Washington’s Dysfunction

One sentence explains it:

They didn’t think Trump could, or would, or should win, and so they dropped the health care and tax policy ball. Nor did the president’s mutability help things. It wasn’t clear whether Trump wanted full repeal of Obamacare with a replacement to come later, or repeal-and-replace with no gap, as he told 60 Minutes in November, or which taxes and regulations he wanted to keep, or how much he wanted to reform Medicaid. What matters to this president is the accomplishment, the signing ceremony, the trophy, the result. How he gets there, the details of legislation, are less important to him. That’s what he has Congress for.

A corollary to the widespread belief that Trump would lose was that criticizing him had no cost. Trump might have moved into first place in the national polling within a month of declaring his candidacy, he might have held that position throughout the entire primary with the brief exception of a few days in November 2015, but he was, to say the least, no ordinary frontrunner. Typically, party flacks shy away from offending frontrunners, lest they risk jobs in a possible administration. The party thus presents something like a united front, even if the primary is contested. Think of the Democrats in 2016.

But the Republicans last year were different. Trump was overthrowing both the party and conservative movement establishments, violating norms of discourse and behavior, altering the ideological composition of the GOP, and thriving amidst chaos, polarization, and conflict. Not only did he invite rebuke, he loved it, for it gave him the opportunity to separate himself from the Republican Party of the Bushes, Dole, McCain, and Romney. And since the operative assumption was that he would in no circumstances become president, GOP stalwarts zinged him with abandon, knowing they were not giving up the chance to be, say, assistant secretary for consular affairs.

Well, joke’s on us, because not only did Trump become president, he knows how to hold a grudge. The result is an understaffed administration. Cabinet agencies send the names of potential bureaucrats to the White House, and the names are rejected if they attacked or mocked the president on social media during the campaign. This is within Trump’s rights, of course. I wouldn’t hire someone who disliked me, either. (Let that be a warning to aspiring journalists.) My point is he would have a much larger talent pool to draw from had more people thought he was going to win.

Both the Republican and Democrat parties chose the form of their destructor.

[Update late morning]

The resistance that cried wolf:

CNN’s Jim Acosta is being hyperbolic when he says video of Sarah Huckabee Sanders has been “banned by the USA” and asks if it feels like America when the media is “openly” trashed or other, more conservative outlets get to ask questions instead of his.

It’s enough to make a person who would otherwise like to stand in journalistic solidarity with Acosta on these questions ask, “What about Spiro Agnew?” (Indeed, what about White House press secretaries under former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush suggesting there be no live coverage of these briefings at all?)

The criticism some of us have of those who are obsessively anti-Trump isn’t that they are necessarily wrong about the president. I personally share many of their harsh assessments, especially of his fixation on petty feuds at a time of international peril, not to mention his overall temperament.

Yet they can also be almost naive in their evaluations of politicians and government pre-Trump, blind to how the governing class’ failures and character flaws made this presidency possible in the first place. Indeed, they often risk becoming the resistance that cried wolf.

Nothing Trump does wrong can be excused by pointing to the Clintons or others. We don’t want bad precedents to be set by the president or followed by future ones. What we should want is for all politicians to abide by the same set of rules — whether we like them or not.

Yes.

12 comments on this post.
  1. David Spain:

    Mind meld, once again.

    I would not approve of UN-democratic (Democrat Super) delegates for Republicans, but there needs to be a way to winnow the candidates down, before Iowa, as the 2016 primary season so aptly demonstrates.

    There seems to be a rush to decision by the time we get to primaries. I think by the time of the primaries people have forgotten the debates or they have burned out on so many candidates. I think maybe they should have fewer debates before AND tough debates during the primaries and a better way to winnow out losers quickly.

    Super Delegates as a concept suck. I will never be a Democrat as long as they keep that farce around. I don’t like their brand of w(h)ine and cheese….

  2. Thales:

    Long have Democrats publcly prayed for the destruction of the GOP. Now they got their wish, and they don’t appear grateful. Were they expecting the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man, instead?

  3. ken anthony:

    People continue to put their trust in a consensus that has consistently been proven wrong yet remain smug about it.

    1) hunter/gatherer age.
    2) agriculture age.
    3) industrial age.
    4) delusional age.

  4. wodun:

    What matters to this president is the accomplishment, the signing ceremony, the trophy, the result. How he gets there, the details of legislation, are less important to him. That’s what he has Congress for.

    This seems about right but we sent a bunch of people to congress that campaigned on conservatism, who actually claim to have a core ideology. Rather than act on what they campaigned on, they want to enshrine Obamacare permanently, which Trump seems mostly OK with. But the GOP can’t even get through minimal changes because some of them actually do believe capitalism and free markets are better than graft and handouts and others think the government needs to fund planned parenthood.

    Yet they can also be almost naive in their evaluations of politicians and government pre-Trump, blind to how the governing class’ failures and character flaws made this presidency possible in the first place.

    Past Republican Presidents took the abuse dished out by the Democrats and their media. The Bush’s and Reagan behaved as responsible, moral, and ethical human beings. The Democrats took advantage of that, just like their activists take advantage of police officers paid to take abuse without responding.

    But Trump isn’t any different than a Clinton or Obama when it comes to behavior. Clinton had many personal flaws and Obama was a giant bag of dicks to everyone. Clinton was professional but Obama set many of the precedents on media and conduct that Trump follows.

    Trump is a different sort of President for Republicans but not for our country.

  5. Paul Milenkovic:

    “we sent a bunch of people to congress that campaigned on conservatism, who actually claim to have a core ideology”

    The sitting Senators who campaigned on conservatism, it appears, are keeping true to their campaign promises, but they do not constitute all Senators in the Republican Party. Many never campaigned that way, and I am not talking just about the senior Senators from Arizona and South Carolina.

    The facts on the ground are that outright repeal of the ACA does not have the votes because this style of conservatism does not have a legislative majority. The enactment of ACA didn’t have the votes either but it got in because shenanigans.

    Speaker Paul Ryan has made it the focus of his wonkish career to push Grandma off a cliff in her wheelchair, er, reform entitlement. He is the one guy in any position to get something done who doesn’t want to “kick the can down the road” with respect to governmental debt, only the Senators who campaigned on conservatism and are indeed keeping their campaign promises don’t trust him.

    Hey, if the ACA stays as the Law of the Land, I shall attribute this outcome to you because the problems is that the Republicans are too true to their campaign promises to make the necessary deals and bargains and political compromises to set Speaker Ryan’s “phases” in motion.

    Are you pleased with this state of affairs?

  6. wodun:

    The sitting Senators who campaigned on conservatism, it appears, are keeping true to their campaign promises, but they do not constitute all Senators in the Republican Party. Many never campaigned that way, and I am not talking just about the senior Senators from Arizona and South Carolina.

    This is true, we need the Tea Party now more than ever.

    Republicans are too true to their campaign promises to make the necessary deals and bargains and political compromises to set Speaker Ryan’s “phases” in motion.

    The problem is that no one trusts them because of repeated betrayals. Looking at some of the phase 3 proposals, why couldn’t they be passed right now? Caps on HSA’s could be lifted. Insurance could be sold across state lines. Mandates on what plans have to cover could be changed. I would even make the “exchange” open to all insurance plans so that actual shopping can take place.

  7. ken anthony:

    Trump is not a leader because he doesn’t follow? (G20, GOP.)

    As Pournelle points out, the republicans don’t want leadership because it exposes them for the lying duplicitous bastards they are. This of course is Trump’s fault. /sarc

    Now the news is suggesting Trump should not be talking with Putin. If he dudn’t he’d be condemned for that. What idiocy.

    At least good people like Huntsman are getting put in place and extreme vetting is being implemented while the courts continue to usurp the presidents constitutional powers.

  8. Rand Simberg:

    What’s good about Huntsman, other than he speaks Mandarin?

  9. ken anthony:

    I don’t have a strong opinion but…

    According to Haley Barbour, former Governor of Mississippi:
    Jon Huntsman and I served together, and while we don’t agree on some issues, there’s no question that he’s a conservative. He’s way to the right of Barack Obama for goodness sake. But yeah, I consider Jon a conservative. As I said, we have some issues that I think are important that we have different views on. But he was in the Reagan administration, elected governor of a very conservative state—elected and re-elected by the way. So if you’re asking me if Jon Huntsman is qualified to the Republican nominee for President of the United States, the answer is, of course he is.

    Sure I would pick other above him. But don’t expect him to undermine American interests.

  10. Vladislaw:

    “When asked on the Colbert Report to speak Chinese, Huntsman spoke one sentence and then “translated” his words as “I just said you ought to consider being my running mate for vice president.” The studio audience roared in approval. Yet in reality, Huntsman’s mangled Chinese would translate as: “I really want you to do my vice-America president.”

    In this brief and simple sentence, Huntsman managed to (incorrectly) insert the word America in the middle of the Chinese word for vice president (fu-zong-tong); made a less-than-ideal choice of verbs; and combined my and American vice president in a way that implies (in Chinese) that Huntsman possesses his own personal vice president of the United States.

    On Piers Morgan Tonight, Piers Morgan asked Huntsman to speak in Mandarin, and then immediately proclaimed what he heard as “spectacularly good” despite not understanding any of it. (As Huntsman himself responded, “How do you know?”)

    A fair translation of Huntsman’s Chinese response to Piers Morgan would be: “Whatever I say, you don’t, you won’t know that much, you will not be so able to understand. I am Mr. Jon Huntsman. I want to be the up-to-next American president.”

    Huntsman himself “translated” the first sentence of this as “Whatever I say, you’ll have no idea what it is.” This isn’t a particularly complicated sentence, yet Huntsman struggled to express it, making three halting attempts and never quite getting it right. His attempt to say “next” president (in Chinese, xia-yi-jie) became the strange xia-lai-de. (I could understand Huntsman only because I knew what he was going to say, but none of the Beijing individuals I checked with could understand this sentence even on repeated listens.)”

    http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/explainer/2011/10/is_jon_huntsman_fluent_in_chinese_.html

    It seems he is not fluent in chinese.

  11. Rand Simberg:

    I didn’t say he spoke it well.

  12. wodun:

    Enh, that’s better than Cinco de Quatro!, Austrians speak Austrian, and a long list of the +10 internationally wise diplomat not knowing anything about other countries. At least Huntsman didn’t claim to be Chinese, a problem of ethnic appropriation currently an epidemic in the Democrat party.