It was no minor metaphor when British Prime Minister Theresa May’s car door stuck as she strove to exit recently to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who waited with characteristic stoicism on the red carpet for yet another go-round in May’s futile attempt to negotiate a better Brexit deal. Brexit has been the ultimate stuck car door for May and the British people, a frustrating rigmarole with no satisfactory conclusion in sight.
In this regard, May has managed to survive a vote of no confidence in Parliament basically by conceding she would not stand for the 2022 election – much like Nancy Pelosi on this side of the Pond regaining the House speakership by promising to step down after four years. (Some wondered what man would ever accept such a deal. And, in truth, it may be that women have less moxie as well as experience in this department. Or maybe they just want to get on with it.)
But back to May, who has been in an untenable position from the beginning as a Remainer (for one who voted to remain in the European Union) fated to lead her nation through its exit from the EU. And who placed her and her country in that position? Well, former Prime Minister David Cameron created the situation by hubristically putting the whole thing to a referendum, calling the people’s bluff as it were, never expecting the outcome that resulted. (Apparently, he’s not that good a poker player.) But now it’s May’s show. And as the clock ticks down to the March 29 exit deadline and with the EU taking the hard line of the betrayed wife, some suggest the Brits call backsies or, in this case, Bracksies and hold a second referendum on May’s compromise Brexit deal with the other choice being to remain in the EU.
Ah, but then someone would have to admit he, or now she, has been wrong. It’s all about saving face, and more disasters have been wrought trying to save face than in admitting a mistake. (See Ken Burns’ masterful interpretation of “The Vietnam War” for PBS.)
We’re in the age of face-savers led by the king of face-savers, President Donald J. Trump. What else was he doing in that freewheeling, on-the-record conversation with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer than playing to this base when he said he would take the blame for a government shutdown if he didn’t get the funding for the Wall, the one that Mexico was supposedly going to fund? He promised his supporters would get an actual wall, even though there are other more practical, economical alternatives out there (like Texas congressman Will Hurd’s plan for a smart wall) and the wall, along with a shutdown and tariffs, might be yet another nail in the stock market’s coffin. But by golly, the base is going to get that wall. Gotta circle the wagons tighter, especially now that the Mueller investigation and Russkie-gate are heating up.
Of course, Pelosi was playing to her base, too, when she told Trump not to underestimate her strength, then emerged from the meet in her power-red Max Mara coat to return to the troops and equate Trump’s wall thing with a manhood thing. (You go, Nance.)
Only one question remains on both sides of the Atlantic: Who will blink first?