Pelosi Getting Too Much Credit for Shutdown ‘Win’

The Speaker was dealt a winning hand and played it with the skill of a seasoned pro. But the outcome was all but inevitable.

President Trump’s bid to force the building of a border wall on the backs of civil servants was a complete and utter failure. That doesn’t make Nancy Pelosi a strategic mastermind.

POLITICO‘s report “‘She’s not one to bluff’: How Pelosi won the shutdown battle” is an exemplar of the contrary narrative:

Two months ago, Nancy Pelosi was battling an internal Democratic rebellion trying to bar her from the speakership.

Pelosi faced doubts over whether she was the right person to lead the new Democratic majority, despite shepherding her party to victory on Election Day, and some colleagues demanded she step down after 16 years in power.

Now — just weeks after reclaiming the speaker’s gavel — the California Democrat has already bested President Donald Trump in a gut-wrenching fight that may help define the 116th Congress, while strengthening her hold over rank-and-file lawmakers.

Trump surrendered to Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer in astonishing fashion Friday after insisting for 35 straight days that he would never reopen the government without winning on his central 2016 campaign promise: a big, beautiful border wall between the United States and Mexico.

But just as she did with her Democratic critics weeks ago, Pelosi waited Trump out until he couldn’t take the heat anymore. Amid a wave of news stories on furloughed federal workers showing up at food banks or in unemployment lines, airports across the country facing slowdowns, thousands of IRS employees who weren’t returning to the job when ordered back without pay — or, perhaps more so, the public blaming him for the chaos – Trump wilted. Pelosi held firm.

“No one should ever underestimate the speaker, as Donald Trump has learned,” Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Friday.

But there was no “gut-wrenching fight.” Trump threatened to shut down the government if he didn’t get his way back in December, in the last day of a Congress with Republican majorities in the House and Senate. He didn’t have the votes and the government in fact shut down. When the new Congress formed in early January and Pelosi was elected Speaker, Democrats had 235 votes to 199 for Republicans (that number has since dropped to 198). There was simply no conceivable way Trump was going to get his way absent an abject surrender by Democrats.

Aside from the institutional advantages, she was on the right side of the issue fiscally and politically. A border wall is an absurd solution to a problem that scarcely exists. The American public overwhelmingly disapproved of building it. Even though it was the only policy issue on which Trump remained consistent throughout his campaign, he couldn’t get it built in his first two years with a majority of his own party in both Houses.

So, what is Pelosi being given so much credit for accomplishing? Holding the caucus together.

Pelosi worked behind the scenes to keep her caucus in line — even as a small faction of her own members grew skittish about the shutdown’s impacts on constituents and privately urged her to counter a recent Trump compromise with an offer of her own.

Pelosi’s reply? Don’t give an inch and stay together, she told nervous Democrats as recently as this week. If we counter-offer Trump on the wall, we lose, Pelosi insisted. And we’re winning.

Even Republicans seemed to concede that Pelosi’s was truly Trump’s match.

“She’s not one to bluff,” said Rep. Mark Meadows, the Freedom Caucus leader and Trump ally who encouraged Trump to shut the government down in the first place.

It’s also a reminder that although polls show Trump is more popular with his base than Pelosi is with her own, Pelosi’s enormous legislative acumen — sharpened by years of arm-twisting and friendly cajoling — dwarfs the political infighting skills displayed by the ex-real-estate mogul who’s long touted himself as the one of the toughest negotiators in the world.

Pelosi, it turns out, drives a much tougher bargain.

“I don’t know if it’s because she’s a woman, but [Trump] certainly underestimated her,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said. “I told somebody that I don’t know what kind of nickname he will find for Nancy, but ‘Low Energy’ won’t be one of them.”

Trump himself has expressed frustrations with how the entire process played out. During a tense meeting with staff Thursday, after watching negative coverage of the shutdown highlighting insensitive comments made by his own top officials, Trump complained that “Nancy is never going to give me what I want” on the border wall, according to two people briefed on his comments.

The next day, Trump caved.

Yet Trump’s fold came at just the right time for Pelosi, who presides over a caucus filled with anxious centrists and freshmen desperate for any signs of progress that the stalemate — the longest shutdown in U.S. history — was ending. While a vast majority of her members supporter her strategy through and through, several dozen started feeling restless.

Many Democratic lawmakers were getting an earful from constituents back home who were ready to see the shutdown end, no matter who was to blame for starting it. And some members were upset that leadership canceled a scheduled recess this week, forcing them to be in Washington while postponing town halls and other events back in their districts.

During several meetings of the more pragmatic-minded New Democrats Coalition, lawmakers expressed exasperation that the Pelosi-favored hashtag “#TrumpShutdown” wasn’t enough to shield them from angry constituents back home. Other members, like freshman Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia, complained that the messaging strategy Pelosi had laid out may work for solid blue districts but wouldn’t hold water in her Republican-populated stronghold.

Even House Democrats who supported Pelosi’s “no negotiations until the government is open” stance privately agreed that the longer the shutdown dragged out, the tougher it’d be to stay unified. Democrats, the party long known for championing policies that help the poor, were worried that food stamp checks and affordable housing assistance might not be distributed in February if the standoff continued. Some even privately admitted they may have to cave to Trump’s border wall demand if their constituents continued to take financial hits.

Essentially, then, Pelosi is being credited for being ruthless with an unbeatable hand. Trump was betting that Democrats would care more about the non-military parts of the government being shut down that Republicans and caving. He lost.

Yet, all the polls showed that the public blamed Trump for the shutdown, so Democrats were winning the political fight. They just had to be as willing as Trump to let Federal employees suffer in order to get the win. Pelosi was able to persuade them to hold out.

Beyond that, it may have been the furloughed employees themselves that turned the tide by refusing to continue working without pay.

HuffPo’s Alexander C. Kaufman explains in “Nancy Pelosi Didn’t End The Shutdown Alone. Federal Workers Did The Heavy Lifting.

In the hours after President Donald Trump announced a short-term plan to end the longest government shutdown in history, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was showered in praise.

The hashtag PelosiWins began going viral on Twitter. MSNBC pundit Lawrence O’Donnell credited her with “crushing” the president. Vanity Fair’s headline blared, “Checkmate: Nancy Breaks Trump and Ends the Shutdown,” proclaiming that “Pelosi’s masterclass, and plummeting polls, forced the president’s hand.” ThinkProgress editor Ian Millhiser warned to “never ever” ― with the second word repeated 36 more times ― “bet against Pelosi.”

Her steadfast opposition to Trump’s demand for billions of dollars for a border wall may well be “proving her Democratic skeptics wrong,” as The New Republic wrote two days ago.

Yet it was thousands of federal workers, facing a second missed paycheck as the shutdown stretched into a 35th day, who stopped showing up to work and put the real pressure on Trump. On Friday the Transportation Security Administration reported its national rate of unscheduled absences surged to 7.6 percent from 3 percent a year earlier. A shortage of air traffic controllers briefly halted flights to LaGuardia Airport in New York City and delayed flights to Philadelphia International Airport and New Jersey’s Newark Liberty International Airport.

The absences were a daring — if officially uncoordinated — labor action. The National Labor Relations Act gives American workers the right to strike but does not extend that right to government workers. President Jimmy Carter enacted legislation to prohibit federal workers from striking, as The New York Times noted. President Ronald Reagan gave the statute teeth; when air traffic controllers went on strike in 1981, he ordered them to return to work and fired them when they didn’t.

The uptick in workers calling out this week was no coincidence. In a fiery statement, Sara Nelson, the president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, said air safety professionals were “fatigued, worried, and distracted” as they carried out “unbelievably heroic work even as they are betrayed by the government that employs them.”

“So the planes will stay on the ground,” she said. “Do we have your attention now, [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell? All lawmakers? Open the government and then get back to the business of democracy and discuss whatever issue you so choose.”

A separate statement from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the Air Line Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA excoriated lawmakers for creating a public safety threat by leaving workers unpaid.

“In our risk averse industry, we cannot even calculate the level of risk currently at play, nor predict the point at which the entire system will break,” the statement read.

Just two days ago, the National Transportation Safety Board told CNN of 87 accidents have not been investigated since the shutdown began. According to Larry Willis, the president of the Transportation Trades Department with the AFL-CIO, more than 1,800 air safety workers quit over the past month to find new jobs.

“They have a legal prohibition against strike. The unions did not violate that … but they were correct in pointing out that workers were going to leave the industry,” he said by phone Friday. “They had to find ways to put food on the table, and at some point that was going to cause positions to go unfilled. That’s exactly what you started to see over the last several days.”

Beyond the aviation industry workers, federal employees spoke out about the hardship they were facing because of the shutdown, having to look for new jobs and forgo essentials. Their willingness to tell their stories raised essential public awareness about the real-life consequences of Washington games.

To her credit, Pelosi seemed to see that for what it was. On Thursday, responding to billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ widely criticized remarks urging federal workers to take out loans to make up missed paychecks, she said, “Is this the ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of attitude? Or ‘Call your father for money’? ‘This is character building for you’?”

Closing down LaGuardia airport pretty much sealed the deal, I think. And more of that sort of thing was inevitable as the shutdown continued.

Pelosi was dealt a winning hand. She played it with the skill of a seasoned pro, which of course she is. But the fact of the matter is that no funding for Trump’s wall was possible without a majority of votes in the House. There was no way that was going to happen unless Trump conceded something extraordinary in return or Democrats caved in droves.

FILED UNDER: Nancy Pelosi, Politics 101, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tony W says:

    She ‘won’ the battle because Trump was too stupid to see that there was no battle to be had – that it was inevitable that Pelosi would win.

    The reason she gets credit for winning is because Trump’s arrogance, stupidity, and lack of curiosity and knowledge of how government works played right into her hand.

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  2. Kathy says:

    If you’re playing five card draw poker and you’re dealt 4 aces, it’s really hard to maximize your winnings. Lots of people will make big bets, causing the rest to fold, and will win only the ante.

    BTW, Trump lost the shut down when he took responsibility for it before it began. But just because he embarked on a losing venture, doesn’t mean he couldn’t win.

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  3. Teve says:

    She successfully kept all the cats in the herd. I’d call that an accomplishment.

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  4. CSK says:

    Go over to one of the remaining pro-Trump sites and it’s like walking into a parallel universe:

    “Trump doesn’t surrender. He redeploys.”
    “Trump has not caved.”‘
    “Never underestimate Trumps (sic) motives, (sic) he is a businessman.”
    “Trump has a big heart. He listens to the people…”
    “PDT has given Pelousey (sic) an ultimatum and forced her into a corner.”

    And so on…

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  5. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    “Never underestimate Trumps (sic) motives, (sic) he is a businessman.”

    Well, besides the fact that’s a complete non-sequitur, Trump was a pretty lousy businessman.

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  6. Ben Wolf says:

    The public has structurally (meaning long-term) shifted against the Republicans (Donald Trump and the Republican Party are the same thing), and I credit Pelosi for appearing to at least partially understand this. She’s way behind in her policy preferences, but this is a good sign.

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  7. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    They think The Apprentice was real life.

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  8. James Joyner says:

    @Kathy:

    If you’re playing five card draw poker and you’re dealt 4 aces, it’s really hard to maximize your winnings. Lots of people will make big bets, causing the rest to fold, and will win only the ante.

    Can you extend the analogy?

    While I’m by no means a poker expert, I understand that there is a skill in turning a winning hand into a big pot. But literally all Pelosi and her caucus needed to do here was say “No” long enough for Trump to cave.

    @Teve:

    She successfully kept all the cats in the herd. I’d call that an accomplishment.

    It’s not nothing, to be sure. But there was no cost to staying in the herd when 1) pretty much all the cats believed in the cause, 2) the public blamed Trump for the shutdown, and 3) they were going to get a Win for staying together.

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  9. Moosebreath says:

    James,

    Being able to hold your caucus together in the midst of a long and very public battle, especially one as disparate as Congressional Democrats are, is no small thing. The last two Speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, were unable to do that with the more unified Republican caucus. That is why the prior Congress was unable to do anything other than cutting taxes for the wealthy (which is pretty much the only thing which all Republicans agree upon).

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  10. charon says:

    James,

    How much credit to give Nancy is pretty subjective, as you can see from the other comments.

    You are right that the Dems were bound to win sooner or later for several reasons, including the belief that they had more to lose by giving in – no small thing in a game of chicken. This could have dragged on longer though if Nancy were less skillful at engaging people like Trump.

    Still, as a practical matter, Pelosi’s image of capability has been burnished, no small thing for future politicking. Trump is being called a wimp by Ann Coulter, he looks now like a loser to at least some of his supporters. This has been a hit below the waterline to Trump’s soft power, which he did to himself by starting a fight he was never going to win.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Rule #1: Pick your battles. Nancy was smart enough to pick a battle she was sure to win. The entire GOP was stupid enough to pick a battle they were sure to lose, lemmings following trump over a cliff.

    The irony is that she did in 35 days what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the other Republican leaders could not do in 2 years: Control trump and pants the Freedom caucus. You could have written a post about the collective stupidity and cowardice of today’s GOP, but instead opted to minimize Pelosi. The misogyny is rich.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    Yes, Pelosi played a good hand like a professional. No, it’s not parting the waters or raising the dead. Yes, Pelosi is being upped a bit too enthusiastically, but there’s a good reason for that: we know it burns Trump like a cat ‘o nine tails on his bare, cottage cheese bottom. And that makes us happy.

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  13. charon says:

    @charon:

    which he did to himself by starting a fight he was never going to win.

    Trump is really good at getting into fights he could never win, the SOTU being a good example.

    Nancy’s “suggestion” in her Jan. 16 letter was really an “offer he couldn’t refuse,” but Trump is so clueless about how politics works he went ahead and refused it, forcing Nancy to humiliate him in the Jan 23 letter.

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  14. James Pearce says:

    Their willingness to tell their stories raised essential public awareness about the real-life consequences of Washington games.

    But Pelosi, ardent player of such games, deserves credit for “winning?”

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  15. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    The last two Speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, were unable to do that with the more unified Republican caucus. That is why the prior Congress was unable to do anything other than cutting taxes for the wealthy (which is pretty much the only thing which all Republicans agree upon).

    Those battles seem decades in the past, so perhaps my memory is failing me. But weren’t they able to deliver the votes in the House pretty consistently? Wasn’t the problem getting things through the Senate, which is much harder?

    @charon: Oh, I fully concur that this was an epic debacle for Trump and therefore a win for Pelosi and the Democrats. I just think the outcome was all but inevitable.

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    The irony is that she did in 35 days what Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell and all the other Republican leaders could not do in 2 years: Control trump and pants the Freedom caucus. You could have written a post about the collective stupidity and cowardice of today’s GOP, but instead opted to minimize Pelosi. The misogyny is rich.

    That’s just a bizarre formulation. Ryan and McConnell had no ability to “control Trump” or “pants the Freedom caucus.” Trump is the leader of the Republican Party and the Freedom Caucus a vital part of the coalition.

    I’ve written multiple posts “about the collective stupidity and cowardice of today’s GOP,” including this one. The whole point was that a Republican President picked a fight he couldn’t win, both because of the institutional dynamics at play and the underlying politics.

    I give the Speaker credit: “Pelosi was dealt a winning hand. She played it with the skill of a seasoned pro, which of course she is.” Others may well not have played it as deftly, repeatedly embarrassing Trump. And, indeed, I think her being a woman actually added insult to injury. I just think the outcome was inevitable.

    Beyond that, the post isn’t a criticism of Pelosi at all. It’s a criticism of a lazy media narrative.

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Yes, Pelosi played a good hand like a professional. No, it’s not parting the waters or raising the dead. Yes, Pelosi is being upped a bit too enthusiastically, but there’s a good reason for that: we know it burns Trump like a cat ‘o nine tails on his bare, cottage cheese bottom. And that makes us happy.

    And I’m fine with that!

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  16. grumpy realist says:

    @James Pearce: Well, we know that you’ll never give any woman or any Democrat any credit whatsoever, so in your bizarro world, no.

    Have fun in your solipsistic universe.

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  17. charon says:

    Slightly OT but I am going to throw this out there, it’s the first paragraph of a BooMan post at his blog:

    Ezra Klein is obviously correct when he says that Donald Trump chose the wrong strategy for getting his Mexican wall built. The more he made it a priority and a matter of prestige for himself, they more incentivized the Democrats became to oppose it all costs. This isn’t unusual. President Obama discovered that the best way to get legislation through a Republican Congress was to keep his mouth shut and his fingerprints hidden. Ezra goes on to advise Trump on how he could shift his strategy going forward, but it’s too late for that and Trump would never follow that advice on the wall or anything else.

    The reference is to an Ezra Klein post at Vox.

    Of course, Trump’s personality is that everything is about me, no possibility of tactical thinking.

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  18. Scott F. says:

    @James Joyner:

    President Trump’s bid to force the building of a border wall on the backs of civil servants was a complete and utter failure.

    I don’t see “strategic” or “mastermind” in either of the articles you quote, so I don’t know why you’re taking umbrage that people are claiming that’s what she is.
    However, your opening sentence explains quite well why Speaker Pelosi is being rightfully credited with doing something remarkable and admirable.

    There were numerous narratives that were put forward over the last 50 days starting with the lead up to the shutdown. Trump certainly tried to make it about the Democrats’ intransigent desire for perilous, open borders. The press spent a lot of time on both parties being equally stubborn and unwilling to negotiate. There were some claiming Trump was so callous and politically gangster that he would never give in, so it would be better to give him what he demanded sooner rather than later.

    But, the narrative that will written in the history books is that Trump tried to force his unwanted policy into law using innocent federal workers as hostages and it was a monumental failure. This outcome was not inevitable and Pelosi (and Schumer, frankly) were masterful in keeping the Democrats on a unified message of “no negotiations until government is re-opened.” They made it about the federal workers and not the Wall or beating Trump. That was no small thing.

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  19. charon says:
  20. @James:

    Pelosi was dealt a winning hand. She played it with the skill of a seasoned pro, which of course she is.

    And, therefore she is the winner. I am not sure how she is getting too much credit for that fact. I think her SOTU maneuver, for example, was quite smart and really hit Trump where it hurts.

    Another Speaker might have been tempted to blink earlier.

    Did she have a winning hand? Sure. But she still had to play out the game and she did so quite well. It wasn’t as if there weren’t ways to F the whole thing up.

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  21. @James Joyner:

    Beyond that, the post isn’t a criticism of Pelosi at all. It’s a criticism of a lazy media narrative.

    I think this is the problem–I don’t think the post come across this way.

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  22. I mean, the media always infuse drama into these stories, yes?

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  23. James Joyner says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, I suppose. I’m just seeing a string of these stories and amplification of them on Twitter. I give Pelosi credit for playing a winning hand well; I just think it would have been really hard to lose given Trump’s starting position.

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  24. Moosebreath says:

    @James Joyner:

    “Those battles seem decades in the past, so perhaps my memory is failing me. But weren’t they able to deliver the votes in the House pretty consistently? Wasn’t the problem getting things through the Senate, which is much harder?”

    Not really. Ryan and Boehner were frequently unable to deliver bills out of the House which had any chance for passage, as the Freedom Caucus kept pushing for more to the point where bills became unpassable, rather than getting a bill which would keep the enitre Republican caucus on board. The equivalent mistake for Pelosi would be if she made a permanent DACA fix a condition for reopening the government.

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  25. James Joyner says:

    @Moosebreath:

    The equivalent mistake for Pelosi would be if she made a permanent DACA fix a condition for reopening the government.

    Which she effectively did in the previous shutdown battle.

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  26. Mike in Arlington says:

    @James Joyner: Wasn’t that Schumer, or did Pelosi join in on that? I had thought that was Schumer acceding to pressure from the democratic base, but quickly realizing that it was an awful strategy and was able to find a way out.

    I think trump interpreted that as weakness, which is among the reasons he thought he’d win this sort of battle.

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  27. charon says:

    @Mike in Arlington:

    I think trump interpreted that as weakness, which is among the reasons he thought he’d win this sort of battle.

    Not just Trump, much of the GOP thought they were being clever, that the Dems would split. It’s what comes from getting your understanding of people from the “conservative media bubble.”

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  28. @Moosebreath: I would have to go back and look at an academic article I started to write about shutdown politics (but never finished), but I think this is correct. A major problem for Republicans in terms of effectively dealing with shutdown/debt ceiling standoffs was the inability of Boehner to get the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus in line. Although I do think he was able to pass legislation that made them happy, but that could not be passed in the Senate.

    Again, I am going by memory.

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  29. @James Joyner: Twitter amplifies things to be sure. Still, winning hand or not, I disagree that the current outcome, which is a clear win for Pelosi and a clear defeat for Trump, was not as inevitable as you are making it out to be, I would argue.

    To switch sports analogies: the QB often gets out-sized credit when his team wins. The press (and fans) may over-look other factors in the immediate aftermath of the game. Pelosi is the QB of the winning team and the coverage and reaction simply underscore that fact.

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  30. I think, too, this is especially salient after a) the Reps tried to run against Pelosi, and b) some of the young Dem upstarts wanted a fresh face as Speaker.

    If one is keeping score, Pelosi won on a number of fronts this week.

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  31. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “Although I do think [Boehner] was able to pass legislation that made them happy, but that could not be passed in the Senate.”

    That my recollection as well. Boehner and Ryan could not persuade the Freedom Caucus that passing a bill with 75% of their demands was better than a bill with 100% of their demands going down to defeat in the Senate.

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  32. Mike in Arlington says:

    @charon: Maybe the GOP base, but I’ve read a number of articles that said that there was a lot of resistance to this shut down from Republican Senators (I can’t remember seeing many reports about dissent from republican representatives). They played along with it because they needed to hang together just as much as the Democrats did, but McConnell warned Trump not to shut down the government because it was a bad idea.

    In fact, IIRC, McConnell gave Schumer a fig leaf so he could back down from the shut down without losing too much face (he allowed a couple of votes on the floor for a DACA fix). So, I suspect that McConnell knows that Schumer caved not because he (or the democrats) was weak, but because Schumer had a weak hand.

    Having said that, I doubt that they’ll support Trump if he tries this (or blocking the debt ceiling bill that’s due soonish) again. I think public opinion is pretty set against it, and 3 weeks isn’t long enough to forget the pain of this shut down.

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  33. Blue Galangal says:

    @Moosebreath: Not only that, but if Ryan and Boehner were so effective (particularly Ryan), why wasn’t ACA overturned? Why wasn’t abortion outlawed? Why wasn’t this so-important wall funded at any given time over the past two years?

    Nancy gets credit because she kept her caucus together, kept Schumer’s spine intact, and played her winning hand masterfully. She didn’t show one hint of wavering, and that was all the more intimidating both to Trump and to the GOP senators who were watching to see which way they should jump. That’s leadership. She does get credit for that and it’s not overstated, especially when you see how poorly Democrats have handled similar situations in the past.

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  34. Teve says:

    Having said that, I doubt that they’ll support Trump if he tries this (or blocking the debt ceiling bill that’s due soonish) again. I think public opinion is pretty set against it, and 3 weeks isn’t long enough to forget the pain of this shut down.

    yeah, I expect in 3 weeks Trump is going to go the national emergency route, because Republicans just won’t go for another shutdown, and then it’ll get held up in court, etcetera, and anyway long story short Trump’s not getting the wall.

    We are lucky this guy is so god-damned incompetent.

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  35. dmichael says:

    Another post from James exemplifying the adage that no good deed goes unpunished especially if it is done by a “girl.”
    James first states that Pelosi is getting too much credit and then says she doesn’t deserve it. He then back tracks when confronted. Reminds me of his post on how Pelosi was being petty by postponing any SOU address in the House until the shutdown is over. Apparently to Joyner, this didn’t show to Trump and his minions that she has a steel backbone. I await the next Joyner post that criticizes Pelosi for her next win.

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  36. gVOR08 says:

    The Union had more men, more guns, more railroads, more factories, and more money than the Confederacy. All Grant did was recognize he had the superior position and stick it out to the end. He’s generally recognized as a great general.

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  37. James Pearce says:

    @dmichael:

    I await the next Joyner post that criticizes Pelosi for her next win.

    It’s okay to criticize Nancy Pelosi.

    (And it’s okay to disagree with that criticism, too.)

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  38. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @James Joyner: I’m not a big poker player either, but my take is that turning a pat hand into a big pot is less a function of skill and more a function of luck. Slow playing your hand–by checking, only calling/resisting the temptation to raise, and such will only get you somewhere if other hands in the game are worth betting on. Especially in draw poker where there is only one round of bets before the showdown bets. Every so often, you can run into a guy who will try to steal the pot with a bluff, but that doesn’t happen in real life as much as it does in movies and poker tournaments on TeeVee. In a recreational game where I won 39 million in play money on-line there was a guy still in the pool betting high card 6 in his hand, but mostly I beat full houses and straights (I filled a straight flush on that hand, maybe Royal, I can’t remember).

    But overall, Kathy is right. If you’re dealt 4 aces and you go in big, normally the rest will fold. In Speaker Pelosi’s game, Trump didn’t even have a pair (no “short fingers” or other puns intended) and still went in big. That makes a big win much easier. But she still could have lost because this is politics, not poker.

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  39. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I know that you think that you understand what I said. What you don’t realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

    A common problem in communication. Made more so by the insistence by the writer that the reader doesn’t control the decoding and must “read” what the writer “believes” he wrote.

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  40. MarkedMan says:

    Is Pelosi getting too much credit for the win? Sure. And next month something will go wrong and she’ll get too much of the blame. It’s the nature of being Speaker.

    But I think you are underestimating the skill and steel of the Democratic Leadership, starting with Pelosi, but extending out to her leadership team, and Schumer and his, as well as the general Dem leadership. If I remember correctly, you teach at a Military School so you are probably more aware than me that the graveyards are full of generals who started out with the upper hand and managed to blow it. Here are some things Pelosi and the Dems did right:

    1) She recognized that Trump thought he was playing poker and all he had was the bluff. But she understood it was more like a military campaign and in order to benefit from her advantages she had to keep skittish officers from jumping the gun or getting the willies, keep new recruits from panicking, keep the supply lines open, understand which sources of information were reliable and what their biases were, and keep the civilians (i.e. the “very serious” press) in line.

    2) She kept her damn mouth shut. Not that she didn’t talk, but she didn’t go off message. A good example was the state of the Union. From what I understand word got back to the Dems just how much Trump was putting into this. He was going to storm into the capital and lecture her and Schumer and everyone else, go right over their heads while they just had to sit in the background while he demeaned and insulted him, and everyone would see him as righteous and powerful. So she waited while his glee in what he thought he would do to her rose to a fever pitch… and then took it away. But she did so respectfully and gave him a fig leaf. She was “requesting” due to “security”. He couldn’t win, but she gave him the out anyway. But I’m pretty sure she knew Trump was too stupid to see what was happening, and she was right. Once he was defeated the smart play would have been to concede that settling the shutdown was the most important thing and he was in total agreement, yada yada yada. I’m sure there were any number of seasoned pols on all sides that recognized what an incredibly moronic flail he went through before he finally conceded he couldn’t force the issue. Pols know, more than the rest of us, of the hazards of allowing yourself to be put into a situation where you look weak, or petty, or clueless. They recognized that Trump had done an own goal and allowed all three. For those who understood what happened (i.e. not the Tea Partiers) it demoralized the Repubs and energized the Dems, and revealed to all that Trump was far, far from the master negotiator he played on reality TV and in bankruptcy court.

    3) She kept the “very serious” press in line. There is no small number of talking heads that make their living pointing out that “half the baby is a reasonable offer”. You could tell that the Dem leadership had someone talking them off the ledge over and over.

    4) This one I have no proof for. But Pelosi and Schumer and McConnell kept their comments 100% focused on the “Trump Shutdown”. McConnell literally said, more than once, that this was between the Dems and the President. I believe they cut a deal with McConnell that they wouldn’t go after the obvious (the Republicans had to override the President’s veto) because it would ultimately benefit them (and us) more if they destroyed the President’s power. If the Repubs had overridden, Trump would be out there tomorrow railing against the traitors. Instead, they waited him out. No one from the Republican leadership (well, except for Tea Party morons) were out there pitching for him. Instead he had Wilber Ross and Jared Kushner and Lara Trump. Even Mnuchin managed to put his foot in it. Trump had broken his word and so McConnell cut him off, letting him sink or swim on his own. If I’m right about Pelosi’s and Schumer’s tacit agreement to go along with this, then they deserve the frickin’ Nobel Peace Prize for that alone.

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  41. Thomas Hilton says:

    So, what is Pelosi being given so much credit for accomplishing? Holding the caucus together.

    Oh, is that all. Well, then.

    I think anyone who looks at the nature of the Democratic coalition, and at the track record of other Speakers over the last few decades, would have to conclude that holding the caucus together is a spectacular achievement in its own right.

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  42. Barry says:

    @grumpy realist: Cool it. James is not misogynistic.

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  43. An Interested Party says:

    I think, too, this is especially salient after a) the Reps tried to run against Pelosi, and b) some of the young Dem upstarts wanted a fresh face as Speaker.

    I think this is one of the key reasons why Pelosi is getting “too much” credit…just a short time ago the narrative was that she was too old and the Democratic leadership needed some new blood…but she proved what an advantage having someone with experience at the helm can be…it’s funny how some people prize experience in just about every field except politics (where it’s considered a negative thing)…

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  44. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    Sorry for the delay. I’ve been away from a keyboard most of the day.

    The analogy ins’t exact, but ti’s close. Four aces can only be beaten by a straight flush, there are a number of possible straight flushes. Pelosi had the advantage that Trump owned the shut down before it began, and the further advantage that Dennison offered nothing for weeks and wouldn’t even settle for less money.

    The second point is relevant, because a genuine offer by Trump could have broken Democratic solidarity. Say if he’d offered a permanent DACA fix (I know that would have been shut down by the GOP, but I’m using it only as an example).

    Anyway, while the polls indicated Trump was the party most blamed by the public, the Democrats were second, Had the shut down gone on longer, the roles may have shifted. All fo that counts.

    Lastly, I was reminded of a quotation of uncertain provenance: “Victory has a thousand fathers. Defeat is an orphan.” Pelosi deserve credit for the win, because if she had lost she would have been stuck with the blame for the loss. Not sole credit, we agree on that, but a great deal.

    In the coming years, the Democrats will inevitably lose some battles. We’ll see how the blame is apportioned then.

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  45. Kylopod says:

    @Blue Galangal:

    Not only that, but if Ryan and Boehner were so effective (particularly Ryan), why wasn’t ACA overturned?

    A few things to keep in mind: (1) Boehner’s tenure was entirely under Obama, when there was very little chance of overturning the ACA. (2) Ryan did successfully get an ACA repeal bill passed in the House. It was in the Senate where it failed–again and again and again.

    But there’s a larger point here that’s important to keep in mind when comparing/contrasting Republican and Democratic leadership: Republicans are the ones pushing a deeply unpopular agenda that will be politically damaging to them if it’s passed. Of course it’s also damaging to them if it fails to pass–so they’re in a quandary as long as they stick to that agenda. I don’t think the most brilliant tactical mastermind in the world would have been more successful than Boehner or Ryan at the role they were given. Indeed, that’s why Republicans had such a hard time finding a replacement for Boehner when he stepped down: no one wanted the job. Ryan was ultimately pulled into it because at the time he had a reputation as a master politician, and there was much commentary about how he was uniquely suited to the task. Of course he always got far better press than he deserved, and as Paul Krugman had documented for years his supposed serious wonkery was a sham. But the fact remains that anyone who stepped into the role of Republican Speaker was going to leave with their reputation in tatters, because it was by its nature a job with impossible parameters.

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