As NewsBusters has reported, the media have cited their favorite Republicans in blaming the shutdown on conservative media stars. During Friday’s edition of The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer, the panel suggested that Ann Coulter (and Laura Ingraham) bear responsibility for the government shutdown because they dared to challenge the President’s “manhood.”
According to Correspondent Laura Jarrett, President Trump “has conservatives breathing down his neck about this wall. You have folks on the right...like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, saying, remember your promises, Mr. President. You promised this wall was going to get done.”
CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin took it a step further, arguing that Congress should be “checking with Ann Coulter because apparently, she’s President of the United States as far as this is concerned.” Taking a page out of Nancy Pelosi’s playbook, Toobin continued: “Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter started challenging the President’s manhood and the House Republicans started stamping their feet, and the President decided no, no, no, I’m going to scream and yell and shut down the government...I guess Ann Coulter has to figure out how all this is going to end because she's the person who is driving the Federal government at this point. God help us.”
Coulter appears to have become the media’s latest “villain” in Washington, D.C. Previously, the media had directed much of their fire at Rush Limbaugh, which he gloated about during his nationally syndicated talk show on Friday. Both Coulter and Limbaugh received honorable mentions in a CNN segment Saturday where Brian Stelter decried the “entertainment wing” of conservative media for convincing the President to support the “dangerous idea” of shutting down the government.
After Toobin finished taking shots at the President’s “manhood,” the rest of the panel expressed their disapproval of President Trump’s latest proposal for “steel slats” along the southern border. According to Former Obama administration official Sam Vinograd, “I feel like if the president Googled 'Middle Ages' and tweeted something out rather than consulting with actual security experts.” Toobin was equally dismissive of the President’s new proposal: “that looks like a set design from Game of Thrones.”
Based on the media’s coverage of the President’s demand for border wall money in exchange for keeping 25 percent of the government open, it would seem like they would cover him favorably if he caved to Democrats’ demands. However, then they would begin hounding him for breaking his campaign promise and declare his Presidency over. Oh, wait. They already have.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Friday’s edition of The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer is below. Click “expand” to read more.
The Situation Room With Wolf Blitzer
WOLF BLITZER: Let me show that tweet that the President just posted. And Jeffrey Toobin, I want you to look at this closely. You can see this, this picture that the President tweeted. And he says, “a design of our steel slat barrier, which is totally effective, while at the same time, beautiful.” That’s what the President is saying. You can see, you can see the steel slat barrier…that’s what he’s calling it now, he no longer calls it a wall.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: Yeah. Well, I mean, he’s, he’s trying to give a way for the Senate Democrats to change their position and say, oh, well, we’re against, we’re against a wall but we’re for a fence. I mean, I don’t think that those sort of semantic games will make much of a difference. But if I could just offer one word in defense of federal workers. You know, I was, I worked for the Justice Department. I was a federal worker. There are hundreds of thousands of people who will go, will be going without a paycheck and working for free for the next couple of weeks, if this thing closes down. And you know, it’s very easy to insult federal workers. But in my experience, they are terrific people, and it is totally unfair that they are being made pawns in this. Now, yes, they may get their money back later in a lump sum. But, you know, most people live paycheck to paycheck and it is simply outrageous that these people are hostages to the political game that’s going on.
BLITZER: And you make an excellent point. Let me put up a graphic and show our viewers some 800,000, if you add to the 420,000 who will be working without pay: law enforcement types, border patrol types, 420,000. They will have to work but they won’t get a paycheck, at least temporarily. And an additional 380,000, they’ll be placed on furlough, meaning they’re not working at all. They’re not going to be getting any paychecks. We’re talking about 25 percent of the federal government. You used to work for the federal government, Samantha. This is a real problem that the lawmakers have to deal with tonight, the President has to deal with tonight; especially on the eve of this Christmas season.
SAMANTHA VINOGRAD: Well, Wolf, that’s why this whole notion of shutting down the government in the name of security is actually so hypocritical. If we lose 380,000 U.S. government employees, we’re literally entering the Christmas season, which is a high-risk season anyway, with a handicap. What other government in the world is losing 380,000 members of its staff and still hoping to project power and to keep its country safe? And keep in mind, those 380,000 workers are deemed nonessential. Well, every U.S. government employee or almost every U.S. government employee, I’ll leave some at the White House aside, are essential to keeping our nation safe, keeping our economy strong and keeping the engines running. We will be entering a high-risk season at a handicap, and that does not…should not make any of us feel good from a security perspective.
BLITZER: And there’s a lot of other ramifications that we’re talking about. People, you know, Laura, don’t necessarily appreciate how significant a government shutdown, especially if it lasts more than 24 hours, could be to the overall U.S. economy, as well.
LAURA JARRETT: Absolutely. But from a political perspective, I think Donald Trump knows that if this shutdown fight continues into January, he is in a tough spot politically with Nancy Pelosi. She has made it clear, I think, that the border wall is a non-starter. I think Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi have been pretty strong on this. I don’t think that they’re going to go for this messaging redux with the fence and the slats that the President tweeted out. And so, where does it put him if this continues on? On the other hand, he has conservatives breathing down his neck about this wall. You have folks like…on the right like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham saying remember your promises, Mr. President. You promised this wall was going to get done. And as you, Wolf, have pointed out all week, Mexico was supposed to pay for it.
BLITZER: Well, they’re not paying for it.
TOOBIN: How’s that, though?
BLITZER: The former government and the current government, they both say they’re not going to pay for it. There is a delegation up on the Hill, David Chalian, right now. The Vice President Mike Pence, Mick Mulvaney, Acting White House Chief of Staff…that’s the title he wants…Jared Kushner, the Senior Adviser to the President. They’re talking… they’re making statements, but what’s uncertain right now is where exactly the President stands.
CHALIAN: Well, and I want to just underline how key this is. This is not Vice President Mike Pence’s first time to the Hill this week to communicate a message. He did so earlier in the week when he met with Senate Republicans and gave the clear indication that the President of the United States was totally prepared to sign the clean continuing resolution that would fund the government to February 8th as-is, and live to fight another day on the wall. And then, yesterday morning, of course, the President completely flipped because of all of the pressure that Laura just described. So, Mike Pence, even though he is the Vice President, is not necessarily the most reliable messenger because this President can change on a dime.
BLITZER: And Republicans are complaining, Jeffrey, that they can’t figure out exactly where the President stands. They meet with him. They hear what he’s saying. But he’s not telling them, I’m going to sign this, but I’m not going to sign that.
TOOBIN: Well, what they should be doing, obviously, is checking with Ann Coulter. Because apparently, she’s the President of the United States, as far as this is concerned. I mean, this was a deal. This deal was agreed to. Mitch McConnell, who is nobody’s idea of a flaming liberal. Paul Ryan…everybody thought this deal was done. And you know what? The President lost on the wall, because he didn’t have the votes. But then, you know…Laura Ingraham and Ann Coulter started challenging the President’s manhood and the, the House Republicans started stamping their feet, and the President decided, no, no, no, I’m going to scream and yell and shut down the government, even though I still don’t have the votes. So, I mean, I guess Ann Coulter has to figure out how this is all going to end, because she’s the person who is driving the federal government at this point. God help us.
BLITZER: You know, it’s interesting, Samantha, because you’ve spent a lot of time in the Middle East. You understand walls that work, walls that don’t work. Let me put that tweet that the President just posted, what he says, the steel slat barrier. There you see the steel fence in effect that the President wants to build. But you know how individuals, if they want to get into the United States from Mexico, get around a fence…a steel slat barrier like this?
VINOGRAD: Well, first of all, there are spikes at the top of this fence. I feel like if the President Googled middle ages and tweeted something out rather than consulting with actual security experts, or architects about what could work in this kind of scenario, I was in Ramallah and I saw the wall in the Palestinian territories between the Palestinian territories and Israel. Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly spoke with the President earlier this week and said build a wall, it will help. Well, guess what terrorists and other illegal immigrants in the Middle East do? They build tunnels under walls. Those spikes don’t deter that kind of activity. And I just want to point out, the President’s own State Department doesn’t even think that this wall or steel slats is going to solve the problem of illegal immigration. On Monday, they issued a whole strategy for combating illegal immigration that has nothing to do with the wall and some of those very same employees will be furloughed if this government is shut down.
BLITZER: Because Israel does have a significant barrier along its border with Gaza. I’ve been there. I was there during the war in 2014. I also saw the tunnels that were built underneath these kinds of fences, the barriers and it enabled…the people from Gaza, Palestinians from Gaza to get into Israel through those tunnels, and it’s happening right now along the border with Lebanon.
CHALIAN: You know who else thinks that this is not the most effective way to accomplish this goal? The new Acting Chief of Staff, Mick Mulvaney, who’s up on the Hill trying to negotiate here. You know earlier, CNN reported, he made some comments back in 2015…
BLITZER: Well, I happen to have, I happen to have that comment. This is Mick Mulvaney, the so-called Acting White House Chief of Staff, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, back on August 25th, 2015. He said in a radio interview, this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY: The fence is an easy thing to sell politically. It’s an easy thing for a…someone who doesn’t follow the issue very closely to say, oh, well, that will just solve everything, build a fence. The fence doesn’t solve the problem. To just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and almost childish for someone running for President to take that simplistic a view. And, by the way, the bottom line is the fence doesn’t stop anybody who really wants to get across. You go under, you go around, you go through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You go up and you go down, you go through. This is…Jeffrey, go ahead.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, people come in on tourist visas, too. I mean, you know, a lot of, a lot of the immigration problem is not, you know, people sneaking across the border, it’s overstay, it’s overstaying visas. You know, if the President wants to…you know, that looks like a set design from “Game of Thrones” and if he thinks that’s going to persuade people that, you know…to persuade Democrats that, oh, the problem is solved because they have a scary-looking fence instead of a wall. I mean, it just underlines how preposterous this is. You know, we don’t have our public officials, our elected officials design security barriers. We actually have experts on that. And we don’t shut down the government of the United States of America over issues like this. You know, you compromise. People…you know, that’s how government is supposed to work. And the idea that this picture is going to change the story is about as absurd as anything that has come forward in this whole debate.
BLITZER: David, this, a sound bite from 2015 and Mick Mulvaney isn’t the only that sound bite that has emerged over the past few days that is irritating the President of the United States, comments that he has made.
CHALIAN: Yeah. No, we learned over the last weekend…again, very critical comments that Mick Mulvaney made about then-Candidate Trump, who he clearly was not supportive of. The response from the…
BLITZER: Calling him a terrible human being.
CHALIAN: A terrible human being. The response from the Mulvaney team in the White House, of course is he hadn’t met the President at that point, he didn’t know the President. And now, and now, he does, which is an odd kind of explanation. I’m not sure how long Mick Mulvaney will remain Acting Chief of Staff, as stories like this come out. I mean, the K-file, our colleagues, did a tremendous job digging this comment up. I will just note, Wolf, while we’re sitting here, they are still huddled on the floor. This…what is happening right now in the United States Senate, to me, seems like they’re trying to fly a plane without a flight path right now. There doesn’t seem to be a clear path forward. This vote is still held open from 12:30 this afternoon, awaiting Senators to fly back across the country in what is not at all clear they have the votes to actually move forward. And there is no indication yet, even though this team from the White House came up there, that there is an actual plan here to move forward and avert a shutdown tonight.