Tag: US Politics

Quick News Check In and a Brief Plea

Reporters asked [Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX)] why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”
Talking Points Memo

The thing about the ACA news that’s pissing me off more than anything right now, are the handful of stories or mentions I’m seeing that the GOP are going to “move on” from health care now. Really. After nearly a decade of single minded antagonism. You voted on this issue over 60 times under President Obama (and grand total of 0 under President Trump). Now you’re ready to move on.

Almost as if…for the majority of the party at least…the actual bill itself was never the point…?

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On the other hand, one good thing I’m seeing seems to be some level of introspection of some members of the Republican party.

As the prospect of a loss became more real on Friday, the frustrations of GOP lawmakers loyal to the leadership began to boil over. “I’ve been in this job eight years, and I’m wracking my brain to think of one thing our party has done that’s been something positive, that’s been something other than stopping something else from happening,” Representative Tom Rooney of Florida said in an interview. “We need to start having victories as a party. And if we can’t, then it’s hard to justify why we should be back here.” – from The Atlantic

For nearly a decade, the GOP has defined itself by its perceived enemies and what they were against. They’ve been a protest party, but they are now in charge and a litany of complaints is not a plan, as yesterday and its attendant organizational mess proved. I am desperately hoping that liberals don’t fall into the all too easy trap of doing the same thing in response! Because if ever there was a moment for both sides to lay down rhetorical arms, retreat to their own camps to actually think on and firm up what it is the stand for and not just whom against, and return to the table armed for an intelligent debate about which ideologies our country should espouse and why, instead of scorched earth politics…this is it.

Let’s set aside the ridiculous man in the White House and his sensational, possibly scandal ridden cronies for a moment. Much has been made of the fact that Mr. Trump doesn’t owe Republicans much when it comes to policy making, especially given that most didn’t support him (at least enthusiastically) in the election. I’d suggest that the reverse is also more true than is given credit for. Mr. Trump ran as a Republican but far from sharing a majority of conservative principles, his statement record is all over the map. He doesn’t seem to operate from ideology so much as self-interest. He might have overrun the GOP but he doesn’t lead it. And, more importantly, within the US system it is congress not the executive branch is supposed to take the lead in practical governing anyway. A number of leading conservative and libertarian thinkers have been complaining for years that the executive branch has grown too powerful in the post WWII era. In fact, that was one of their primary complaints about the previous administration!

So, conservative leadership, get to it. Lead. Get your act together. Take the reins. Govern. Remember that you govern all of us, not just the guys who voted for you, and act accordingly. Govern well, else be voted out of office, that’s how this game works. Someone, anyone, step up to claim some sense of ownership and offer, in good faith, to work with liberals on constructive legislation moving forward that actually addresses the current needs of citizens, regardless of what the orange overlord tweets or the blowhards of talk radio spew. Say you want to draw a line under recent vitriol and start anew, and mean it.

I, Jane Taxpayer, solemnly swear to hold my own party accountable if they fail to take you up on your offer.

But at the moment, GOP, this president and the current state of political are largely your mess and, as you like to keep point out, you’re now in charge. Fix it. I’m genuinely rooting for you.

Out Like Flynn

“The problem with political jokes is that they get elected.”
– Henry Cate

This latest news story requires its own post, otherwise the Weekend Links update will be unreadably long. The still-breaking story about Gen. Flynn’s leaving the administration after an unprecedented 24 days is ongoing but at the moment…it’s a mess. It’s a bonkers, ridiculous, upsetting mess.

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Getting the timeline right still isn’t easy. By my count thus far…Kellyanne Conway has said Gen. Flynn resigned, but Press Secretary Spicer then said President Trump asked for his resignation. Spicer said Gen. Flynn was an internal issue for weeks, but President Trump last week told reporters he knew nothing of the DOJ’s or any report to the White House that the general was a potentially serious liability. Conway speaking yesterday for the WH says that the problem is that Gen. Flynn lied to VP Pence, but just two days ago said that the President had complete trust in the general, and Spicer again is now claiming that the WH knew about this issue (with the exception of the VP, apparently, who found out he was either deceived or misinformed following the story breaking). At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning.

But in summary, as far as I can make out, the fundamental options seem to be that either the then-President-elect directed Gen. Flynn to have a conversation with the Russian ambassador discussing the possibility of easing sanctions when the new administration came to power, or Gen. Flynn did this on his own volition. Either option is against the law. We’re only talking orders of magnitude at this point.

At the last press briefing, Spicer seemed to claim that no team member had contact with Russia during the campaign, which news sources seem to be contradicting this morning. CNN is now reporting that aides for the first candidate then President-elect have been in routine communication with Russian officials for months. While not wholly unprecedented during a transition period between governments, the frequency of communications seems to have raised enough red flags to have the intelligence community alert both the sitting and in-coming presidents to the fact.

In summary again, either candidate/President-elect Trump knew both that these communications were happening–and that it was illegal or at the very least wildly inappropriate–and allowed them to continue, or he knew that it was happening but didn’t understand that it was illegal/inappropriate. Our options here are malice or incompetence.

Elected officials in general and Republicans in particular, if you think you can wait this latest scandal out, you are wrong. If after eight years of obstructing and scrutinizing an administration’s actions out of “principle,” you are suddenly unwilling to do the same now in the face of blatant incompetence and dangerous allegations of foreign collusion, you are lost as a political group. If you believe it’s more important to maintain party and partisan power than have a functioning, trustworthy, and respected government, you are unfit for office.

Congressional leadership seems to be (finally, cautiously) starting to critique the White House, but overall the response thus far from the president’s own party has been craven. Some of my own representatives have been among the worst offenders–looking at you, Rep. Chaffetz–and no one seems to be willing to be the first to stand up and say, “In the face of this many allegations, this many procedural missteps in executive action, and this level of dysfunction, I demand investigations.”

I have said it before, I will say it again. I am not cheering for President Trump to fail; I did not and do not want the stability of my government undermined. But I did not vote for him because I believed that he was a fundamentally unsafe character with unsound plans and unformed opinions/goals, based on unconstitutional principles, who would put unqualified or unvetted people into power alongside him, to chaotic effect. It’s taken less than a month for him to prove me right.

This is the result.

Public Life, Publicity, and a Prediction

“Loyalty to country ALWAYS. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it.”
― Mark Twain

I wished President Obama well when he was inaugurated, I liked and supported a majority of his policies, and I have tremendous respect for the respect in turn that he seemed to have for his office in terms of his temperament and behavior. I believe he would have been justified many times in his presidency in lashing out in anger against the blatant disrespect and obstructionism thrown in his face, and I admire him for choosing not to do so. I understand that he was keen to avoid negative racial stereotypes (such as being an “angry black man”) but even in that, I admire his understanding that what the president does sets a precedence. He seemed very keen to always be in control of his self presentation as an aspect of his office.

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image via Wikipedia

If nothing else, I believe a lesson learned for all the citizenry from this political cycle is that a number of expectations Americans have for their political leaders are not necessarily enshrined in law, but rather in precedent and convention. For example, it is correct that the president is not required by law to divest his business interests, but I think it’s fair to say that it’s expected that a man or woman in that position would. That’s what precedent and convention say s/he should do. For all we whine and complain about politicians, there are some age old notions and assumptions that we as a culture cling to about how people in public life ought to behave. It’s the difference between being a public person and being a celebrity and why sex scandals can bring down the one and jumpstart a Kardashian style family empire in the other. I happen to like the distinction because I believe fundamentally that entertainment and politics should be different and want my leaders to follow a degree of convention that I do not expect from celebrities and entertainers.

Of course, that is not the world we are living in. Information and entertainment have become dangerously entwined. But what I find amazing about this in the current moment is that one of the architects of this media landscape…is Donald Trump himself. He was an early reality TV star, a genre that purposefully blurs the line between fact and fiction. He parlayed brand into entertainment, entertainment to media prominence, prominence to the illusion of being a reputable commentator, commentator to candidate, and now elected office.

President Trump is a celebrity first and foremost. This is what has allowed him to survive scandals and kerfuffles that would have brought down a traditional politician in his same shoes. Several supporters hold this up as a virtue, that he cannot be unmade by violations of convention that would taint a more conventional candidate, but I see fundamental danger in it. Celebrities are expected to get ratings, get people talking about them, and get rich off their brand. Elected officials are expected to govern. I don’t trust that he’s made this distinction in his own mind between being media famous and being politically powerful.

My personal prediction is that President Trump will not last a full term of office. I think that impeachment due to his numerous existing and potential future conflicts of interest is very likely. I also think that it’s very likely that the constraints of the office and government bureaucracy (slow by design) may prove frustrating to an obviously impatient man and he may simply quit. His prominence rose out of his own propagation of false news, something that I believe very likely to be turned against him during his term of office–something he has already (ironically, in my opinion) started complaining of. In short, I think his inability to accept the conventions of behavior and action that American’s have historically expected of their leaders may undo him. I think that people may have been willing to accept a media personality on the trail, but will expect a more conventional leader in office…and I don’t think he has it in him. It’s not what’s made him “successful,” and his behavior thus far doesn’t lead me to believe he will make the transition.

Of course, I may be proven wrong and he will turn out great, or at the very least his government will keep a rein on him. I’d actually love to proven wrong and that a man who thus far has seemed uniquely temperamentally unfit, professionally unqualified, and borderline hilariously thin skinned will do a good job. I’ll be the first to put up my hand and declare, “Yep, I got this one way off!” But I doubt it.

Lend me your thoughts or predictions, kittens.