Saturday, February 11, 2017

Maybe Congress Should Get More Blame Than Trump

Will Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell put career and agenda
over the nation? And if so, will it be Congress' fault if Trump
really messes up America? Probably, yes.
The daily Trump show continues apace, with all kinds of weird tweets, orders, meltdowns and whatnot that is an everyday occurance.

Lots of people, including me, have long been appalled by Trump, and continue to be. We fear he's ruining the country, and we fear he and minions like Steve Bannon are trying to turn the United States into an undemocratic autocracy.

Maybe we're blaming the wrong guy, though.

The reason I say this is I read an interesting article by Ezra Klein in Vox that matched my suspicions.

In short, it's Congress' fault.

Klein writes:

"The President can do little without Congress's express permission. He cannot raise money. He cannot declare war. He cannot even staff his government. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to compel Trump to release his tax returns, they could. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to impeach Trump unless he turned his assets over to a blind trust, they could. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to take Trump's power to choose who can and cannot enter the country, they could." 

The problem is, Congress can do all these things and more, but they won't.

The Founding Fathers knew that presidents had the potential to become autocratic, hence the power of the purse and other advantages they bestowed on Congress.

Klein goes on:

"If Trump builds an autocracy, his congressional enablers will, if anything, be more responsible than him. After all, in amassing power and breaking troublesome norms, Trump will be doing what the Founders expected.   But in letting any president do that, Congress will be violating the role they were built to play. We need to stop talking so much about what Trump will do ad begin speaking in terms of what Congress lets him do."

Look, the GOP controls Congress now. We should expect them to try to push through their agenda as forcefully as possible. That's what majorities in Congress always have done and always will. That's life whether we like it or not.

Seems to me that Congressional Republicans are so afraid of upsetting our Snowflake President Trump that they won't reign him in. Because they probably figure that if they prompt more Trump meltdowns, they won't get their agenda through.

Or they're playing Trump.

Back in January, Robert Reich, the former Labor Secretary under President Bill Clinton who has turned himself into a bit of a liberal firebrand, posited the notion Congress is taking advantage of Trump and will hammer down on him when he stops being useful.

Reich recounted a conversation about Republicans in Congress  he had with an unidentified  Republican friend:

"They'll play along for awhile.....They'll get as much as they want - tax cuts galore, deregulation, military buildup, slash all those poverty programs, and then get to work on Social Security and Medicare - and blame him. And he's such a fool, he'll want to take credit for everything."

Of course I have no way of knowing if Reich's recounting of this conversation is accurate.

But if so, it's chilling. Republicans in Congress know what they're proposing is unpopular. The reason they're pursuing the agenda seems to be to enrich their "One Percent" rich friends and by extension, themselves.

These Congress Creatures also know that if voters focused their anger on them when things go south under this agenda, their jobs are in jeopardy.

So, find a stool pigeon who will take the blame instead. That would be Trump.

Then, when Trump does something over the top stupid, they'll find an excuse to impeach him and install Vice President Mike Pence as president.

Now, Pence is a right wing zealot, but he's sane, people in Congress like him, and the hope is he'll get things done.

However, as noted in many publications, liberals are learning lessons from the ultra-conservative radical Tea Party of all people. The Tea Party focused on Congress, and now liberals are doing the same.

In other words, people are trying to hold Congressional Republicans accountable.

We'll see if it works, but it's clear the GOP is feeling some pressure.

Getting back to Klein, he writes:

"Already, congressonl Republicans are complaining that their phone lines are jammed, that their town halls are swarmed, that protesters, as Rep. Dave Brat said, 'in my grills no matter where I go.' And already, congressional Republicans are beginning to slo cown on repealing Obamacare and peel off from Trump's most unqualified nominees, like Betsy DeVos."

True, the more liberal wing of the the nation has a huge uphill battle, at least so far. DeVos was ultimately confirmed, despite two moderate Republicans who voted against her.

It's also largely full steam ahead with the GOP agenda.

But the liberal pressure remains. The fact that it's causing headaches for some GOP Congress Creatures is bound to slow things down, or even make them think twice about overreaching if they want to keep their jobs.

In the past couple of days,  we've had Republican congress people hold town meetings that didn't go all that well.

One widely distributed video was certainly bad optics for Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a Republican who chairs the House Oversight Committee.

A young girl named Hannah Bradshaw asked the climate-denying Chaffetz, "Do you believe in science?"

The whole Chaffetz town hall was a complete mess, with a large crowd booing and shutting him down. True, many of these people were activists who never voted for Chaffetz and never will, but the scene had to take him aback a bit.

Especially since the crowd yelled "Do Your Job!" After all, part of Chaffetz's job is to investigate the Trump administration if there's funny business going on.

Chaffetz seems awfully reluctant to do that, but there's also public pressure, so, we'll see.

No doubt there is going to be LOTS of pressure on wimpy Republicans who won't stand up to Trump by the 2018 elections. Activists are already organizing campaigns and money and activism to be sure some incumbents sweat in two years.

I don't know where that will go, but Republican Congress Creatures are sure playing a risky game by sucking up to Trump. Risky for them, and even more risky for the nation.

Will they put country before career? I don't have confidence that they will, but one can hope, right?

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