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This dumb debate between Trump and Laura Ingraham tells you everything about conservative politics.

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The president has lately blundered into a verbal feud with the talk radio host over the government’s response to the flooding in Texas, as Politico reported on Tuesday:

“We can all look at these horrific pictures, and we can conclude that a federal government does need staff. We see it acutely in need of staff in a situation like this,” Ingraham said. “This isn’t the only crisis we’re facing. This is massive, humanitarian. We’re also facing a huge crisis with North Korea. We’re facing a crisis of confidence across the country where people wonder even with President Trump in, he said he was going to drain the swamp, can we have a government that works for the people and not just have a people enslaved to the government.”

Ingraham is correct, accidentally. She is talking about hundreds of vacant staff positions in the executive branch, which Trump himself has complained about, even while doing little about it. But the federal government is also understaffed in a larger sense, and shrinking it only hampers its ability to work on behalf of the people. The two are connected.

In response, Trump performed the role of a true conservative, as he understands it to be.

Trump, known to be a regular “Fox & Friends” viewer, responded to Ingraham on Twitter, writing that “we are not looking to fill all of those positions. Don’t need many of them—reduce size of government.”

Trump is right that shrinking the size of government is a traditional conservative objective. It puts conservatives like Ingraham in a bind, caught between an obvious reason Trump’s government is failing to perform and an ideology that refuses to acknowledge that reason. So instead of having the intellectual courage to admit this, Ingraham lamely told Fox News that shrinking government might indeed be Trump’s motivation, in which case “the public should hear more from the White House about that plan,” as Politico writes.