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Bacolod City, Philippines Tuesday, January 29, 2019
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with Eli F.J. Tajanlangit

Trump out-Trumped

Rock & Refuge

Finally, the ultimate dealmaker blinked and bowed down to the demands of those sitting across him on the table.

US President Donald Trump made light of it, but no one laughed. After playing hard-ball for over a month, his will was finally broken and he had to accede to the Democrats on the issue of the border wall and the government shutdown. Almost two months ago, he had, with all the drama he could muster, publicly and smugly announced he will risk a shutdown unless the Democrats give him the $6-billion for the border wall.

The Democrats who now control the Lower House refused and thus began the longest government shutdown ever in the US. Neither side blinked. The Dems told him: open the government first and we’ll negotiate. Trump hit back: give me the $6-billion and we’ll talk.

No one budged. Meanwhile, the shutdown effects were starting to be felt by federal workers as the budgets of government agencies ran out.

One by one, the budgets of the agencies ran out and their workers felt not just the pinch, but the panic and anxiety as problems piled up. With most of them living from paycheck to paycheck, it wasn’t hard to imagine many of them going hungry. The problem got so bad that feeding operations had to be mounted by civic groups, parishes and even neighborhoods.

Through it all, Trump did not budge. His wall or the shutdown continues.

The Democrats, too, stood their ground. No deal.

And then things started to turn against Trump. In an unprecedented and thoroughly unexpected move, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi “disinvited” [that, now, is the political word of the month] Trump from giving the State of the Nation Address while the government was shut down. Stumped, the White House said Trump will deliver it in some other place, perhaps a rally. Then they discarded the idea.

Just as Trump seemed to have accepted the idea that he will have to let go of his SONA even if it would have been a chance for him to campaign for his re-election as his predecessors have done, the shutdown effects turned for the worse.

Many important government services were no longer available, but it was the slowdown of airport operations that made everybody sit up: this shutdown is for real, this affects not just our lifestyles but also our future and the country’s reputation abroad.Flight recorders and other airport workers started staying home because they haven’t received their salaries for a long time now. Without them, America’s airports were deemed unsafe and aviation accidents were likely.

It was at this point when Trump blinked. Trump the Bully who almost always got what he wanted one way or another was out-Trumped.

What is even more humiliating for him, given the way he thinks, is the fact that it was a diminutive woman, Pelosi, who made him buckle down.

Properly chastened by this turn of events, things will never be the same for Trump. In fact, the way he handled the wall funding issue can be a portent of things to come. Starting out a very strong President with both Houses controlled by his own party, he now has to contend with Democrats. The talk is that a long list of congessional investigations is waiting and people believe this will break him down, politically and personally. How , for example, can a bully like him take being made to sit in front of inquiring congressmen? How dare these political midgets take on the most powerful man in the world and the best American President in history! And yet, the truth is, Trump is inevitably going that way.

Still, the shutdown, which was all of his making, was just one of the problems that make this season such an perilous time for Trump. Another of his close aide, has been indicted in the Russia probe. Roger Clark was the latest of his inner circle to be indicted following Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. What secrets will Clark spill, especially since he has indicated he might cooperate with the Mueller committee?

Indeed, these are dangerous times for Trump. From all indications, the Mueller, probe as he had feared, is now apparently closing on him.

These two issues, the border wall and what he is doing for it, and the Mueller Probe and what it knows will determine the shape –- or fate -- of his Presidencyin the coming days.*

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