The Wall: A Trumpian Poker Match

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As at least 400,000 American government workers face their first Friday without a paycheck, it doesn't hurt to stop ourselves just for a moment and ask, "Are we doing this right?"  After all, this is a poker match being played by major characters leaving unpaid government workers as spectators to fend for themselves.  They don't even appear to have a voice.

President Donald J. Trump would have you believe that he doesn't really care about their "silly" problems, all he cares about it getting the southern border wall he promised his base even though it doesn't do anything that the people who favor it want it to do. (See this story about where criminals are tunneling under the walls.)

Weak Approach to the Poker Table

As a (former) poker player, I know a little something about bluffing.  I used to catch other players bluffing more often than most.  As it turns out, I was better at catching others in a bluff than I was bluffing myself.  Since I didn't like to bluff much, other players at the table assumed it would be easy to bluff me.  That said, you can't play Texas Hold'em regularly and expect to win without bluffing.

That is what Trump is trying to do with the wall.  He is trying to bluff his way into acceptance of "The Trump Wall."  Here's the problem - he has shown his hand, and we know it is a bad one.  The number one rule of bluffing is don't show your hand, even AFTER you have won with the bluff.  Trump has been bluffing his way through his presidency, and he clearly shows himself to be a horribly weak player in the game of politics.  There are just too many people out there to call him on everything he says - mostly the so-called "fake media" which, it turns out, and as we call all see, is clearly not fake.  They nearly always have the evidence to back up their claims.  (If I was sitting at a poker table with Trump and the media, I'd be more inclined to believe it was Trump who was bluffing.)

Listening to Entertainers

Clearly, Trump had gotten to a point that he didn't want to come to the table with the border wall issue.  He believed that it had become a non-starter; that he didn't have enough support from Americans to make it happen.  Then, the Sean Hannitys and the Ann Coulters of the conservative entertainment world warned Trump if he didn't keep fighting for the wall, he was going to lose his base.  Trump acquiesced and restarted the battle.

Because of this, Trump decided he needed to show his base he could stand up to those mean Democrats who didn't want to give the right its "big, beautiful wall."  However, he had one very big problem - he had already shown his hand.

No One Normal Likes the Wall

He has a lousy hand that experts far and wide, including the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) and other major nonpartisan organizations, have said:

A. is going to cost a lot more than $5.7 billion dollars,

B. is easy to breach,

C. won't stop the illegal immigration the way he says it will. (most illegal immigration is done by visa overstays)

Because of this, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who are playing as a team, clearly have a much better poker hand.  They already know what is in Donald Trump's hand.  Since they already know, they are basically letting Trump follow through with his bluff until the end of it.  The problem is, this isn't a poker game - it is simply "messing with real people's lives."

The Democrats know they have the better hand.  The real question is, do they want to keep raising and counter-raising until they get everything?  Or is there a little give?  Trump may be bluffing, but he is the one who controls whether workers can get back to work or not.

Trump is counting on Pelosi's and Schumer's sense of decency to finally end this dispute.  Trump, at the moment, is clearly showing that he doesn't care one iota about the workers, going so far as to lie about how many of them support him.  He thinks that Pelosi and Schumer do care enough that they will capitulate so the government workers don't get to the unenviable position of having to lose their houses.

Unfortunately, despite his bluff, I think he has the upper hand here.  Democrats do care more.

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1 Comment


  1. i hate the thought that #45’s bluffing will win out over us liberals who care about those not getting paycheck. would like to hear your comments though about mueller’s possible charges (see this speech of his: https://archives.fbi.gov/archives/news/speeches/the-evolving-organized-crime-threat )

    here’s a history professor’s take on mueller: From heather cox richardson
    Over the holiday, someone asked me to explain what is happening with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russian government’s attempt to interfere in the 2016 election. Perfect timing, because I stumbled across something a few weeks ago that frames the whole investigation nicely.
    In 2011, when Mueller was FBI Director, he gave a speech in New York. He explained that globalization and modern technology had changed the nature of organized crime. Rather than being regional networks with a clear structure, he said, organized crime had become international, fluid, sophisticated, and had stakes in the multi-billion dollar range. Its operators were cross-pollinating across countries, religions, and political affiliations, sharing only their greed. They did not care about ideology; they cared about money. They would do anything for a price.
    These criminal enterprises, he noted, were working to corner the market on oil, gas, and precious metals. And to do so, Mueller explained, they “may infiltrate our businesses. They may provide logistical support to hostile foreign powers. They may try to manipulate those at the highest levels of government. Indeed, these so-called ‘iron triangles’ of organized criminals, corrupt government officials, and business leaders pose a significant national security threat.”
    To combat that threat, Mueller said, the FBI had shifted focus “from a law-enforcement agency to a national security service that is threat-driven and intelligence-led.”
    It appears that various members of the 2016 GOP campaign were part of such an iron triangle.
    Donald Trump had sought Russian business since 1996, but his financial connections with Russians really took off in 2008, when wealthy Russians poured money into Trump’s US properties at a time when few others were interested in working with Trump. In September 2008, Don Jr. told a reporter: “Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets…. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia.” Trump pursued the idea of a Trump Tower in Moscow, and in 2013, took the Miss Universe pageant there.
    Then, in 2014, in response to Russian efforts to destabilize and absorb Ukraine, the US put sanctions on a number of Russian oligarchs close to Vladimir Putin, freezing their assets and denying them visas. (Interestingly, at the time, GOP congresspeople complained that President Obama did not hit Putin more harshly.)
    Now, it appears that Russia offered to help Trump get elected in 2016 in exchange for– among other things– an end to sanctions. And a Russian spy, Maria Butina, has recently admitted to infiltrating the NRA, which poured more than $400 million– an unprecedented sum– behind GOP candidates in the 2016 election.
    It is this iron triangle of business, government, and criminals that Mueller is chasing down. It is taking a huge amount of time as he and his staff look at money laundering, cyber-hacking, blackmail, and what is popularly (but not legally) known as treason. It seems to me that he is aiming not at any one person, but rather at a criminal organization that is attempting to destroy NATO and turn the world over to an international cabal of oligarchs.
    Mueller is spreading his evidence out in the court records he is filing, making it almost impossible for the president to stifle his discoveries, and he is spreading out cases amongst different agencies for similar reasons. And he is getting results. As of November, Mueller had indicted 33 people or entities, and 7 of them have pled guilty (5 were aides to Trump). There are also more than 3 dozen sealed indictments at the DC federal court, and it is likely that many, or most, or all, of them are related the Mueller investigation.
    Mueller is the man who took down the Gambino crime family when no one else could make anything stick. He is thorough and he is tough. Sadly, I expect his final conclusions are going to be shocking: it seems to me that we will discover that not simply administration officials, but also a number of congresspeople and prominent business leaders are part of that iron triangle of international criminality Mueller warned about back in 2011, when the rest of us were still naive.

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