Terry H. Schwadron
Ugh, Washington-speak. Or more correctly, politico-speak.
The folks in the cogs of the political machinery wonder why we hold normally them in some kind of contempt, unless we really think that they have done something requiring a worse response. I usually try to hold myself a couple feet above the political fray just to be able to see the results rather than the process, but the ugliness of the sausage-making is just too stinky these days to avoid cynicism and contempt.
From trade negotiations to more revelations about Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to the backdown from insistence on money for The Wall and the threat of a government shutdown, it is hard to find a straight line in the whole mess. Instead, events, statements, positions and policies are twisted and turned upside-down just with the apparently sole purpose of making the speaker look good.
None of this is particularly good for you and me, or the average West Virginia miner, or for people in real need of government help.
Because there were questions circulating about whether enough has been done during President Donald Trump’s first 100 days, things were a-scramble to make it all look better than it actually has proved to be — even as the President rightly, in my view, makes the case that 100 days is a completely arbitrary and silly deadline. So, all of a sudden, we were being introduced to tax cut bills, a new take on health insurance legislation, border security and a dozen look-at-me meetings in the White House all aimed at burnishing Mr. Trump’s early achievements. Pul-lease, spare me. He can’t seem to win the big legislative battles, and he lacks full-blown policies where he has taken individual actions (Syria), has put the button on someone else rather than himself (China, you fix North Korea, or threats (Obamacare insurance supports) to try to win his way. He did get his Supreme Court guy, at the cost of wrecking advice and consent.
Meantime, other than whacking environmental and consumer protection measures, signaling cuts of 35–30 percent of government agencies, and confirming a conservative-leaning voice for the Supreme Court, he is even hard-pressed to list the achievements.
Thus, we are treated to a front-seat presentation as Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross lays down a 20 percent tariff on Canadian softwood imports, wood used in home construction, as if Canada is our long-standing foe. In hopes of re-turning media eyes to his America First! message and away from General Flynn, Team Trump made clear only that they will pick on softball questions to make political gains.
Yes, there has been a modest, standing issue with Canadian lumber forests underwritten with government funds being able to underprice lumber sold into the U.S. Settling it with dramatic public campaign-type announcements of tariffs to fight back strike me as overkill. Politico.com notes that Team Trump picked on Canada because Canada has little ability to strike back. After all of the brouhaha, according to U.S. homebuilding associations, the general effect will be more than a 4.2 percent increase in the cost of a new U.S.-built home, passed along to U.S. consumers. It is doubtful this creates or even saves any American jobs, and, in fact, may cost an estimated 5,000 jobs from higher home prices.
Maybe the lumber issue, particularly when teamed with Canadian obstacles to importing U.S. dairy products, is meant to clear the way towards his oft-promised renegotiation of NAFTA. Or maybe it is about the looming 100-day review. Or Flynn redirection. You’ll never know because no one speaks straight.
By contrast, talk of the Flynn case was more straightforward, except at the White House podium, where it was all blah-blah-blah. Michael Flynn did not seek permission or file appropriate paperwork for paid work to appear with Russian interests or out-and-out lobbying work representing Turkey, and may go to jail as a result. But listen to the White House, and they had nothing to do with Flynn, including forgetting to vet him before they made him National Security Adviser, until he was fired for lying to Vice President Mike Pence. Instead, the White House will try to make it as difficult as possible to get to the bottom of the issues, and treasure his loyalty over his apparently illegal actions. Congress members, in fact, were unduly direct in saying he probably broke the law, though it was a little more mealy-mouthed about whether any dirt would end up on the White House.
Congress members say the White House is not providing documents; the White House says they never had any documents, to call the Pentagon or Flynn himself. Again, stop it! Let’s just get this done, or give it to the FBI.
All of which brings you back to the never-ending set of questions about connections to Russia.
On The Wall, the President was insistent that he had to have a billion dollars down-payment in the government shutdown proceedings, until he apparently caved in. But don’t wait for the moment when you will hear the President say he was backing down. Instead, he is coming up with more flowery misdirecting statements about being open to passing it later in the year.
I do not agree with the White House in most respects, but I can at least get to understand why we are undertaking some policy or other if I can only hear the real reasons we are doing so, with some knowledge about the real and practical effect of the new policy.
It’s 100 days down, only another 1,000 to go.