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Is Anyone Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf of Pennsylvania Avenue Anymore?

It’s safe to say Washington, D.C., is badly broken. Congress is supposed to be writing, debating and passing federal laws, policies and taxes. The president has the option to veto congressional measures or sign them into law and implement them as written. Instead, we have the absolute spectacle of an out-of-control president stomping around issuing threats and trying to bully congressional leaders over funding for his widely opposed border wall. But unlike his success with those tactics in his first two years with a Republican-dominated Congress, as we just saw when President Trump folded on his wall-funding demand, almost no one is now afraid of the big, bad wolf in the White House.

Apparently unaware of the meaning of “separate but equal” in regard to our nation’s government, Trump decided to threaten Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi with giving his State of the Union address in the House chambers with or without her permission. Speaker Pelosi — not “Nancy,” as Trump disrespectfully addresses her — had cancelled the president’s speech to Congress while the government remained shuttered.

Pelosi said she was concerned about security due to the shutdown, which Trump initiated to try and force Congress to give him $5.7 billion for a wall on the southern border.

Considering the president, virtually all of Congress, the Supreme Court justices, and other high-ranking government officials would all be in one place at one time, her concerns for their security certainly had merit.

Pelosi assured the president the address could take place once the shutdown was over, but that didn’t suit the big, bad wolf so he huffed and puffed and threatened to enter the House chambers regardless of whether he was invited to do so by Congress or not.

But that’s not how it works. Presidents must be invited by a concurrent resolution of the House and Senate to address Congress — which makes sense since otherwise a president could interfere with congressional business whenever he or she desired. And Pelosi, being Speaker of the House, controls the new Democratic majority and hence, determines whether any such resolution is passed.

Apparently someone informed Trump that he couldn’t just blow down the doors to the House, presumably telling him he would be turned away by the Sergeant at Arms and the spectacle would go out live on national media. Facing humiliation, Trump folded on his speech — and then folded on the wall.

But Speaker Pelosi is not the only one who isn’t afraid of the big, bad wolf. Six Republican senators split with Trump’s demands and voted for the Democrat bill to end the shutdown on Thursday. Given their former temerity at riling their easily offended president, this was significant. Unfortunately Montana’s Sen. Steve Daines put party over country and stuck with Trump.

Nor is Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is conducting the investigation into Trump and his campaign’s numerous illegalities, cowed by presidential insults and threats. Early Friday morning the FBI, armored and armed, arrested Trump’s long-time confidant and campaign advisor, Roger Stone, at his Florida residence on charges of obstruction of justice, false statements and witness tampering. Stone is not the first and will not be the last of Trump’s associates and family members to be arrested.

Threats, lawsuits and intimidation are the lifelong modus operandi for Donald Trump. But those crude tools have little use — and even less respect — in the governance of democracies. And now that he’s folded on his demands for a wall, who’s afraid of the big, bad, blundering wolf in the White House? No one.

 

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George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

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