Trump’s dealmaker image tarnished by US government shutdown

File phot of United States Congress. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Trump’s dealmaker image tarnished by US government shutdown

WASHINGTON: For President Donald Trump, this weekend was supposed to be a celebration.
On the first anniversary of his presidency on Saturday, with the stock market roaring and his poll ratings finally rising, he had planned to rest at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, feted by friends and admirers.
Instead, Trump stayed in Washington, bogged down in yet another crisis in his short presidency after he was unable to avert a government shutdown.
His failure to win passage by the US Congress of a stopgap bill to keep funds flowing to the federal government further damaged his self-crafted image as a dealmaker who would repair the broken culture in Washington.
Even as the White House began pointing the finger at Democrats on Friday in a steady messaging effort, blame for the shutdown also was directed at the Republican president.
“It’s almost like you were rooting for a shutdown,” said Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of Trump after the Senate refused to approve a shutdown-averting funding bill.
Trump, who in July 2016 said, “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it,” also said past government shutdowns were the fault of the person in the White House.
In a “Fox & Friends” interview after a 2013 shutdown, he said then-President Barack Obama was ultimately responsible.
“The problems start from the top and have to get solved from the top,” Trump said. “The president is the leader, and he’s got to get everybody in a room and he’s got to lead.”
As this new shutdown, the first since 2013, started looking increasingly likely on Friday, Trump made a last-ditch effort to behave as the kind of problem-solver he long claimed to be.
First, he postponed a long-planned weekend trip to his winter home Mar-a-Lago, where a lavish $100,000-a-couple fundraiser on Saturday would extol his first year in office.
He had little choice. Critics would have hammered him for attending such a glittery event while government workers were being put on leave and many government services curtailed.
Then, Trump invited Schumer to a meeting at the White House on Friday afternoon. It was intimate, just the president, Schumer, and top aides. Republican leaders were excluded. The idea was to find some common ground. And it lasted 90 minutes.
Both Trump and Schumer afterward spoke of progress, but the president quickly reverted to the same stance he and other White House officials had taken earlier in the day: If a resolution were to be reached, it would have to involve the Senate passing a four-week funding extension passed on Thursday by the House.
Schumer had pressed for a short-term bill, of a week or less, and he said he even put on the table funding for Trump’s long-desired wall along the US-Mexico border.
Trump had repeatedly linked wall funding to Democrats’ goal of a comprehensive deal to preserve legal protections, under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), for hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants that came to the United States as children with their parents.
Non-starter
By early evening, despite Schumer’s offer to discuss the wall, White House aides reiterated that the New York senator’s proposal was a non-starter, leaving both sides as far apart as ever. “He did not press his party to accept it,” said Schumer.
The day seemed part of a familiar pattern that has driven Democrats to distraction. Trump first courts their support and suggests flexibility, only to pivot and side with more conservative lawmakers.
It happened in September, after he cut a short-term government funding deal with Schumer and House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi. Weeks later, when Schumer and Pelosi thought they had reached an agreement to preserve DACA, Trump reportedly walked away.
That stand-off on DACA lasted until earlier this month. That was when Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin reached an accord on DACA and other immigration issues.
They believed Trump had signaled he would support it. But in a heated Oval Office meeting, Trump savaged the deal and made his now-infamous comment about immigrants from “shithole” countries, poisoning the negotiation process.
Both sides felt betrayed, and Trump’s flip-flops left Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell mystified to the point where he said earlier this week that he couldn’t figure out Trump’s position on the issue.
Trust was further undermined when Trump appeared to criticize on Twitter a House stopgap funding bill that the White House hours earlier said he supported.
Members of each party blamed the other for the shutdown, but some of the blame landed, as Trump had said it should four years ago, on the president.
“Donald Trump is not capable of carrying out this kind of an intricate conversation about issues,” John Yarmuth, the senior Democrat on the House Budget Committee, told reporters Friday night before the vote.
“He doesn’t have the attention span to do it. He doesn’t have the interest to do it. All he wants to do is show he’s engaged in the process.”


Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

India residents stand on the shore as Periyar river flooded following monsoon rains at Aluva, in the Indian state of Kerala, on August 16, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 16 August 2018
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Troops called to India's Kerala as flood toll rises

  • More than 10,000 kilometers of roads and hundreds of homes have been destroyed or damaged across the state
  • A heavy rainfall “red-alert” has been issued across much of the state, which is home to around 33 million people

KOCHI: Helicopters airlifted stranded families from rooftops and dam gates were thrown open as incessant torrential rain brought fresh havoc Thursday to the Indian state of Kerala where about 100 people are feared dead.
Hundreds of extra troops were deployed in the southern state, a major tourist hotspot, as the government issued a “red alert” over the region’s worst floods in decades.
State authorities said the confirmed death toll was 72 but officials and media reports said up to 30 more people were feared dead Thursday in landslides and as rivers burst their banks, flooding scores of villages.
At least eight people were reported dead and 15 others, including a three-month-old infant, were trapped inside three houses hit by a landslide near an irrigation dam in Malappuram district, the Hindu newspaper said.
Authorities said many people were trapped inside their houses. More than 60,000 people have sought refuge in relief camps.
“At least 6,500 people are stranded in different parts of Kerala and the situation in three districts is particularly grim,” a Kerala state disaster management official told AFP.
Kerala, famed for its pristine palm-lined beaches and tea plantations, is battered by the monsoon every year but this year’s damage has been particularly severe. Floods have also caused havoc in other states, including Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh.
Some 540 army, navy and air forces reinforcements were sent to Kerala on Thursday to join the rescue effort.
The army said it had rescued scores of people with helicopters sent to the region. Defense forces and government boats were also used in an increasingly desperate rescue operation.
Authorities appealed for victims to stand in open fields or on rooftops away from trees so helicopters were not damaged during rescue efforts.

People could be seen paddling lifeboats provided by the military, while in some areas families commandeered local wooden boats to ferry themselves to safety.
Army helicopters rescued families but also dropped food packets and drinking water to some of the worst-affected districts.
The government says 10,000 kilometers (6,000 miles) of Kerala roads have been destroyed or damaged and hundreds of homes lost.
It has ordered the opening of gates at 34 dams and reservoirs where water levels had reached danger levels.
Cars and livestock washed away in the floods were seen on Indian television, and men and women wading through chest-high waters that had gushed into their homes.
Many used social media to send rooftop distress calls, some with video.
Greeta Mathew pleaded for help for her family in a Twitter message.
“Anybody reading this,PLZ HELP. My relatives are stuck on the upper floor of house with an 8 months pregnant lady, in Edayaranmula, Pathanamthitta dist. All rescue control rooms’ numbers busy. No rescue team reached yet. No contact with family since last evening,” she said.
North and central Kerala has been worst hit by the floods but all 14 of the state’s districts have been put on alert as heavy rain is predicted for several days.
In the main city of Kochi, the international airport was closed until at least Saturday because of flooding. Departures were canceled while incoming flights have been diverted to other airports in India.
All public transport has been stopped with many buses left abandoned in the road.
Elsewhere, eight people were swept away on Wednesday after a sudden water surge hit a popular picnic in Madhya Pradesh state. Another 45 stranded were rescued on Thursday by police.