It could have been a Mount Rushmore moment.
Instead, it was just another Donald Trump meltdown.
The stage was set for a meeting Wednesday on infrastructure spending at the White House. Democrats carried a 35-page plan for that spending — a plan that Sen. Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said had broad, bipartisan support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she'd hoped to sell the president on a Trump infrastructure opportunity that she likened to the "greatness" of Thomas Jefferson's "national road" or Teddy Roosevelt's establishment of the our national parks system.
But Trump strode into the room, lashed out at the Democrats and said no deal. In a bully demand, Trump said he will work on no legislation, no infrastructure, no trade deals, nothing — until all of the investigations of him are over. In three or four minutes, the meeting was done. Trump left as quickly as he came and headed straight out to a bevy of reporters and microphones.
In Trump's own words in a made-for-TV Rose Garden moment, he told reporters he gave the Democrats an ultimatum: "I want to do infrastructure. I want to do it more than you want to do it. I'd be really good at that, that's what I do, but you know what, you can't do it under these circumstances, so get these phony investigations over with. You can go do the investigation track, or you can go down the investment track."
It's Trump speak for "to heck with the country — it's all about me."
Unsafe drinking water threatens 21 million people yearly. Average Americans last year lost nearly 100 hours to traffic congestion. Floods tore away hundreds of miles of levees across the Midwest in recent weeks and washed away millions of acres of crops.
Nearly 40% of our bridges are 50 years old or more, and 9% of them are structurally deficient, according to the 2017 infrastructure "report card" from the American Society of Civil Engineers. Those same engineers estimate it would cost nearly $4.6 trillion to repair's the countries bridges, dams and sewage systems. Democrats three weeks ago had proffered a $1 trillion bundle of fixes and were delighted when Trump told them to come back with a $2 trillion package.
But forget it. That was then. Now Donald Trump is in a snit over subpoenas and investigations. Subpoenas he tells his people not to obey, thus prolonging the investigations himself.
Or maybe he just can't figure out how to pay for an infrastructure plan without taking back the tax cuts he pushed through for the very wealthy.
Temper tantrums and political theater have worked for the president before, giving him a hocus pocus moment to slink out of a corner he put himself into. Maybe he thinks the tactic will work this time, as well.
But it depends, actually, on us.
Congress won't fold its tent and end its 11 or so ongoing investigations. Nor will federal prosecutors shut the files on the dozen criminal investigations that grew out of special counsel Robert Mueller's probe. Meanwhile, on a third and completely separate track, there are at least eight state and local probes being pursued by authorities in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C.
Trump bloviated among the roses about "the Russia hoax" and obstruction of justice, but those other investigations are over things like Trump Organization insurance practices, contributions to the Trump inaugural committee, the Trump family's tax schemes, abuses of the White House security clearance process, Trump's role in hush-money payments, possible witness tampering, self dealing and possible money laundering.
Those things are not going away — even if Congress wanted them to go away.
So whether Trump's tantrum works can only be up to us. How many times do we let him get away with it? Are we tired of his incompetence? Are we tired enough yet of his corruption? Are we sickened enough by his disrespect of our people and our country and our laws?
On Nov. 9, 2016, then-president-elect Trump stepped to a podium and promised to "begin the urgent task of rebuilding our nation. We are going to fix our inner cities and rebuild our highways, bridges, tunnels, airports, schools, hospitals," he said. "We're going to rebuild our infrastructure — which will become, by the way, second to none. And we will put millions of our people to work as we rebuild it."
By inauguration time, a Gallup poll found this to be Trump's most popular campaign promise. A whopping 69% of Americans said it was "very important" for then president-elect Trump to keep his campaign promise to enact major spending on infrastructure renewal.
Here we are two-and-a-half years and at least seven "infrastructure week" announcements later, and the promise remains unfulfilled.
Meanwhile, voters are still true believers — in infrastructure, not Trump: Nearly 80% of voters identified infrastructure spending as an "extremely important" priority for 2019, according to a poll conducted by Politico and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Lean on your congressmen and senators to lean on Trump. To school him. Censure him. Impeach him. Even more importantly, let's vote the big baby — and his GOP congressional pals, too, if need be — out.