Donald Trump: The Biggest Loser

When it comes to the shutdown and border wall showdown that started back in December, Donald Trump is the biggest loser.

With the President now apparently ready to sign the funding bill that will end the controversy that started two months ago when he wrecked a deal to fund the government due to the fact that it didn’t provide funding for his border wall, John Cassidy argues that the entire episode has been a significant defeat for the President:

It’s clear why Trump isn’t happy. This time last year, he was demanding twenty-five billion dollars for a vast concrete wall. At the end of December, he shut down large parts of the federal government in support of his demand for $5.7 billion in funding and two hundred miles of steel barriers. Under the deal reached on Monday, Congress would provide $1.375 billion for fifty-five miles of slat fencing. In Wall Street terms, the agreement would give Trump about twenty-four cents on the dollar. As of Wednesday morning, he hadn’t yet agreed to the plan but it looked like he would. The Washington Post and CNN both reported that Trump intended to sign the spending bill.


Having already folded when the shutdown damaged his poll ratings, his threat to cause another government closure isn’t credible. He’s also been threatening to declare a national emergencyand seize some extra funds from the Pentagon budget, but Republican leaders on the Hill don’t like this scheme, which, in any case, would quickly get snagged in the courts.

Trump is stuck, so he’s resorting to yet more B.S. After registering his unhappiness about the spending deal to reporters, he went on, “It’s not doing the trick, but I’m adding things to it. And when you add the things I have to add, it’s all gonna happen where we’ll build a beautiful, big, strong wall that’s not gonna let criminals and traffickers and drug dealers and drugs into our country.” Later in the day, in a pair of tweets, Trump said, “Looking over all aspects knowing that this will be hooked up with lots of money from other sources . . . Will be getting almost $23 billion for border security. Regardless of Wall money, it is being built as we speak.”

Virtually nobody who has followed the story in any detail is falling for this spin. “One point three billion dollars? That’s not even a wall, a barrier,” Sean Hannity, who is arguably Trump’s biggest booster in the media, said to his Fox News Channel audience on Monday night. “Any Republican that supports this garbage compromise, you will have to explain.” Mark Meadows, the head of the House Freedom Caucus, told Hannity’s colleague Neil Cavuto, “Only in Washington, D.C., can we start out with needing twenty-five billion dollars for border-security measures and expect applause at $1.37 [billion]. I mean, only in D.C. is that a winning deal.”

For once, Meadows was right. But, by Tuesday evening, there were signs that even some of the most rabid supporters of the wall had realized that further resistance was futile. Or, perhaps, they had been issued a new set of talking points. Speaking on his daily radio show, Hannity now referred to the $1.3 billion as “a down payment” and suggested that Trump could get more money for the wall from elsewhere in the federal budget, with or without declaring a national emergency. “In that case, he wins big time,” Hannity said.

This is what defeat looks like for Donald Trump and the maga Praetorian Guard: accepting scraps and describing them as a feast.

Jennifer Rubin at The Washington Post agrees:

What’s important to understand is that Trump has failed entirely and irreversibly on his signature issue. The border-wall catastrophe is, in many ways, the inevitable result of a campaign and presidency built on demagoguery and dishonesty. Let’s take a look at how we got here.

It began with a con man running for president with a white resentment and grievance pitch. As the most dogged megaphone for the lie that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and a longtime practitioner of racial fearmongering (e.g., his demands for the death penalty for the Central Park Five), Trump figured he could get votes as easily as he got Trump University tuition checks by peddling a series of interconnected falsehoods: The border was out of control. Illegal immigrants were flooding into the United States, were stealing jobs and reducing wages for native-born, middle-class Americans, and were responsible for a massive crime wave. None of that was true, but neither was the birther story. (More Mexican immigrants were leaving the United States than entering; the Obama administration engaged in widespread interdiction, deporting record numbers of immigrants; immigrants didn’t steal jobs — as our low unemployment rate proves — and depress wages only by a small amount for those without high school degrees; and crime is still at historic lows.)

As Rubin goes on to note, as the campaign went on Trump’s advisers began to recognize that this anti-immigrant position was a winner for their candidate, but they needed a way to remind him to keep bringing it up on the campaign trail. That, apparently, is where the idea for a border wall that Mexico would pay for came from. It was, effectively, a mnemoic device designed to remind Trump to bring the issue up, and it proved to be a big hit with the crowds. Realistically speaking, of course, the idea of a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico that Mexico was going to pay for was never a realistic possibility that this was going to happen, and it was plainly obvious that Mexico was never going to pay for such a project. Additonally, as Rubin notes, the idea for a border wall was a simplistic “answer” for a complicated problem and that Trump’s campaign never explained how he was going to require things such as battles over the enviornmental impact of such a project as well as eminent domain fights with reluctant landowners. Moreover, a wall fails to address the most significant contributor to so-called “illegal immigration,” visa overstays by people who enter through designated ports of entry with valid entry documents. Finally, outside of Trump’s base the wall was never, and never has been, popular with the public as a whole.

Once he became President, Trump continued to use the idea of a wall to keep his base riled up, but he didn’t actually do much of anything to advance the project. Republicans on Capitol Hill didn’t bother to even inclulde a single dollar of funding allocated toward a wall in the first budget they passed after taking office in 2017, for example, and the original version of the spending bill that is being finalized today contained no funding for the border wall. And this was during a period when Republicans controlled both the Legislative and Executive Branches.

Despite this, Trump turned back to the border as the midterm elections approached, pointing to alleged caravans of criminals, migrants carrying diseases, and terrorists were headed to the United States, he claimed, and only a border wall could stop them. Leaving aside the fact that this was a lie and that this “caravans” consisted largely of families and women and children seeking asylum from deplorable conditions, violence, and political oppression in Central American, this lie continued after the midterms and formed the basis of the hardline that the President took, reinforced by his “Amen Chorus” in the right wing media, that led to a disastrous five week shutdown that did nothing but cause harm to the President’s job approval numbers.

Now, as Rubin notes, we have a deal that will avert another shutdown that the President Trump will apparently agree to:

In the end, Trump never got his wall. He was never going to get his wall. It was a con — what they call in the movie business a MacGuffin — to win and hold onto his low-information voters, the ones convinced that their and the country’s ills were caused by immigrants. It was only a matter of time before the flimsy tower of falsehoods came tumbling down.

Now Trump’s followers and apologists are left wondering: If he has lied about this, can we count on him for anything else? I hate to break it to them, but no. And, come to think of it, there’s no real accomplishment Trump can claim — other than a trade war and unpopular tax cut plan. One wonders when Trump’s voters will finally abandon him. They are likely tired of losing.

The answer, of course, is that they will believe whatever Trump and Fox News tell them to believe, and that those oracles will never admit that the Trump has lost here. But that is in fact what has happened. Donald Trump has lost, and he lost tremendously. Not only did he not get any funding for his border wall, he actually ended up with $200,000,000 less in funding for the broader category of “border security” than he could have gotten from the bill Senate approved back in December. That’s not a win no matter how much you try to spin it.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, Congress, Deficit and Debt, US Politics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    He lost BIGLY on the wall because he lost BIGLY in the mid-terms. He lost 40 seats in the House and only gained 2 in the Senate where the map was in his favor and he should have picked up 5.
    And make no mistake about it, he is losing elsewhere, too.
    Putin and Kim and MBS are all playing him like a piano.
    He is losing his trade war.
    He is losing top administration officials.
    He is losing members of his party.
    He said his businesses were a red-line when it came to investigations…but right this minute everything single thing he is associated with is under investigation…and these are credible investigations by credible people; not Benghazi BS by hacks like Izza and Gowdy.
    All his top campaign officials are headed for jail or have made plea agreements.
    The only places he is winning; the judiciary appointments, tax cuts (but not the cuts he promised), and regulations. But those are all standard Republican faire and would have happened if any Republican had won the Presidency.
    Donnie Dennison has brought nothing to the table that he is uniquely responsible for…beyond his defining traits; bigotry and hate and mendacity and stupidity.
    But I must quibble with your post; he’s not the biggest loser…people who continue to support him are yhuuuuger losers.

  2. Kathy says:

    I’m surprised at the outright lie by claiming a win when defeat is so self-evident. I’d expected euphemisms for defeat that sound like victory. Things like “masterful yielding,” or “strategic adjustment.”

  3. CSK says:

    This morning he’s on Twitter raving about “leakin'” James Comey, “disgraced” Andrew McCabe, and “crooked” Hillary. Nothing, so far, about this bill.

  4. James Pearce says:

    Donald Trump has lost, and he lost tremendously.

    He finagled a billion dollars from Congress to build 55 miles of “slat fence” that he’s going to call a wall to credulous supporters who now have reason to continue supporting him. It was demagoguery from the beginning, and it continues to be demagoguery even after he “lost.”

    The demagoguery was the point, not the wall. Trump will lose when he is finally unable to exploit the fears and prejudices of uninformed/misinformed people.

  5. Michael Reynolds says:

    Question: what is Trump’s policy agenda now that the wall is dead? Anyone? What bills is he pushing? What can we expect going forward? What do his culties even think he’s doing? What is Trump’s ‘vision thing’ now that he’s lost on the Big Lie that, along with Vladimir Putin, got him elected?

  6. CSK says:

    Chuck Grassley this morning, after the opening prayer: “Let’s all pray that the president has the wisdom to sign the bill.”

    That’s gonna sting Trump when he finds out about it.

  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    You’ve gone from “He’s absolutely going to get the 5.7 billion and Democrats will be politically-damaged,” to, “Well, he’ll claim he got the money.” So, actual victory for Trump to pretend victory for Trump. Now, you can pretend you haven’t been out-forecast by literally every single person who comments here regularly, but we aren’t Trump toadies so we don’t believe your b.s.

  8. CSK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Well, he’s going to Make America Great Again.

  9. Kathy says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    applause and adoration, Michael. Lots of both from his base at every rally. They eat his lies and BS with a big, beautiful spoon, then beg for more.

  10. Grumpy realist says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Trump’s Toadies are immersed in the same habit of bullsh*tting all their failures away. Nothing is ever their fault—it’s always the feminists/blacks/Hispanics/“furriners”, never their own incomptence. Trump thinks he’s a “self-made man”, totally ignoring all the help he got from his father over the years, both financially and otherwise.

    Luckily people who immerse themselves in self-pity rarely manage to actually accomplish anything, since they don’t have the guts to ever admit where their own problems are due to their own lack of skills and actually work on fixing themselves. Similarity, Trump can be led around by the nose by anyone who flatters him—and he’s at the mercy of whoever he talked to in the last five minutes.

  11. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I’m seeing some mention on Twitter that his chants are changing to something like “finish the wall!”

    Also a few months ago they said they were changing their slogan from make America great again to keep America great, because Trump has now made it great.

    BTW I saw an amazing article recently that suggested, if I’m reading that right, that the reason John Bolton hasn’t talked Trump into bombing Iran yet is because Russia doesn’t support it, and what Russia wants, Trump gives.

    So…thanks, Russia?

  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    The demagoguery was the point, not the wall. Trump will lose when he is finally unable to exploit the fears and prejudices of uninformed/misinformed people LIKE ME.


  13. Liberal Capitalist says:

    As I was driving this morning, I paused on a right wing radio station… the subject was how Trump was a good negotiator, and how he had a bigger broader vision, because, well, of course, he built a multi-billion dollar business, so his goal is the long term.

    The tone was … reserved.

    The first thing that came to mind was a football game… 4th down, ready to kick, but they have been pushed back so far they are actually in the stands, back beyond the refreshment stand, and not even close enough to see the end zone.

    Still optimistic for their chances… but more so out of habit than of reality.

  14. Kylopod says:

    @Michael Reynolds: It’ll be fun when and if Kamala Harris or another female/POC Senator defeats Donald Trump, and instead of admitting he was wrong in predicting that would never happen, he’ll say the fact she got less than 400 EVs proves how pathetic the Dems are. Or if she does somehow break 400, he’ll say she “should” have broken 500. Or if all else fails, he can start castigating us for not talking about the homeless problem.

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    @Michael Reynolds:..What can we expect going forward?
    More of this? Trump’s Attacks On The Media Come Home To Roost

    Apparently there is an appetite for political thuggery among some apologists in these threads.

    “If any criminal charges are warranted, disorderly conduct should probably be as severe as they get. And even then….Throwing dude out of the venue and letting it go is probably the best way something like that should go.”
    You know who you are.

  16. Kylopod says:

    Reports are that Trump himself privately admits he lost.

    But in conversations with allies over the past days, he has griped that Republican negotiators were outplayed by their Democratic counterparts, securing a border funding number far smaller than Trump has spent the last two months demanding

  17. CSK says:

    Well, Trump just Tweeted that he’s “reviewing the funding bill with my team at the @WhiteHouse!”


  18. Moosebreath says:


    “Reports are that Trump himself privately admits he lost.”

    So are you saying that Trump is more grounded in reality than Pearce?

  19. James Pearce says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Now, you can pretend you haven’t been out-forecast by literally every single person who comments here regularly, but we aren’t Trump toadies so we don’t believe your b.s.

    Ah, there it is….you have “out-forecasted” me. (Applause.)

    No, you didn’t. You were off by about $1.3 billion and 55 miles. That’s what Trump got. What’d you get?

  20. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod: That’s not Trump “admitting he lost.” That’s Trump shooting his henchmen.

  21. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    That’s what Trump got.

    It’s all pre-Dennison technology…in ways that have been done before Dennison and will be done after Dennison.
    Dennison got nothing. He knows it.
    You just don’t have the balls to admit you were WRONG!!!

  22. Moosebreath says:

    @James Pearce:

    “Ah, there it is….you have “out-forecasted” me. (Applause.)

    No, you didn’t. You were off by about $1.3 billion and 55 miles. That’s what Trump got. What’d you get?”

    And you were off by $4.4 billion and 2800 miles. Which of us came closer?

  23. An Interested Party says:

    What’d you get?

    The satisfaction of watching you make a fool of yourself by making ridiculous arguments about how Trump supposedly won anything…

  24. Kit says:

    Sure, I’ll go along with the Right-wing spin: Trump got his money, and he’ll find the rest of the $23B. One question: why even bother to shut down the government when you are sure of finding 94% of the funding between the sofa cushions?

  25. CSK says:


    Because he just thought of it now.

  26. Kathy says:


    One question: why even bother to shut down the government when you are sure of finding 94% of the funding between the sofa cushions?

    I’ve entertained the theory that it wasn’t about the wall, but about showing the Democrats who’s boss.

    I hesitate, because Trump’s mind is like concrete, not given to subtlety at all.

    But if I’m right, or partly right, and the whole sorry spectacle was about Dennison imposing his will on the Democrats, then he’s an even bigger loser than we all think he is.

  27. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    That’s not Trump “admitting he lost.” That’s Trump shooting his henchmen.

    Why would he do that if he thinks he won? What is he blaming them for? He’s unhappy with the deal and thinks the Dems outplayed the Republicans. He may be trying to shift the blame for this debacle onto others (as he always does, as he’s incapable of ever accepting responsibility for failure), but he’s clearly admitting defeat.

  28. gVOR08 says:


    I’ve entertained the theory that it wasn’t about the wall, but about showing the Democrats who’s boss.

    And he did show them who’s boss.

    I didn’t get around to commenting on the thread a day or two ago about Rs going after any loose statement by the freshman congress women because they’re easier targets. I meant to note they seem to be laying off Pelosi, perhaps because they’re reluctant to remind people of recent events vis-a-vis Trump and Pelosi.

    (I’ve commented before that I don’t think for Pelosi this was about the wall and the shutdown, this was about setting up the next two years.)

  29. James Pearce says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: @Moosebreath: You’ll get me to admit I was “wrong” when you admit that I had a point.


    Why would he do that if he thinks he won?

    He’s a gangster, a pseudo-tyrant, and a terrible manager. The boot never comes off the neck.

  30. Mister Bluster says:

    Per WTOP Radio Washington DC:
    McConnell says Pud will sign bill to keep government open and also DECLARE a NATIONAL EMERGENCY to fund wall.

    (Valentine’s Day Massacre?)

  31. Pylon says:

    @James Pearce:

    Pearce, you realize your posts leading up to and during the shutdown are still there right?

  32. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @James Pearce:

    You’ll get me to admit I was “wrong” when you admit that I had a point.

    You don’t have a point…and you won’t admit to being wrong because that would take balls.

  33. James Pearce says:

    @Pylon: Yeah and so are everyone else’s.

    CNN is reporting that Trump is signing the spending bill and declaring a national emergency.

    You won! (Again!)

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I get pecked at by you jackyls on the daily. You don’t think that takes balls?

    You want me to prostrate myself before you with the sackcloth and ashes. That doesn’t take balls. It only requires a level of self-loathing I do not possess. Sorry.

  34. Teve says:

    Kylopod says:
    Thursday, February 14, 2019 at 13:45
    @James Pearce:

    That’s not Trump “admitting he lost.” That’s Trump shooting his henchmen.

    Why would he do that if he thinks he won? What is he blaming them for?

    D’OH! 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛 😛

    It’s an ironclad rule, people who support Trump will humiliate themselves.

  35. Mister Bluster says:

    @Pylon:..Pearce, you realize your posts leading up to and during the shutdown are still there right?

    Help me here. Can you actually see them?
    When I scroll to the bottom of an OTB page and click on Read All Posts the most recent post I see is from June 7, 2018.
    Also when I click at the top of the page where it says ARCHIVES, the most recent month available is June 2018.
    If you have a link to posts between July 2018 and January 2019 please provide it so I can see all recent posts.
    Thank You

  36. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    That doesn’t take balls. It only requires a level of self-loathing I do not possess.

    Admitting you’re wrong about something isn’t “self-loathing,” it is acknowledging your human limitations that we all possess. Yet you never, ever budge from your positions here (you do contradict yourself frequently, but without ever acknowledging that your previous stance was in error). Isn’t that kind of ironic coming from someone who constantly lectures us about trying to see different perspectives?

  37. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    (Valentine’s Day Massacre?)


    More like Christmas in June (in February).

  38. Grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: that’s because Pearce, like all of Trump’s Toadies, doesn’t have the balls to admit he’s wrong, nor is he interested in manifesting any integrity or dedication to Truth. The only thing he’s interested in is being a troll and “owning the Libz.”

    Very much like Trump himself, in fact.

  39. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..More like Christmas in June (in February).

    I guess I was thinking of Supreme Leader and Chairman of the REPUBLICAN Sex Worker’s Party, Kim Jong Trump’s unabated shredding of the Constitution for the United States of America.

  40. James Pearce says:

    @Mister Bluster: The archives are a mess but the pages still exist. Click on some of the tags under “File under.” Or some of the links along the side of the page.


    it is acknowledging your human limitations that we all possess

    I am not being asked to “acknowledge my human limitations.” I am being commanded to show deference to people who don’t even respect me.

    No. I’ve got too much James Baldwin in my soul for that.

  41. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kylopod: Your comment brings up and interesting point: I’m not sure that anyone is giving enough credit to the RWNJ in the House and Senate over their role in crapping on a deal for the whole (or a big chunk, I can’t remember for sure) $25 billion because it was attached to a deal for the dreamers. I know that Trump was just blowing smoke and that Republicans in general are hopeless bigots (let’s remember the 70-80% approval of the dottard and what he stands for), but bleep, that was REALLY STUPID.

    The kind of stupid that I see in the town that I live in where there are 20 some vacant buildings in a 5 block area. The owner want to rent these store front and small offices but the conversation always comes down to owners preferring to “let that building crumble to dust rather than give X a chance to make money.” Ya can’t fix this level of stupid.

  42. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: You are and he is.

    ETA: I bypassed every Pearce comment and reply to Pearce. I know that it’s a small achievement, but one day blog post at a time.

  43. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I know. a take on Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre.

    I don’t think it goes that far. But it’s going to get stuck in court for months, if not longer, and all that time no wall be going up. This can be milked for months. Trump can’t get his wall even while savaging the Constitution and abusing his power. It may stretch into 2020.

  44. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Ya can’t fix this level of stupid.

    Reagan: I’d rather get some of what I want than go down with my flag flying

    McConnell: If I retreat, shot me!

  45. wr says:

    @James Pearce: ” You were off by about $1.3 billion and 55 miles.”

    Shockingly, you’re wrong again. Pelosi didn’t say congress would never fund any amount of border fencing — she said that UNTIL THE GOVERNMENT REOPENED congress would never fund any amount of border fencing. Because she would not give in to extortion — and he backed down.

    Now they’ve been negotiating, just as she said they would ONCE THE GOVERNMENT WAS REOPENED. Everything you’re crowing about here is based on a totally false premise.

  46. Mister Bluster says:

    @Kathy:..a take on Nixon’s Saturday Night Massacre.

    Also this.

    Who was in Chicago 90 years ago today?

  47. Kathy says:

    @Mister Bluster:

    I’ve been to the Mob Museum in Vegas(*). They have the actual VDay Massacre wall right where the exhibits begin, complete with bullet holes.

    (*) Yes, I go to museums in Vegas. Plural. I’ve also visited the Atomic Testing Museum (twice), and I went to a da Vinci exhibit in The Venetian some years back.

  48. Mister Bluster says:

    I’ve driven through Las Vegas several times over the years. The only stop was the first time in 1974.
    Me and four other guys were on our hippie pilgrimage from Sleepytown to San Francisco. The Ford Econoline van we were driving belonged to my quadriplegic friend Joe. It was not rigged for him to drive but it had a makeshift ramp attached to the side door so we could push him in his electic wheelchair (the iron horse as he called it) into the back of the van. No tiedowns or straps. Just throw a 2×4 behind the back wheels of his chair.
    We towed my 1960 F-100 behind the van. The bed was packed with our luggage and our two cats rode in the cab of the truck stocked with cat food, water and a litterbox. We could look out the back windows of the van and watch Quiz and Buffy through the windshield of the pickup as they rode atop the dashboard.
    Don’t recall our timetable. The Interstates were still under construction so there were many detours and only one two lane tunnel carried Interstate 70 under the Continental Divide.
    By the time we got to Nevada our previous pit stop had been in Denver where Dan’s brother lived with his wife and invited the five of us to crash for the night and clean up.
    Upon arriving in Las Vegas we asked some freaks where we could find a shower.
    We were directed to a building on the UNLV campus where there was a men’s locker room. They told us to walk right in as no ID’s were ever checked and we could easily pass for college students.
    That’s just what we did.
    I was pushing Joe in his shower chair and the locker room attendant didn’t even bat an eye as he threw us towels as we entered.
    Just like we were told. No ID check. No hassle. Got cleaned up and we hit the road.
    I don’t think we could get away with that today.
    Even if I was 26 again instead of 71.

  49. An Interested Party says:

    I’ve got too much James Baldwin in my soul for that.

    Oh? I didn’t realize that Baldwin made disingenuous arguments and moved goalposts every time he lost those arguments…

  50. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: “I don’t want to be defined by you.”
    -James Baldwin

  51. An Interested Party says:

    @James Pearce: “I can’t believe what you say, because I see what you do.”
    -James Baldwin

  52. just nutha says:

    @Kathy: I’d be up for shooting Mitch on general principle, but okay.

  53. James Pearce says:

    @An Interested Party: Hmph….no, you don’t. You think I’m a Trump supporter.

  54. An Interested Party says:

    You think I’m a Trump supporter.

    Oh I don’t know if I’d go that far…but you certainly often act like his cheerleader…