Terry H. Schwadron
July 25, 2017
Among the tweets, and the headlines they generate, that keep coming from the White House, one less “controversial” presidential tweet actually seemed to capture the current bunch of untamed public unhappiness with White House direction.
“It’s very sad that Republicans, even some that were carried over the line on my back, do very little to protect their President,” Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday afternoon. It was seen as a sign of the President’s uneasy relationship with his own Republican Party.
But to me, it feels backward: Despite whatever unease they may be feeling with the White House, congressional Republicans — and Trump’s own voter base — have been slow to stand up to outrageous behavior in ethics, in insulting words, in poorly constructed policy, in contradictions, in the failure to be able to focus and follow through, in dealing with political realities or, more importantly, with the effects of his administration on the nation. Ask not what the country can do for you, Mr. Trump, and ask what you can do for the country.
Indeed, despite all of the schisms within the Republican party, there has been a real resistance to getting angry with the president. It has been reported that few in Congress at this point fear the President’s ability to attack them politically, yet, as a group, they remain largely silent about a President who trashes his own attorney general, or who disdains the inquiries into all-things-Russia, or who refuses to understand how health insurance policy will affect people, or who is talking about pardoning his family and himself preemptively in hopes of forestalling investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, whom the President is openly trying to undercut.
By the way, what Republican candidates did Mr. Trump carry over the top?
Indeed, the tweet, unusually cogent, re-opens a number of thoughts about a Trump presidency six months in:
· Winning, the only goal this White House can express in detail, is not governing. Pass a health care bill, any health care bill, without a concern for anything other than removing the name Obama from health. His tweet expects loyal votes from a compliant Congress.
· The White House communications machine, which apparently required a new team, is not the problem. The actual message is the problem. Sean Spicer reliably could have delivered the message if there had been one other than the need for the President to require a fawning press and public. With its first full day, the new team told two different stories about presidential support for sanctions against Russia, Iran and North Korea.
· As clearly shown by now, the Republicans –who are supposed to vote today on whether anti-health care bills can procede — can’t govern. Their internal schisms, the logical outcome of Tea Party/Freedom Caucus gerrymandering by Republican-majority state legislators, have created a minimum of three major parties rather than two, and the President not only won’t join either Republican party, he shows little ability to actually lead.
It is enough to consider what Republicans would do if the President manages to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general (there were more public insults yesterday and talk of bringing in Rudy Guiliani to replace him) and essentially fire Mueller. Will Republicans finally oppose the President if there are charges or impeachment proceedings?
Six months into the presidency has produced one clear achievement in a Supreme Court appointment which will hurt for decades, a mediocre legislative record at best, and having made a wasteland of environmental regulations and having launched a racially tinged campaign against Muslims and immigrants here illegally.
Thus, the President’s recent tweet about Republicans. He blames everyone who does not simply take his dictation on policy, attitudes, cultural certainties and heroism designation. He ought to take a quick look around before claiming six months of wonderfulness.
Internationally, he has pushed away European allies while embracing Russia’s Vladimir Putin, even as he has been forced into signing a law for more sanctions that he does not want affecting Russia. He has withdrawn from the Paris Climate Agreements, and ceded leadership to China and India. He has already become mired anew in the Afghanistan and Syria conflicts with no clear direction. He has muddied prospects in the Middle East with conflicting, unclear messages. He has tried both to draw closer and to slap China by equating diplomatic goals with economic advantage. He has been forced to certify Iranian compliance with a nuclear deal while making virtually no progress at restraining North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.
Domestically, he is worsening health care by the day, strewing serious uncertainty into a system that defies agreement, even among Republicans. He has threatened but done nothing to address weaknesses in NAFTA. He has bragged about job creation while ignoring continuing layoffs that have nothing to do with jobs moving abroad and everything to do with automation and profits. He has cast huge ripples of fear through immigrant communities, even as border crossings have dropped.
The list goes on. He hates science, data, preparation and thoughtfulness.
Perhaps it is understandable that majority Republicans are feeling hamstrung. Every day there is a new Russia development, and by its own admission, the White House is having troubles focusing its messages. As new Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders says, the White House wants to talk economy, immigration and jobs while the media and all of Washington want to talk Russia, Russia, Russia.
Somehow, tweets that scold Republicans doesn’t strike me as leadership. Nor does continuing to dump on Hillary Clinton, blaming Barack Obama for everything wrong in the country, nor does a consistent, daily barrage of self-serving lies make me feel as if the President is making America great.