Marooned in the White House on a gray Christmas Eve, unable to fly off to his beach resort in Florida to play golf, President Trump unleashed a morose tweet Monday bemoaning his fate in the world’s most famous gilded prison.
“I am all alone (poor me) in the White House waiting for the Democrats to come back and make a deal on desperately needed Border Security,” he began.
It was the tweet that launched a thousand memes — including a rapidly unearthed cameo by Trump in the 1992 film “Home Alone 2,” in which the real estate mogul briefly encounters Macaulay Culkin’s character, Kevin McCallister, at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
Other online responses traded on Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” especially when the uncaring miser Ebenezer Scrooge is shown the error of his ways. More than a few commentators suggested that if Trump were feeling lonely, he could visit U.S. troops in a war zone, a trip he has yet to make.
The president won’t be alone on Christmas Day. The first lady flew back to Washington from Mar-a-Lago, the Florida beachfront resort where Trump had planned to spend a 16-day holiday.
In the meantime, in a dozen tweets, he praised the autocratic regime in Saudi Arabia, lashed out at his outgoing Pentagon chief, said he hoped to meet North Korea’s dictator again, slammed the Federal Reserve as “the only problem” in the U.S. economy and blamed Democrats for the partial government shutdown that he said last week he would be “proud” to cause.
On Friday, Trump rejected a bipartisan stopgap funding bill to keep the government open. That forced a shutdown early Saturday, paralyzing about a fourth of the federal government and forcing about 800,000 federal workers to go without pay over the holidays. It is the third partial shutdown of 2018.
At issue is Trump’s demand for a $5-billion down payment to extend existing walls and fences along the border with Mexico and Democrats’ refusal to pay more than $1.3 billion for a mix of border security measures.
No resolution in the impasse is likely before Thursday at the earliest, and possibly not before the new year next week. Negotiations appeared at a standstill, and congressional leaders left Washington for the holiday.
Some effects were small but symbolic, including the darkening of the national Christmas tree over the weekend. It was, however, lighted on Christmas Eve.
Trump renounced any notion of culpability for the shutdown, summoning his Homeland Security secretary, Kirstjen Nielsen, for a meeting Monday on border security.
“Virtually every Democrat we are dealing with today strongly supported a Border Wall or Fence,” he tweeted beforehand. “It was only when I made it an important part of my campaign…that they turned against it.”
Democratic leaders blamed Trump, saying negotiations have been impossible because it’s never clear where the president stands.
“It’s Christmas Eve and @realDonaldTrump is plunging the country into chaos,” Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who will become House Speaker next week due to Democratic gains in the November midterm election, said in a joint statement with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the Senate minority leader.
“Instead of bringing certainty into people’s lives, he’s continuing the Trump Shutdown just to please right-wing radio and TV hosts,” they said. “The president wanted the shutdown, but he seems not to know how to get himself out of it.”
Trump’s tweets included a photo of him peering at a piece of paper at his Oval Office desk while two aides — and a portrait of President Lincoln — look on.
“Christmas Eve briefing with my team working on North Korea – Progress being made. Looking forward to my next summit with Chairman Kim!” he wrote of the photo.
By all accounts, the nuclear talks with North Korea have broken down. Despite Trump’s claims after he met leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore last June that Pyongyang had committed to give up its nuclear weapons, the country’s official news media said Thursday that it would do so only if the United States “completely eliminated” its own nuclear threat.
Trump’s blizzard of Christmas Eve tweets ranged from self-congratulatory to self-pitying in a now-familiar dynamic for a president who tends to claim either victory — or victimhood.
In some, he tried to reassure his supporters — and perhaps himself — to ignore the waves of criticism that followed his abrupt decision to withdraw all U.S. troops from Syria, blindsiding allies and lawmakers and persuading his secretary of Defense to quit in protest.
“AMERICA IS RESPECTED AGAIN!” he tweeted.
A nosedive in the stock market — it fell an additional 653 points on a shortened trading day Monday for its worst Christmas Eve ever — has been a particular sore point for Trump, who long claimed credit for the 10-year bull market that crested in October.
Apparently thinking of the golf he isn’t playing, Trump tweeted that the Fed — the nation’s complex central banking system, created to control monetary policy — “is like a powerful golfer who can’t score because he has no touch — he can’t putt!”
The president’s attacks are seen as a threat to the Fed’s traditional independence in assessing economic data and setting interest rates. He has personally castigated the Fed chairman, Jerome H. Powell, over the decision to raise its key short-term rate four times this year.
Trump apparently also was still smarting from Defense Secretary James N. Mattis’ scathing resignation letter last week. The retired four-star Marine general all but accused the president of endangering U.S. security by undermining military alliances and abandoning allies.
On Saturday, Trump dispatched his secretary of State, Michael R. Pompeo, to tell Mattis that he couldn’t quit on Feb. 28, as he planned, because he’s being fired Jan. 1.
Mattis had offered to stay two more months to provide a “smooth transition” to a successor and to attend a NATO defense ministers’ meeting in Europe, where Trump is widely distrusted.
After several prominent lawmakers endorsed Mattis’ call for bolstering military alliances like NATO, Trump complained Monday about “those few Senators who think I don’t like or appreciate being allied with other countries.”
“They are wrong, I DO,” he tweeted. “What I don’t like, however, is when many of these same countries take advantage of their friendship with the United States” in military affairs and trade.
“General Mattis did not see this as a problem. I DO, and it is being fixed!” he added.