First Rule of Politics: Count the Votes

New Orleans    The problem when businessmen go into politics is learning that it is more important to be able to count the votes than just the dollars in your bank account. You can buy a lot in politics, but not everything, because office holders really, really want to hold onto their day jobs, not just your job. When it comes to Congress, there are no term limits, so many of them know they will be in office long after whoever is in the White House comes and goes.

President Trump has handled the learning curve so poorly and at such dangerous speed that he has gone over the cliff now because of his inability to focus on the need to be able to count the votes. In the Senate there is a 53 to 47 edge held by the Republicans over the Democrats, yet somehow with his proposal for $5.7 billion to fund his wall, come hell or high water, he could only muster a vote of 50 to 47 in the Senate, and that included one Democratic crossover from West Virginia. On the Democrats failing motion, they got more votes, 52 to 44, picking up six Republicans who want the government to open and oppose the shutdown.

Now it’s easier to understand Republican Senate Majority Leader’s strange silence for almost a month into the partial government shutdown. He knew he didn’t have the votes for the wall all along! He likely had told the President that before this disaster. Tactically, he was trying to claim that he was ready to bring something forward, “when it had the votes,” but said over and over that he wasn’t going to bring something up just to waste time that either the House wouldn’t approve or the President wouldn’t sign. He’s just let the President twist in the wind, frothing at the mouth to his base, and acting the fool, and waiting until the time was right to teach a lesson to him, even if subtle, and painful to federal employees and the public.

Worse, Trump now finds himself in the worst possible position for any negotiation. He’s stuck “bargaining with himself.” As a term of art, that entails being forced to concede demands made without any compromise on the other side. We saw that with his threat and his attempt to give the State of the Union address to the House of Representatives. There’s a new sheriff in town. With Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, she shut the door on his foot, and forced him to back away. Now, it is proven that he doesn’t have nearly enough votes for his wall.

In negotiating with himself, he’s now saying he wants the billion offered for border security by the Democrats in the House before the Senate vote to be a “down payment” on the wall. That’s not happening, captain!

Senate McConnell needs to whisper louder in his ear, so he really hears it this time. You don’t have the votes. You better start claiming you want border security, so we can all make a deal and get back to work, because your wall just came tumbling down.

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Ask El Chapo About the Wall

New Orleans   There seems little question that El Chapo, also known as Joaquin Guzman Loera, the infamous Mexican drug lord and leader of the Sinaloa cartel, would have to be classified in President Trump’s words as a “bad hombre.” He is alleged to have ordered the killing of thousands in Mexico’s bloody drug wars of recent years, but he is perhaps more famous in the United States as a serial prison escapee having broken out twice from high-security prison facilities in Mexico, once in a laundry cart and then again after he was recaptured his gang members were able to dig a tunnel a mile long that ended up in the shower of his prison cell to bust him loose. After his last capture, he was extradited to the US and has more recently been calling home, a 17 by 18 foot prison cell in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan which is also know as 10 South, where he is held in solitary for about 23 hours per day.

El Chapo is not a happy camper wearing an “I Love New York” button these days. A report in the New York Times says he has had his public defenders file numerous petitions with the court demanding reforms in his imprisonment. As a putative prison reformer, he has asked that Amnesty International investigate conditions in the prison, which unsurprisingly prosecutors have resisted in their pleadings. He has complained about the quality of the tap water, which might be a comment on the New York City infrastructure, in his request for bottled water. He also has raised a beef about the inability in the exercise area to see the television because it is placed at a bad angle to the stationary bike and the treadmill preventing a twofer experience in his break from solitary.

Perhaps El Chapo does have a small contribution to make as an adviser of sorts to the President about the construction of the wall between Mexico and the United States. He does have a research staff it turns out. Lawyers and others visit with him 21-hours per week preparing his defense. Undoubtedly, his ability to dedicate this kind of time would exceed the time that President Trump has really spent thinking about the problem of the wall from financing to security.

In the “Ask El Chapo” prison news column, if prisoners were allowed such, it’s easy to imagine the questions that might come flying about the wall. Would a wall be enough to keep anyone out who wanted to come to El Norte or is the wall just a giant construction and employment project, sort of a big real estate deal which Trump would understand best? Would the wall be able to stop this whole tunneling thing? What should we do about the hundreds and hundreds of miles of gaps that the generals running Homeland Security think would still exist along the border, would this be a deterrence for El Chapo and his crew or anyone else? El Chapo clearly knows a lot about getting out, maybe the White House needs to take advantage of his free time now to ask him more questions about getting “in?” All of his years of moving drugs across the border could help make El Chapo the Answer Man for the President about whether or not this is wall is worth the $60 billion or so that some experts are estimating it would cost. Maybe some hard facts from El Chapo might convince President Trump that this whole wall thing is just a waste of time and money.

El Chapo is now a New Yorker, just like the President, and god knows he probably is a gazillionaire as well, if he could get his hands on his stash, and certainly his tax returns are as unavailable and invisible as the President’s as well. El Chapo seems just the kind of guy who Trump would be able to identify with so that they could have a heart-to-heart about the wall and really make some sense of this nonsense. Let’s “Ask El Chapo!”

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