Earlier I wondered who it was that Trump turned to for intelligence and advice. We know the answer, of course. It's obvous:
For more than a year, I’ve studied this Trump-Fox feedback loop, the president’s habit of live-tweeting his favorite shows on the right-wing cable news network. I’ve tracked several hundred of the president’s often-hyperaggressive tweets back to particular segments on Fox News and its sister network, Fox Business, that caught the president’s eye.
Fox helped build Trump’s political brand and fuel his electoral rise, and in recent years has remade itself as a propaganda outlet in support of his presidency. Trump, in turn, has long been obsessed with the network. His worldview and decision making are shaped by the former network personalities with whom he has stocked his administration, the “Fox cabinet” of current stars he reaches out to for advice, and the hours of Fox programming he reportedly watches each day.
Having a superfan in the White House has given Fox outsized influence over both the news cycle and federal policy. The network’s efforts to infuriate its audience—over everything from NFL players kneeling in protest during the national anthem to a caravan of migrants slowly approaching the U.S. southern border—can trigger outraged presidential tweets, instantly turning the network’s particular fixations into national news.
No story has demonstrated the power of this Trump-Fox feedback loop like the partial government shutdown.
Trump’s incessant craving for validation from the network’s conservative commentators triggered his initial refusal to sign any legislation funding the government that did not include money for a border wall, and then that need sustained his intransigence over the following weeks. His eventual cave shows the limitations of prioritizing the whims of right-wing infotainers during congressional negotiations. But there is no evidence Trump has learned anything from the crushing defeat, suggesting that he will continue trying to make policy with respect to the wall and other issues, on the basis of whether it pleases Fox hosts.
In September, I argued that Trump’s Fox affinity made a government shutdown inevitable. The same pattern kept playing out: House and Senate leaders would agree to a spending bill, Fox commentators would claim the bill betrayed the president’s base because it didn’t include wall funding, Trump would angrily tweet about the Fox segments and send Washington into chaos, and Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan would have to talk him into supporting the legislation. With Trump publicly declaring that a shutdown was a “great political issue” and explicitly citing Fox hosts as his inspiration for the tactic, the situation seemed untenable.
Three months later, it finally came to a head. As the December deadline to renew government spending loomed, Fox personalities again began urgingTrump to shut down the government rather than sign a spending bill that didn’t include money for the wall. Once again, Fox’s influence was matched against that of Republican congressional leaders, who warned the president that a shutdown would be a grave tactical mistake.
But this time, Fox News won.
He goes on to lay out the whole Fox News shutdown campaign and it's painfully obvious how much they influenced the president's actions. The tweets provide a perfect tick-tock. They weren't happy with the ending but all is forgiven:
Trump’s decision to fold divided his Fox allies—even the hosts who had counseled the president on his shutdown strategy. Hannity offered a vigorous defense of his decision, arguing that “anyone out there” who is “thinking President Trump caved today, you don't really know the Donald Trump I know.” For Dobbs, however, the news was “a victory for Nancy Pelosi... and to deny it is to try to escape from reality.”
But neither Dobbs nor the president appeared to hold a grudge—by Thursday morning, Trump was tweeting about the previous night’s episode of Dobbs’ show, using the Fox host’s talking points as evidence that a border wall is necessary. Based on that program, Trump argued that Republicans negotiating an immigration deal “are wasting their time” because Democrats will not provide money for the “DESPERATELY needed WALL.” “I’ve got you covered,” he ominously added.
That seemed to be a reference to Trump’s likely endgame: declaring a national emergency in order to divert previously appropriated federal funds to wall construction. Ever since Trump first suggested that he might take that step in early January, Fox hosts have been urging him to do it, claiming that, in Dobbs’ words, the “only way forward” is for Trump to “simply sweep aside the recalcitrant left in this country” and do so.
Republican congressional leaders keep warning Trump that declaring a national emergency is a terrible idea that won’t serve his ends, and up until now, he’s listened to him. But we’ve seen how this played out before. The president will continue to wallow in Fox’s programming, as night after night its hosts tell him that the declaration is his only way to win. And eventually, he will listen.
Fox hosts want him to declare the national emergency because they know its the only way he can save face with the base. The Republicans in the Senate aren't going to go for another shutdown --- they'll override his veto if they have to and that would be a serious rebuke. So he'll do this instead and strut around telling his followers that he's taken the matter into his yuge hands and to hell with the congress which will thrill them beyond measure.
This is idiotic tea party politics in the White House. We might as well have Jim Jordan as president.
But think about how dangerous this is in terms of foreign policy. He won't listen to the government's intelligence analysis but he has former Fox News analyst (and certified lunatic) John Bolton as his NSA. And Fox commonly features nuts like Sebastian Gorka.
This is what he craves and it's what they give him: