Republicans once hoped that if the GOP controlled Washington, a shared focus on legislative goals—and the power of the White House political office—could defuse the intense factionalism that has fueled nasty primaries for the last seven years.
Instead, as voters head to the polls to vote in Alabama’s hotly contested primary on Tuesday and other GOP primary races take shape across the country, it’s apparent that party divisions in the Trump era are only widening.
Republican lawmakers offered some of their most pointed criticism of their president this weekend after President Donald Trump failed to directly blame neo-Nazis and white supremacists for the violence in Charlottesville, Va., that left one woman dead.
But they had already been starting to lean away from him. In the span of a month, Trump has found himself at odds first with Republicans in the Senate as he publicly berated one of their friends and a former colleague, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and then with the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell himself, over health care. This weekend, Trump faced pushback from the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Cory Gardner, who called on the president to explicitly condemn white supremacists. (Trump still has not directly done so, instead sending a message through a spokesperson 36 hours after protests erupted.)
President Trump tweeted, “Our relationship with Russia is at an all-time & very dangerous low. You can thank Congress, the same people that can’t even give us HCare!” White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, you see, cannot prevent the president from revealing his self-delusions and own ignorance. Once again, we see Trump’s inability to recognize the danger posed to us by Russia and, worse, his own conduct in forcing Congress to act on its own initiative.
For starters, Russia brought this on itself by meddling in our elections and those of our European allies, invading neighbors, backing the murderous Syrian regime and engaging in domestic repression. Trump refuses to take issue with all that or to acknowledge that such conduct is contrary to U.S. interests. By blaming Congress, he once again does Russian President Vladimir Putin’s water-carrying. Blaming the West and casting Russia as the innocent victim come straight from the Russian propaganda playbook.
Trumps prefers not only to avoid identifying or punishing Russia but also shows no interest in protecting American democracy. Numerous intelligence officials have testified before Congress in open session that Trump has never asked them about Russian cyberespionage or anti-Western propaganda. Think about it. Trump will not acknowledge, let alone do something about the tactics of our chief international foe. He prefers that Congress do nothing — just appease and avoid Russia’s ire. That’s the sort of attitude conservatives in Congress and in the foreign policy community would have virulently criticize President Barack Obama for adopting (and did).
The question then presents itself: Is the president willing to counter an identified threat to U.S. national security, and will his administration follow the law in staffing and developing programs to do just that? So far the answer to both is “no.”
The president seems convinced that he can survive whatever comes his way as long as he keeps his much-celebrated political base with him. But this is not as easy as it sounds for either Trump or his party because his base is fundamentally divided.
Nothing illustrated this more dramatically than the health-care showdown. Trump’s rhetoric about the Affordable Care Act during last year’s campaign should have been a tipoff to the dilemma both he and conservative politicians confront now. On the one hand, he roundly denounced Obamacare, which made right-wing ideologues happy. But he also regularly promised an alternative that would be more, not less, generous in helping Americans of modest means.
Trump is so hungry for “wins” that he is still pushing the Senate to pass any bill to repeal Obamacare. But enacting proposals along the lines of those that failed last week would be the worst possible outcome for Trump because they effectively break the promises he made to nearly 40 percent of his own sympathizers.
Senate Republicans who want to back away from repeal, at least for now, seem more attuned to how disruptive this issue is. But the looming battle over deep tax cuts tilted toward the wealthy will also split the alliance Trump is counting on for survival.
Political leaders trying to hold diverse groups together need to demonstrate finesse and both the appearance and reality of successful governance. Finesse, needless to say, is not a Trump long suit. And every day that brings a new Trump revelation, new questions about Russia or sheer craziness puts increased pressure on a rickety alliance that can only bear so much. When Trump most needs that base of his, it may no longer be there.
The authorhad written half of a relatively silly column when he stopped and read these words online:
“The predators and criminal aliens who poison our communities with drugs and prey on innocent young people — these beautiful, beautiful, innocent young people — will find no safe haven anywhere in our country.
“And you’ve seen the stories about some of these animals. They don’t want to use guns, because it’s too fast and it’s not painful enough. So they’ll take a young, beautiful girl, 16, 15, and others, and they slice them and dice them with a knife, because they want them to go through excruciating pain before they die. And these are the animals that we’ve been protecting for so long. Well, they’re not being protected any longer, folks.”
That’s a story the president of the United States told at a rally in Ohio on Tuesday night. It’s a creepy story, one that mixes unnecessarily detailed savagery with the image of “a young, beautiful girl.”
There’s no mention of the anecdote’s origin, no specifics on when or where a “beautiful, beautiful, innocent” young person was sliced and diced and put through “excruciating pain.” There is just the violent imagery, and the repeated reference to “animals.”
That’s weird. It’s intentionally dehumanizing an entire group of people, but it’s also just weird. Weird in a way that if someone at a bar told you that story you’d excuse yourself and walk away as quickly as possible.
By Damon Linker
Image courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty Images
The 45th president of the United States is a virus. He has infected America’s body politic. And there’s only one cure.
The particular form of this virus is really the most disturbing part of Donald Trump’s presidency: the way his words and behavior constitute an ongoing and virulent assault on the very idea that institutions can rise above partisan politics to stand for the good of the nation as a whole.
Of course Democrats oppose President Trump and the agenda of his party. That’s politics. But Trump doesn’t limit his rhetorical wrath to Democratic politicians. In fact, if we set aside the president’s peculiar obsession with the ghost of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, he devotes far more time and energy to railing against institutions and individuals that strive to rise above the partisan fray, to take their stand in the name of the public good: journalists, members of the intelligence community, and those who work in federal law enforcement.
It is America’s faith in these institutions that the Trump virus has most worringly infected.
The Washington Post
By Sean Sullivan and Robert Costa
Image courtesy of Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post
Six months after seizing complete control of the federal government, the Republican Party stands divided as ever — plunged into a messy war among its factions that has escalated in recent weeks to crisis levels.
Frustrated lawmakers are increasingly sounding off at a White House awash in turmoil and struggling to accomplish its legislative goals. President Trump is scolding Republican senators over health care and even threatening electoral retribution. Congressional leaders are losing the confidence of their rank and file. And some major GOP donors are considering using their wealth to try to force out recalcitrant incumbents.
The intensifying fights threaten to derail efforts to overhaul the nation’s tax laws and other initiatives that GOP leaders hope will put them back on track. The party remains bogged down by a months-long health-care endeavor that still lacks the support to become law, although Senate GOP leaders hopes to vote on it soon.
With his priorities stalled and Trump consumed by staff changes and investigations into Russian interference in last year’s election, Republicans are adding fuel to a political fire that is showing no signs of burning out. The conflict also heralds a potentially messy 2018 midterm campaign with fierce intra-party clashes that could draw resources away from fending off Democrats.