This is No Longer about Trump, or Congress

I believe that many of them are deeply conflicted. That in the leather chairs of Capitol Hill at the end of each of these long Spring days, there is no shortage of Republican legislators sitting alone in their offices or committee rooms, drinking scotch, and cogitating on their futures.

I suspect that there may be a few who have taken campaign coin from Trump or his supporters who are wondering exactly how long they need to “stay bought” before they can begin responding to the popular cry.

And, in the end, I think most will need irrefutable, impeachment-quality evidence to shift their support.

No, Mr. Frum. This is no longer about the President, or even Congress. It is now about the facts.

The future of President Donald Trump, of the Republican Party, and possibly the nation, now lies in the hands of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller and relies upon the moral fortitude of a small handful of men and women at the Department of Justice, and their ability to ascertain the facts in the face of a President who seems determined to hide them.

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Trump’s West Wing and the Hill

Trump faces a challenge similar to the one Ronald Reagan confronted and had only partial success in overcoming: namely, that of finding enough good people to take the reins of government. Without the president discovering better new talent, the usual suspect will quickly return: the ones who gave us the Iraq War and whose economics led to the Great Recession.

Source: Donald Trump’s Triumph | The American Conservative

Yesterday, my old friend and schoolmate Howard Bliss asked me if I could beg a single boon of the President-Elect, what would that be?

I said, simply: “Appoint an absolutely stellar cabinet. Then listen to them.”

Dan McCarthy over at the American Conservative points out that this is going to be a tough job. Elected as an outsider, Trump cannot resort to using the usual suspects who will simply revive failed policies of the past. At the same time, he needs people who can help him navigate the frustrating complexities of Capitol Hill and the government bureaucracy. This task will test every ounce of Trump’s executive abilities, and his appointments will tell us much.

A relatively weak White House is an opportunity for Congress to restore a balance of power between the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. They must absolutely do it. But they can only do so if they are well led and determined – individually and as a group – to do so.

This is where Republicans and Democrats can find common ground, and should work together. Congress is on a long, meandering path toward becoming a rubber-stamp legislature, Constitutional guarantees notwithstanding. That trend needs to be arrested, and now is the moment in history to do so.

The New Power Elite

Mike Pence, Asa Hutchinson, and the Republican party were not blindsided by opposition to RFRA by gay rights activists. What knocked them back were major corporations, such as Apple, Walmart, and Angie’s List, and organizations such as the NCAA that denounced the law, in many cases announcing boycotts of Indiana.

Source: The Power Elite by Patrick J. Deneen | Articles | First Things

Patrick Deneen

Notre Dame political theorist Patrick Deneen writes powerfully in First Things about the defeat of the RFRA, viewed by most on the Left as legalized bigotry; by most on the Right as an essential defense of the rights of small business owners; and by most of us on the Center-Right as a well-intentioned but probably redundant law that would create more problems than it would solve.

Deneen’s primary point, though, is not a defense of the RFRA (though he makes one later in the article that will do nothing to sway the bill’s critics or fence-sitters like me). It is, rather, to point out that the response to the bill may have shed the first public light on a new elite coalition in the US between corporate America and social libertarians. It is a compelling proposition, but one that needs more evidence than the RFRA to support it.

Our view at the Pacific Bull Moose is rather more nuanced. It is not whether corporations are aligned with Republican causes and candidates. They are. Neither is it that corporations are aligned with Democratic causes and candidates. They are that as well.

Our view is that corporations align themselves to whichever political party or movement offers the the most lucrative commercial prospects. And this is exactly the problem with handing political power to commercial interests: it makes them a political power center that serves a small elite group and is answerable to no one, all while operating in a manner that serves the interests only of themselves, and not the nation as a whole.

Their alignment on both sided of the political spectrum means that it is impossible to align against corporate interests merely by choosing a political side. Their power must be fought on an issue-by-issue, election-by-election basis.

Deneen makes the point that America is devolving into a nation “where the powerful will govern completely over the powerless, where the rich dictate terms to the poor, where the strong are unleashed from the old restraints of culture and place, where libertarian indifference—whether in respect to economic inequality or morals—is inscribed into the national fabric, and where the unburdened, hedonic human will reign ascendant.”

That is a sentiment that should resonate with Americans of every political stripe. And it should frighten us all.

America the Unexceptional

In the United States, babies are more likely to die and high schoolers are less likely to learn than their counterparts in other affluent countries. Politicians may look far and wide for evidence of American exceptionalism, but they won’t find it in the numbers, where it matters.

American Exceptionalism”
Vaclav Smil

IEEE Spectrum

Patriotism is not seeing only the good things about your country and loving it for those things.

Patriotism is not seeing only the bad things about your country, and loving it anyway.

True patriotism is the ability to see both the good and the bad, and fighting to fix the bad without throwing away the good.

Martin Wolf on The Cycle of Corruption in America

“Regulation will be eroded, both overtly and covertly, under the remorseless pressure and unfailing imagination of a huge, well-organized and highly motivated industry. This is not about fraud narrowly defined. It is more about the corruption of a political process in which organized interests outweigh the public interest.”

via Athanasios Orphanides | The Political Roots of the Financial Crisis.

Republicans for Campaign-Finance Reform

Republicans for Campaign-Finance Reform: Lindsey Graham, Chris Christie, and Ted Cruz — The Atlantic.

David Graham’s excellent article explaining that campaign finance reform is not just a cause of the Left. There is now a growing shadow caucus of Republicans who, for different but parallel reasons, are tired of moneyball politics.

One cannot help but wonder about the sincerity of our elected officials about campaign finance reform. It is becoming plain that the way to bring about this change is my all but forcing it upon Congress. Why ever would an incumbent politician rock the boat on which he or she as bet their career?

CVS and Sandtown

Will CVS Rebuild Their Looted Store? – The Daily Beast.

It would be nice if CVS rebuilt a the store in Baltimore that was trashed by rioters earlier this month. It would be a fine gesture on the part of a large corporation that it was not holding the entire neighborhood responsible for the behavior of miscreants.

On the other hand, we should not blame them if they decide not to do so. If anything has become clear in the last few weeks, it is that the depiction of the city of Baltimore in the long-running HBO series the wire may be dark, but it seems Pollyannish in comparison to the reality.

This is not about the inexcusable behavior of the rioters. It is not about the hard, penetrating questions that need to be asked about the Baltimore cops and systemic brutality of practices like “rough rides.” It is not about the dysfunction that seems to permeate city government.

It is about all of those things put together.

I am not suggesting that CVS sit back and await the gentrification of Sandtown before it ventures back in. What it should do, if it really wants to make a difference, is say “we want to go back into Sandtown bigger than ever. But we are not going to do it until this city starts taking care of the problems that the residents themselves have been complaining about for years.”

Building a pharmacy in the heart of a blighted neighborhood is, possibly, a good thing. Building a pharmacy while pursuing a coherent approach to removing the blight is an unquestionable public good.