats: "As some wags on this website have pointed out, at least you can argue that Mexico has paid for the spaces between the slats."
- After campaigning for re-election largely on national themes, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is going to kick off his third term on the same note — speaking from Ellis Island on support for immigration and opposition to Trump’s agenda, reports Newsday's Yancey Roy.
- House Democrats are on a hiring spree for lawyers to work on multiple investigations of Trump and his administration, CNN reports. "There are a lot of people willing to take pay cuts to come do that work," a person familiar with the plans told the network.
- In a farewell message to Defense Department staff, Mattis said, "Our Department is proven to be at its best when the times are most difficult." Brett McGurk, who quit as the presidential envoy to defeat ISIS after Trump's Syria announcement, tweeted a salute to colleagues who "work under extremely difficult circumstances to protect the interests of our great country."
- The 1600 will be taking a day off to start the new year. We'll be back on newsday.com on Wednesday night and in subscribers' inboxes on Thursday morning.