Right-wing media split over Trump's shutdown decision: Did he cave or was it a master stroke?
Posted January 26, 2019 2:33 p.m. EST
CNN — Some of President Trump's typical media boosters are savagely criticizing his decision to surrender after a five-week-long partial shutdown of the government.
Ann Coulter called him "the biggest wimp." Lou Dobbs said "he got rolled" by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
"She has just whipped the President of the United States," Dobbs said Friday night.
But there is a divide in right-wing media -- between disappointed commentators like Dobbs and true believers who are assuring listeners that Trump is going to win funding for a border wall in the end.
"This is for three weeks," Trump adviser turned Fox analyst Sebastian Gorka told Dobbs. "As far as I'm concerned, this is a master stroke."
Talking heads like Gorka are already forecasting another government shutdown when the temporary bill expires on February 15.
The timeline has given some members of the pro-Trump media a reason to reserve judgment and urge patience -- a way to say the funding war is far from over.
"If the president goes for amnesty, I'm out. I will be a critic," Mark Levin said on the radio Friday evening. "But if the president is fighting to secure the wall, I'm prepared to wait three weeks and see what happens."
Earlier in the day, Rush Limbaugh ended his radio show with almost a shrug: "We'll see what happens."
Others were less forgiving. Coulter, speaking to a mostly liberal audience on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher," said that if they want to "get Trump," focus on the wall: "He promised something for 18 months and he lied about it. That's how you get Trump. It's not this Russia nonsense."
Breitbart.com highlighted those comments and several other critiques on Saturday. One of the site's headlines was a play on "Where's Waldo," asking, "WHERE'S WALL, DOE?"
The Drudge Report featured a photo of Trump with a banner that called him "WALLED IN."
The Gateway Pundit was harsher: On Friday the site said "TRUMP CAVES! Ends Shutdown with NO BORDER WALL -- Pelosi's SECOND BIG WIN This Week."
It's unclear how much of this coverage Trump actually sees. He recently unfollowed Coulter on Twitter, and most of the accounts he still follows did not post much criticism.
BlazeTV host Eric Bolling, for instance, tweeted that he is "confused" about Trump's decision, but open-minded: "Hoping he has a strong response to Dems when the money runs out Feb 15th."
Some of the hosts and guests on Saturday's "Fox & Friends" were hopeful too. But skepticism shone through in the commentary. And Trump seemed to be watching, because he cherry-picked positive quotes from two of the guests and tweeted out the quotes on Saturday morning.
When co-host Katie Pavlich asked if the president "caved," the predominant view of the national news media, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said, "100% no. The president stood up for the American people. He opened the government."
That's a key part of the pro-Trump position now: that Trump relieved the pain and suffering of the shutdown and now has a stronger hand in negotiations for border wall funding.
But it was Trump who caused the pain in the first place by forcing the partial closure of the government. He was influenced by conservative commentators who pressured him to deliver on his "build a wall" campaign promise.
Now some of those same commentators are angry -- or at least concerned -- that Trump came away empty-handed.
Pavlich's co-host Pete Hegseth made his concerns abundantly clear to Gidley.
When Gidley claimed that "rank and file Democrats," newly elected lawmakers, are ready to make a deal, Hegseth said he didn't know which lawmakers Gidley was talking about.
"They want to work with us!" Gidley said, not naming any names.
Hegseth said he's willing to bet that they're not.
Sean Hannity tried the same approach as Gidley on Friday night -- once again showing how he lines up with White House messaging.
Trump "right now holds all the cards," Hannity told his viewers. "He will secure the border one way or another."
But it's clear that some Trump boosters aren't buying what Hannity et al are selling.
Even Dobbs, over on Fox Business Network, commented that Trump's reversal was a "victory for Nancy Pelosi," and "to deny it is to try to escape from reality."