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Day 30 of shutdown: If compromise seems hopeless, what next?

The hardest part about ending the government shutdown, now in it’s 30th day, is that both parties have long standing ideals about immigration that align with the people they represent, says NewsHour Weekend Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield. So it might take something drastic to break the impasse, Greenfield tells Hari Sreenivasan.

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  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    Shutdown stalemate and hundreds of thousands going without paychecks. What's next? NewsHour Special Correspondent Jeff Greenfield joins us now from Santa Barbara. Jeff, we're talking about possibly, the first move by the president openly kind of negotiating in public, if you will, to try to say, here's a deal, it's on the table, this can restore the government. But before, I don't know, maybe 10 minutes before he even spoke, there's already reaction from the Democrats that say, no deal.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Look what makes this so difficult is that you're talking about an issue, immigration and the wall that is central to the base now of both parties. We should remind ourselves not that long ago both parties talked very differently. Presidents Clinton and Obama talked about cracking down on illegal, not undocumented but illegal immigrants. President Reagan embraced amnesty. President Bush embraced a path to citizenship.

    But think back. The first words of candidate Donald Trump were those very harsh words about Mexicans and immigrants and even any move that looks like moving away from the 'build the wall' applause line that his campaign brings accusations that he is quitting. He already has taken some heat from his more zealous supporters about that for Democrats. Now anything approaching endorsing a wall sounds like nativism, hostility toward immigrants, and anything other than protecting all 1.8 million DACA folks on a possible path to citizenship is unacceptable. And that's why even what looks like a move toward some kind of compromise, immediately gets clobbered from both sides.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    I mean, this seems much more intractable. But the government can't stay shut down indefinitely. What's the way out here?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Look. Think about what happened in past shutdowns when for instance, Republicans control in the Congress said OK, we don't want to keep this going anymore, we're going to find some compromise. Right now because Donald Trump is still so popular with the Republican base and because, as I said, immigration is so central to that base, any move by Republicans to move away from Trump is going to be perilous for them politically. So unless they begin to feel real political heat or somehow, if the public opinion changes and Democrats are blamed, it's very hard to see what will change. And I don't mean to be grim but what would really move the needle is if something really awful happened like for instance, the complete shutdown of the American air transport system, if all the TSA workers go out.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    You know, this is also coming just in the next couple of weeks, we're we're talking about a State of the Union address that's supposed to be delivered. It's kind of in question now. Are we harking back to the days of the 1400's where there were no televised speeches, there was no address to the nation?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Well, it's another once unthinkable norm that has just gone by the wayside. I was thinking that 20 years ago, close to the day President Clinton gave a State of the Union speech to Congress a month after the House of Representatives had impeached him and he was treated deferentially, with respect. And now you've got a situation where the speaker, Nancy Pelosi can think, do I really want to give the president this forum, this pageant where he's the head of State to make his case against us? Maybe not. Because her argument that security was the reason, I'm sorry that just doesn't pass the who-areyou-kidding-test.

    Look, for my money this pageant has long since outlived its usefulness. The only good thing about it is if you're in the president's party you get aerobic exercise because you have to stand up and down and cheer 40 times during the speech. It's an archaic process that I think we could all be well served if we went back to the 19th century and just had written the State of the Unions.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    And finally there's stories that you like to point out that were sort of under covered this week?

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Well, take this pesky economy issue. The Council of Economic Advisers has said, you know, we underestimated the cost of the shutdown. Right now, it looks like a five week shutdown will take roughly $1 Trillion out of the economy. You have the question of whether the trade war with China will or will not happen. China seems to be saying, we're going to let a lot more goods into American goods into China. But if they don't, the combination of the shutdown, a trade war, and that trillion dollar deficit is going to mean that this now robust economy takes a tumble. And unlike other recessions which happen for cyclical reasons, this would have been all preventable but for the political chaos we seem to find ourselves in.

  • HARI SREENIVASAN:

    All right. Jeff Greenfield joining us from Santa Barbara, thanks so much.

  • JEFF GREENFIELD:

    Thank you.

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