Trump threw a childish tantrum, while Democratic leaders in Congress showed that they’re the real adults in the room.
Trump probably thought he was being clever on Tuesday when he insisted on inviting the press into what was supposed to be a closed-door negotiating session over government spending with House Minority Leader (and likely soon House Speaker) Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Instead, Trump made a complete fool of himself on camera.
He whined and yelled. He interrupted and made dumb, snide remarks. He told the same blatant lies about how the wall is already being built and is already effective that have already been repeatedly fact-checked — the kinds of Trump lies that are so persistent, the Washington Post's fact-checker had to invent a whole new category of "Pinocchios" to describe them.
Pelosi and Schumer actually tried, gently at first, to steer Trump away from publicly humiliating himself by urging him to have this discussion off-camera.
But when he refused, they also stood firm against his bullying, called out his nonsense, and made him look exactly like the petulant child he is.
It's worth watching the whole exchange, which pool reporters later described as "nuts" and "unbelievable even by the standards" of this White House.
Trump started getting very testy when Pelosi pointed out that he doesn't even have the votes in the Republican-dominated House for the full $5 billion of border wall funding that he wants.
He insisted that he could "easily" get the votes in the House if he wanted to, but claimed there was no point because it wouldn't get through the Senate.
Pelosi patiently explained that in the process of legislating — which, she reminded Trump, "is what we do" — you start by making your case with bills and votes.
"That's what the House Republicans would do, if they had the votes," she said. "But there are no votes."
Then Trump kept repeating the phrase "border security" like it was a magic word, insisted that you can't have border security without having the wall, and claimed that the wall is already partially built and is already working.
But Schumer systematically explained why all of that was nonsense.
"The Washington Post today gave you a whole lot of Pinocchios because they say you constantly misstate how much of the wall is built," Schumer told Trump. He pointed out that according to experts, the wall is "wasteful and doesn't solve the problem" of border security.
And if Trump is bragging about the current state of border security, Schumer asked, then what's wrong with just giving him the same deal he got last year — money for border security, but not specifically a wall? (What's more, as Schumer later pointed out to reporters, most of last year's $1.6 billion appropriated for border security hasn't even been spent yet.)
Things started getting really bad when Pelosi reminded Trump that voters decisively rejected his agenda in November by putting Democrats back in charge of the House.
"We've gained in the Senate!" Trump objected petulantly. He repeated, interrupting Pelosi: "Nancy, we've gained in the Senate. Excuse me, did we win the Senate?"
"When the president brags that he won North Dakota and Indiana, he's in real trouble," Schumer quipped.
"I did!" Trump whined. "We did win!"
And in a moment almost too self-sabotaging to be believed, Trump actually declared that he would be "proud" to shut down the government if he doesn't get his way on the wall.
Trump really, really, wants his wall. He wants it like a toddler wants a new toy he just saw on TV, and he will quite literally throw a tantrum until he gets it.
Unfortunately for Trump, he has to negotiate with grown-ups. And the grown-up Democratic leaders in Congress just proved that they're perfectly willing to just let Trump cry it out until he gives up.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.