Dysfunction, Schizophrenia and Half-Truths “Unpresidented” In Trump’s Washington
Washington is not only profoundly broken but a sea of shameless dysfunction. Okay, so that’s been the case for years if not generations. But now it’s on steroids. The recent “near deal-no deal” by the commander-in-chief, coupled with Republican leaders desire to throw out anything to blame on Democrats and see what sticks is more heinous than ever before. Add that to schizophrenia with messages and a president who calls himself a dealmaker but is now MIA with his demands and you have chaos usually that, to use a word that Mr. Trump is painfully familiar with is “unpresidented.”
GOP leaders are not only negatively tarring Democrats with things almost everybody supports but our commander-in-chief himself is accusing them of the ultimate sin: willing to go to the mat for something that he himself has passionately said he supports – the Dreamers. Especially baffling is that the president was on the verge of getting what for so long was called a fantasy by many and by others an outright impossibility: his “big, beautiful wall.” But then, urged on by his chief of staff, a glorified White House policy adviser (I use that term loosely) and two Senators who have made no desire to return immigration to austere levels, he walked away. In other words, either he doesn’t know when he’s won or his people convince him otherwise. It’s kind of like the gang that can’t shoot straight.
First and foremost, about the Dreamers. The president himself, despite having left the 800,000 in limbo during the first half of his administration, strongly came out in support of letting them stay last fall when he decided to end DACA. He actually spoke passionately at least once about how, having been brought to this country as children, the Dreamers are Americans in everything but name only (it’s a shame that he didn’t feel the same about a Michigan man who has been here 30 years but was born eight years too soon to be considered a Dreamer). So it’s a little preposterous seeing Trump tweet that Schumer is causing a shutdown to help “illegal aliens” and “non-citizens.” Why? Because Trump has been strongly advocating that as well – he is only calling them aliens and non-citizens now because its suddenly convenient.
Republicans are jumping aboard the same bandwagon. They are contending that a shutdown will deprive the military of its adequate funding but, when Senate Democrats have made multiple unanimous consent requests to fund them, Majority Leader McConnell makes a unanimous consent request. Ditto with funding for CHIP the children’s health program which Speaker Paul Ryan, in a pretty tempting pot sweetener for Democrats, put a pretty tempting six year funding for the program. But it’s a program that Republicans could have funded anytime during the past six months.
My contention is McConnell is objecting in part because he wants an issue for the fall elections when five Senators from deep-red states will be facing re-election. Four of the five have voted for the Continuing Resolution (CR), with Montana’s Jon Tester the exception but McConnell may be thinking that tying them to the national party may hurt them back home. It’s not an unrealistic strategy. In 1996, a few moderate Republicans from the Northeast lost because they were tied to Newt Gingrich. One classic ad involved Massachusetts Congressman Peter Blute (“you’d never vote for Newt so, why would you ever vote for Blute”). Either way, I understand McConnell’s strategy. It’s to confuse the voters. Occasionally, it works. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that it’s nothing but bull.
Now let’s move on to the next point of disgust. I don’t want to seem like I’m regurgitating Schumer’s talking points but – assuming that most of what has been said about developments and setbacks over the last 48-72 hours are true, anybody with half a brain will come to the same conclusion: that the administration is impossible to make a deal with. The proof is in the pudding. Schumer and Trump were reportedly close to a deal, which included the wall. McConnell and Democratic Senator Dick Durbin were reportedly close to a deal. That’s not easy to do with these cast of characters The president, aided by staffers, changes his mind like Brittany Spears changes husbands. No one knows who’s in charge of the Republican side but I’ll say this: I’m almost tempted to call this the “Freedom Caucus” shutdown).
Schumer compared the process to “Abbott and Costello,” saying that Trump is telling him to negotiate with Republican leaders while Republican leaders are telling him to negotiate with Trump. Paul Ryan refuses to do anything until he knows what the White House wants. A true patriot but nothing unsurprising. Schumer meanwhile has now famously compared negotiating with Trump to jello.
South Carolina Republican Lindsay Graham has gone even further. Not only has he openly attacked the White House’s handling of the saga accusing them of upping the demands to unrealistic heights, he has not been skimpy about going after glorified White House officials he sees as thorn in the spines of progress. He singles out Miller in particular. “Every time we have a proposal,” Graham said, “it is only yanked back by staff members. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we’re going nowhere.”
Which leads me to introduce the term, schizophrenia to the forefront of the shutdown. For a long time before and after the election, the White House has mocked Graham. Then when he takes Trump’s side on a personality or policy matter, he’s in again. Now, a White House official, responding to Graham’s criticism, referred to him as “an outlier for years.” But it’s also in policy. Graham talks about how the president has openly boasted that “I could do (the wall) for less” than $18 billion. “So what does the White House staff do a couple of days later? They pitch a proposal for $33 billion. That’s just not credible.”
Finally, it’s hard to call Democrats in the wrong for trying to at least nail down a blueprint for a compromise on a fast-expiring timeline that everyone ostensibly supports. Some might say that six weeks still remain before the president’s self-imposed deadline for DACA and they note – rightfully so, that he can extend the program if more time is needed. But for contributing men and women that even the president acknowledges are Americans in everything but the piece of paper, keeping them in limbo is unacceptable. Some sort of assurance of process is needed and if the president supports it, that shouldn’t be remotely difficult to achieve. In the words of Donna Summer, enough is enough is enough is enough!