Mark Penn: A partial shutdown, an overdue Mueller report, Dems starting investigations – How to survive 2019?

The government is in partial shutdown and full gridlock. The Mueller report is overdue. The Democrats are starting a raft of investigations. China is in a tailspin. Economists are predicting a recession and the stock market is gyrating. The generals are quitting over Syrian withdrawal plans. And the Democratic left is rising as the presidential cycle is starting.

So, in the words of an old TV show, “Car 54 where are you?” Meaning “How are we possibly going to get through the mess that is January 1, 2019?”

Perhaps the first thing that needs to be sorted out is the stalemate over border security. What started out as a Trump folly is gradually shifting somewhat. Most Americans don’t favor a wall, but they do favor beefed up border security including barriers where it makes sense.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM MARK PENN: NO WINNERS IN THIS GOVERNMENT SHUTDOWN – BOTH SIDES SHOULD COMPROMISE TO REOPEN GOVERNMENT

When working for Bill Clinton in 1995, we defended against the then-Republican shutdown with the need to protect Medicare, Medicaid, education and the environment and, day-by-day, we won. It was a big message defending hundreds of billions of dollars of vital programs.

Today, the Democrats’ only message is they won’t spend one ten thousandth of the budget on a border wall.  It is an appeal to the base, but is a weakening hand with a policeman killed in California and Democrats’ statements that they won’t compromise even $1. They have the chance to split the difference, make a deal for DACA and turn this into a win-win or let it drag on as a lose-lose. I think there will be a compromise sooner than later.

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Next, Robert Mueller has had, believe it or not, almost two full years, more than $30 million and all the unbridled power inherent in a special counsel’s office – and has come up empty-handed. The zealots Mueller brought in to bring down the president don’t want to give up and so they keep expanding their investigation rather than end it for the good of the country.

They seem to have hit dead ends with Roger Stone, Paul Manafort and General Michael Flynn. They can write a report condemning the president but the Russian collusion goods don’t seem to exist. They may just keep on going, picking up new investigations from the Democratic House committees, and act as a permanent presidential investigation unit. But eventually I think the Supreme Court, which will start to get cases that could limit their power and authority, and the appointment of an unrecused attorney general, will catch up to them if they don’t end it soon. Expect their report by March 15, 2019.

Maybe 2019 will be the year that America returns to its political senses, reduces gridlock, cuts good trade deals and enjoys a strong economy.

The Democratic investigations and impeachment mantras are starting up. Depending upon what is in his tax returns, Trump will release them and laugh or fight it all the way to the Supreme Court. Most of the Congressional subpoenas will be ignored and slow-walked. No doubt an impeachment would be a crowd pleaser for the Democratic base and Trump could face some manic days with the release of the Mueller report, just as Bill Clinton faced tough days after Ken Starr released his report. But absent something dramatic and new, “Trump Acquitted” is the likely headline out a Senate trial, so Democrats will think twice about going down this road. Censure might be a logical way out, but I’m not sure logic will prevail.

With fear-mongering now the stock and trade in the age of social media, this is supposed to be the year of the recession, and for the last six weeks a chorus of economists have been saying our economy is all but dead. But wait. Wages are rising, Christmas spending will set records, and the new jobs report out Friday showed a healthy job market with 312,000 jobs smashing through the downbeat estimates. Just maybe we still have a strong economy and that recession talk will have to wait a year. On the other hand, China may be in real trouble so it is likely that after having lost a third of the value of their stock market, they will come to the table and cut a deal. The base these Chinese leaders have to worry about favor bread over ideology.

In a December surprise, General James Mattis quit over the Syrian troop withdrawal. Not since President Harry Truman fired the revered General Douglas MacArthur has a president had to contend with a general opposing civilian rule in such a bold manner. But the decision to draw down 2,000 troops was hardly a momentous military decision in the leagues of sending hundreds of thousands of troops to Korea, the decision to start the Iraq war or to use the atomic bomb against Japan. It was more likely a pretext to leave the administration and surely there will be a multimillion-dollar book contract next. Military command moves on, and this is just another failed power play.

Finally, the Democratic left is rising as the presidential cycle is starting. Yet it is the moderates who won a rules change that stops the left from holding no confidence votes on the speaker, undercutting the power of splinter groups to disrupt the caucus. It is the moderates who won the seats that put the House back in Democratic hands, and while the left may dominate the early presidential cycle and in the media cycles, I think it’s the moderates who will emerge to push for getting things done for the country on infrastructure, immigration and health care.

Fortunately, there are no national elections this year so the press of partisanship could take a back seat to progress. Just maybe 2019 will be the year that America returns to its political senses, reduces gridlock, cuts good trade deals and enjoys a strong economy. On January 4, 2019, those predictions seem somewhat crazy as we are in a partial government shutdown, headed for an impeachment and many believe a recession is around the corner. Call me an optimist.