Much of the news coverage of the government shutdown has implicitly communicated an argument: Yes, President Trump may bear the blame for starting it, but Democrats have a responsibility to rescue him from his blunder. And since Trump’s need to collect a “win” from the shutdown is taken as a given, Democrats must therefore contemplate what they are willing to give up in order to reopen the government.
Numerous Republicans have been making this argument explicitly, and at least some non-Republicans have joined in. The Washington Post editorial board and one of its columnists, Joe Davidson, both argue that Democrats must think of the greater good and the humanitarian damage from the shutdown and give Trump something so he agrees to end it.
The premise underlying this calculation is that Trump wandered into the shutdown purely by accident, and that only sheer pride prevents him from backing down. There is certainly some truth to this. Almost the entire congressional party, and large chunks of the Trump administration itself, considers Trump’s shutdown a mindless, self-inflicted wound.
Jonathan Swan reported last week that Trump unnerves his advisers by repeatedly quoting Mike Tyson’s axiom, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” Traditionally this line is used to underscore the importance of designing a plan that is robust enough to account for adversity. Trump reportedly takes it as conclusive proof that strategic planning is useless in every situation. Indeed, the entire idea of planning seems to irritate him. “He gets frustrated when there is a plan,” an adviser tells Swan. “He’s not a guy who likes a plan. … There’s an animosity towards planning, and there’s a desire to pick fights that have nothing to do with us.”