President Trump’s speech to the nation Tuesday was short, his delivery was bland, and he didn’t really say anything he hadn’t said before in defense of his Mexican border wall. It certainly didn’t seem likely to change the debate over the government shutdown, given how the Democrats responded.
Even Trump apparently knew how pointless this whole exercise was. The New York Times’s Peter Baker, chronicler of presidents, dropped this gem into an article not long after Trump finished talking: The president didn’t even want to give that speech.
Privately, Mr. Trump dismissed his own new strategy as pointless. In an off-the-record lunch with television anchors hours before the address, he made clear in blunt terms that he was not inclined to give the speech or go to Texas, but was talked into it by advisers, according to two people briefed on the discussion who asked not to be identified sharing details.
“It’s not going to change a damn thing, but I’m still doing it,” Mr. Trump said of the trip to the border, according to one of the people, who was in the room. The border trip was just a photo opportunity, he said. “But,” he added, gesturing at his communications aides, Bill Shine, Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kellyanne Conway, “these people behind you say it’s worth it.”
But the trip to the border is still on, as of Tuesday night. First, Democratic and Republican leaders are heading to the White House on Wednesday for yet another meeting about how to end the shutdown. The impasse is in its third week, with hundreds of thousands of federal workers about to miss their paychecks in the coming days.