Watching live, we could barely believe our eyes: America’s Unreality TV Show – performed before a live video-streaming audience, on a world stage formerly known as the Oval Office – had reached its climactic moment.
We had seen America’s Commander-in-Chief delivering a torrent of ultimatums: Demanding his huge Border Wall. Withholding a month of paychecks for 800,000 patriotic workers, held hostage because he didn’t get his Wall. Demanding an invitation to give his State of the Union address to a Congress that would applaud him.
And then, with his booming demands still echoing, we saw America’s Commander-in-Chief make his triumphant dramatic exit: Flinging open a door – storming out – and slamming it behind him! BAM!
But there was no thunderous ovation, just stunned silence –because we knew something our Commander-in-Chief clearly didn’t: President Donald Trump had triumphantly stormed through the door and into a dark closet! THUNK!
Now he knew.
Standing there in the darkness, Trump finally could see the big picture of what he had done to his presidency: He had mucked it up, bigtime (perhaps for all-time).
He had virtually invited House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to disinvite him. So she did. She told him he can’t make his State of the Union speech until America is once again a functioning union - until he has freed his hostages, paid them what he owned them, and showed that the government he heads was finally governing again.
His sudden circumstance of clarifying, closeted darkness, allowed even Trump’s mind’s eye to see for the first time the truths that were told in all those polls he’d been refusing to look at: His public opinion ratings were plummeting; so were those of his no-longer Grand Old Party.
Americans had figured out that his demand for a massive wall all along the Mexican border just wasn’t worth shutting down our government. Also, Americans had seen how horribly cruel Trump’s government shutdown had been to the millions of patriotic families whose paychecks he had blocked.
Americans had been warned by every respected national security figure (from both parties and no party at all) that America’s skies and borders were in grave peril due to Trump’s shutdown, and that the next news break could be about a massive, deadly tragedy.
Trump had come down his Tower escalator trumpeting campaign-announcement exaggerations about a Mexican border crisis threatening America’s security – and finally, his thoughtless egocentric shutdown made it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
But now, the guy who had chosen the wrong door – and Trumped his triumphant exit by storming into a dark closet – clearly saw the ultimate and inescapable reality: He had stormed himself out of face-saving options, so he settled for a posterior-preserving ploy.
On Friday afternoon, Trump reappeared in our favorite Unreality TV spotlight – in the Rose Garden (it’s one of the perks that’s included in his public housing) with shoulders squared, hoping to convey as much artificial dignity he could muster.
And so he did. On Friday afternoon, Trump strode before the cameras in his Rose Garden and announced he was ending the government shutdown (yes, the same shutdown he had bragged, just a few weeks ago, he’d be proud to own).
Also, he said all those patriotic workers, the ones he had held hostage and penniless for a month, would be getting their back pay, pronto!
But Trump make clear that his good deed had an expiration date just three weeks away; then, he made clear, he'll be back to another shutdown or inventing and declaring some sort of Congress-evading emergency.
And in a mondo-bizarro moment, Trump’s claque of Cabinet toadies and staff apparatchiks erupted in applause, a bit of theatric cover for their leader’s self-inflicted defeat.
Meanwhile, in the parlance of our president’s former glittering property in Atlantic City, don’t rush to place your bets.
There’s no smart money (or over/under money) being waged in Washington or Las Vegas on how many months federal government employees will be receiving their wages for working on the Trump plantation.
But here’s the good news: So far, I haven’t come across any respected Republicans who are willing to allow themselves to be rolled, yet again –to be conned, hogtied and trapped into another shutdown by their Ultimate Leader, who is once again performing live from the Oval Office, in the next episode of Unreality TV.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Reach him by email at email@example.com.