Setting distinct red lines and keeping them probably won’t be what Barack Obama’s administration will be remembered for.
Obama was, after all, the president who drew a “line in the sand” when it came to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad regime’s use of chemical weapons against his own people. Obama then decided against keeping his word when Assad used poisoned gas after all. Obama later said he was “very proud” of his decision not to punish the dictator with military force.
Well, so much for that. But if an American president is going to set any red lines, he better be willing to enforce them.
And, in a Monday joint news conference with Italian Prime Minister Giuesppe Conte at the White House, President Donald Trump seemed to be unwilling to fall into that same trap — at least when it came to illegal immigration and border wall funding.
During the news conference, The Daily Caller’s Saagar Enjeti asked a question about a tweet the president had sent out Sunday that threatened a government shutdown if the president’s signature infrastructure project wasn’t funded by Congress.
“I would be willing to ‘shut down’ government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!” the president wrote.
“Must get rid of Lottery, Catch & Release etc. and finally go to system of Immigration based on MERIT! We need great people coming into our Country!”
“Are you saying you would be willing to shut the government down in September if it does not fully fund $25 billion for the border wall and also deliver the immigration priorities that you listed in your tweet? Or are you leaving some room for negotiation there?” Enjeti asked.
“I would be willing to close it down to get it done,” Trump responded. “I would certainly be willing to consider a shutdown if we don’t get proper border security.”
“Is the $25 billion a red line for you?” Enjeti asked, referring to funding the administration is asking for.
“I have no red line, unlike President Obama. I just want great border security. Okay?” Trump shot back.
Well, there’s a burn.
According to NPR, Trump also used the occasion to praise the Italian leader on his border security moves.
“Italy has taken a very firm stance on the border, a stance few countries have taken,” Trump said. “Frankly, you’re doing the right thing in my opinion.”
In terms of the president’s failure to draw a red line on wall funding, it might be dispiriting to some conservatives. After all, this is the president who signed an omnibus bill that had hardly any border security to speak of.
However, Trump has learned one lesson from his predecessor: The fact that red lines are a serious matter. At the very least, he can still say that he enforced Obama’s “line in the sand” when it came around.
His answer Monday made the difference between the two presidents crystal clear. And left Obama’s reputation in tatters.