Tag Archives: GOP

Watergate-style blowout awaits GOP?

Ted Cruz thinks congressional Republicans face the possibility of a “Watergate-style blowout” in 2018 if they fail to enact a health care overhaul and reform federal taxes.

I think the Texas Republican U.S. senator is on to something, but perhaps for the wrong reasons.

Indeed, I agree that the GOP is vulnerable to a big mid-term election shellacking, but I disagree with the reasons cited by Cruz.

Republicans might take their hits if they seek to enact a health care overhaul similar to what they sought to do already. As for tax reform, those big cuts for the wealthy aren’t going over well, either, with the public.

The president of the United States already has drawn a bead on the Affordable Care Act. He is using his executive authority to dismantle the ACA even before Congress approves any sort of replacement.

All the while, the president hasn’t yet spoken with any semblance of detail about how he intends to replace the ACA. He just keeps yammering about the “disaster” that awaits if the ACA remains on the books.

As for tax reform, Donald Trump is equally vague about how his planned tax cuts will boost a national economy that’s already rocking along fairly nicely.

And so the drama continues. Sen. Cruz thinks the public will vote Republicans out of Congress if they fail to deal with these two issues. I tend to believe the public will rebel if they proceed along the wrongheaded paths they’ve already staked out.

Should the Republicans suffer those kinds of losses, count me as one American who won’t shed any tears.

Sen. Corker is going out with a splash

Bob Corker isn’t going to leave the U.S. Senate quietly. He won’t skulk off into the night when his public service career comes to an end.

Oh, no. The Tennessee Republican who announced his intention to retire after the 2018 midterm election is going to make sure he puts his “mark” squarely on Donald J. Trump’s backside.

Corker is now in the midst of a Twitter fight with the president. He has many more friends on Capitol Hill than Trump can claim. One of them happens to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is standing by his Senate colleague.

McConnell calls Corker a valuable member of the Republican Senate Caucus. And when he’s asked directly whether he agrees with Corker’s recent criticism of Trump, McConnell does a version of the Texas two-step. He doesn’t answer the question directly, which is a sort of code for “Yes, I agree with my friend.”

Feud heats up

The long-term impact of Corker’s feud with Trump has yet to be known. The president has tweeted already that he intends to oppose anything that Corker supports. Do we take Trump at his word? And do we now expect Corker to oppose anything that Trump puts forth?

Corker isn’t the longest-serving U.S. senator by a long shot. In this particular climate on Capitol Hill, though, he has emerged as a thoughtful and wise voice of reason. With the rhetoric heating up and with the president seemingly at odds with virtually all so-called “establishment Republicans,” this feud with Corker is taking on some added relevance.

Sen. Corker is a lame duck. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a lame member of the U.S. Senate. He’s already declared that Trump “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to be president. He has said that members of the president’s Cabinet at keeping the nation “separated from chaos.”

It’s gone downhill from there in rapid fashion.

Trump keeps demonstrating the truthfulness of Corker’s analysis.

There goes the Trump-Corker ‘friendship’

This is just a hunch, but I’m almost willing to bet that Donald J. Trump can kiss goodbye Sen. Bob Corker’s support for any major legislation the president manages to present to Congress.

These two men, both Republicans, once were thought to be potential ticket mates in the 2016 presidential election. Trump then went with Mike Pence. Corker, from Tennessee, returned to the U.S. Senate after the election.

Something strange happened. Corker began speaking his mind and from his heart about the kind president Trump has become. He believes Trump “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence to lead.

It’s getting personal

It gets worse. Corker announced his retirement from the Senate after the 2018 election, then launched another salvo at Trump, saying that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly are saving the nation “from chaos” that Trump threatens to create at every turn.

Trump now has taken to Twitter — imagine that! — to say Corker lacks “guts.” Corker isn’t lying down for it; he’s firing back.

Yep, here we go again. The president of the United States/commander in chief/leader of the free world is blasting a governmental colleague for, um, speaking from his heart.

I need to point out that Sen. Corker is no back-bench nobody. He’s a smart and thoughtful lawmaker who happens to chair the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

So help me, Donald John Trump cannot take it. His skin is paper thin. His blood reaches a full boil quickly and with virtually no effort from the person who criticizes him.

Spare me the crap about Trump “being quick to respond to criticism.” Presidents sign on to the job understanding that they’ll develop critics. It goes with the territory. It’s an unwritten part of the presidential job description.

I would suggest that Trump read up on that kind of thing. Except he doesn’t need to study anything. Why? Because he’s a “very smart person” who surrounds himself “with the best people.”

Simply … sad.

The Gipper would be a sad Republican today

Ronald Reagan once coined a well-known commandment for fellow Republicans to obey.

“Thou shalt not speak ill of fellow Republicans,” according to the former president’s 11th commandment.

Wherever he is, the late president would be mighty steamed at what is transpiring within his beloved Republican Party. Present-day GOP members have turned on each other. They are attacking each other with teeth bared, knives drawn, with bloody brass knuckles.

Who, do you suppose, is the lead attack dog? I believe I would hang that label on the president of the United States, Donald John Trump.

The president has thrived in this contentious intraparty environment. His so-called “base” sticks with him through thick and thin, even as he trashes the party leadership. This Republican vs. Republican mentality has seeped down through the political ranks.

The recent Alabama special GOP primary election provides a clear example of GOP cannibalism. Roy Moore, the winner of the primary runoff, took dead aim at congressional establishment Republicans; he aligned himself with Trump. So did the man he defeated, U.S. Sen. Luther Strange, who Trump backed in the primary; Strange held up Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as an example of what is wrong with the party.

All across the land, we’re seeing Republicans attacking Republicans. Right here in the Texas Panhandle, for instance, the Randall County GOP wants to oust Republican Texas House Speaker Joe Straus because Straus isn’t “conservative enough” to suit the zealots who comprise the Randall County party leadership.

Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker is savaging the president for lacking the “competence” to lead the nation; Arizona U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake has excoriated the GOP president for his lack of core conservative principles; former Trump political strategist Stephen K. Bannon vows to go to war with any Republican who challenges his former boss’s agenda.

What do you suppose President Reagan — who today’s conservatives hold up as their paragon of political purity — would think about all of this? My guess is that he would have none of it.

***

OK, I’ll answer a question that might be on the minds of some readers of this blog: Do I really want the Republican Party to make peace within itself?

To be totally candid, umm … no.

Retirement liberates GOP senator

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker is a free man these days.

The Tennessee Republican has announced his impending retirement from the Senate — and is now free to speak his mind.

Take, for example, his statement this week about three of Donald Trump’s key advisers and how they manage to save the United States from the “chaos” created by the president.

He spoke of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis and White House chief of staff John Kelly. These men, said Corker, are managing to maintain some semblance of order.

Corker speaks out

Corker didn’t wait to announce his retirement before speaking candidly about Trump. After the president’s hideous reaction to the Charlottesville riot — including the “many sides are responsible” comment — Corker said the president “hasn’t yet demonstrated” the competence he needs to lead the nation.

Now this latest critique in which he said, “I think Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis and Chief of Staff Kelly are those people that help separate our country from chaos.”

Oh, and of course we now have Tillerson reportedly firing off an enraged comment in a meeting that he believes the president is a “moron.” It’s also been reported that Tillerson attached a descriptive and profane adjective in front of “moron.” He has not denied saying it.

There you have it. A president with no prior government or public service experience of any kind is now leading the world’s greatest nation. Except that he’s incapable of exhibiting the temperament he needs to avoid the “chaos” that he invites whenever and wherever possible.

Trump’s fans applaud him for “telling it like it is.” Now such much-needed candor and honesty are coming from the mouths of the president’s “allies.”

Retirement can be a liberating experience … don’t you think?

‘Backbencher’ thrusts himself into the limelight

I had never heard of Tim Murphy before today.

He used to be an obscure member of Congress from western Pennsylvania. The Republican lawmaker was known mostly to his constituents and, I presume, his colleagues in the 435-member U.S. House of Representatives.

To the rest of this vast nation, he was a stranger.

No … longer.

Many more Americans now know Murphy as a duplicitous politician who got caught doing something he shouldn’t have done. The married pol got involved with an extramarital affair with a much younger woman. That relationship resulted in the woman becoming pregnant.

What did Murphy do at that point? He reportedly asked the woman to obtain an abortion. And why is that a big deal? It’s because Murphy has been an ardent political opponent of abortion. He’s a “pro-life, family values” Republican.

Murphy is going to finish the rest of his term. Then he’ll retire from Congress.

There you have it. An individual who labels himself a certain way behaves at a couple of levels like someone quite different.

He’s not the first politician to fall off the virtue wagon. He won’t be the last one. Politicians of all stripes have said one thing and done another. Former Democratic U.S. Sen. John Edwards used to proclaim his love for his late wife — only to be revealed to have fathered a child with another woman. Ex-GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich wailed aloud about Bill Clinton’s misbehavior with a White House intern while taking a tumble with a female staff member.

The list is endless.

I just have to believe Tim Murphy wishes for a way he could return to the farthest end of the back bench — out of sight and out of mind.

Sorry, Rep. Murphy. You brought this unwanted attention on all by yourself.

Can this congressman promote Capitol Hill unity?

Steve Scalise is back at work.

His office is on Capitol Hill. He is a Republican member of Congress from Louisiana. Rep. Scalise also serves in a leadership position with the GOP caucus in the House of Representatives.

He has been away from the office for a while. You see, Scalise was nearly shot to death earlier this summer while practicing for a congressional baseball game along with his fellow Republican caucus teammates.

Scalise was rushed to the hospital. His condition became critical. His bullet wounds caused immense internal bleeding.

But now, thank goodness, he is recovering. He walks with crutches. He is unsteady on his feet. This past week, though, he walked onto the floor of the House to a thunderous ovation from a packed chamber of his colleagues.

And that brings me to the point of this blog post.

The tears of joy flowed across both sides of the partisan aisle. Democrats cried and cheered along with Republicans. Their friend and colleague was back. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat, took the floor to proclaim her joy at Scalise’s return and credited jokingly that his “Italian heritage” — which Pelosi shares — enabled him to return to work after suffering such grievous wounds.

So, the question emerges: Was this bipartisan joyous welcome a harbinger of a potentially new era on Capitol Hill?

It might be said that such a “new era” would in fact be a return to an older time, when Ds and Rs got along after hours. They were just political adversaries, not enemies.

Scalise said on a “60 Minutes” episode broadcast tonight that he doesn’t believe Republicans and Democrats are that far apart on many key issues. He wouldn’t predict a return to a more civil atmosphere under the Capitol Dome, but he sounded mildly hopeful that his near-tragedy well might signal a return to the collegiality that’s been missing for far too long in Washington, D.C.

Can unity return?

Americans of all stripes should hail the recovery of Rep. Scalise. We all should welcome the tremendous affection demonstrated on the floor of the House when he made his dramatic return to work.

Let us hope it does signal a renewed spirit of unity.

Let us revisit ‘term limits’

The calls for mandating term limits for members of the U.S. House and Senate have become a bit muted in recent years.

That’s fine with me. I’ve never quite understood the notion of requiring public servants to step aside after a certain set time established through federal statute or constitutional amendment.

The issue keeps recurring every so often. It well might again in the 2018 midterm election that will decide every one of 435 U.S. House seats and one-third of the seats in the 100-member U.S. Senate.

I dug up a 2013 article in USA Today that noted that the 113th Congress was the most “inexperienced” in nearly two decades.

As USA Today noted about that Congress: A confluence of factors — from a trio of wave elections, redistricting, divisive primaries to even death — kick off a 113th Congress populated by junior lawmakers in both chambers that challenges the conventional wisdom that Washington politics is dominated by entrenched incumbents.

Nearly two in five lawmakers in the U.S. House, 39%, have served for less than three years, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Cook Political Report. It’s the least experienced House since at least 1995, when an election wave swept the Republicans into power.

Read the rest of the USA Today article here.

That was just four years ago. The turnover on Capitol Hill has continued at about the same pace.

It brings to mind the Congress that took office in 1995. The election the previous year had swept out dozens of incumbents as the Republican insurgents took control of both legislative houses for the first time in 40 years. One of the upstart freshmen that year was a young self-described “recovering lawyer” named Mac Thornberry, who became the Texas Panhandle’s representative.

Thornberry, a Clarendon Republican, is still in the House. He campaigned as a champion of the Contract With America, the GOP platform that pledged a lot of radical changes. One of them was mandated term limits. Thornberry never imposed any such limit on himself; he has voted in favor of every failed attempt to amend the U.S. Constitution to require term limits for members of Congress.

Frankly, I’ve never faulted him for remaining in Congress all this time … even though I detest his general governing philosophy.

Indeed, any member of Congress who does a lousy job or who doesn’t represent his constituents’ interests will hear from them on Election Day. The voters have the power to impose their own brand of term limits on their elected representatives.

Moreover, is inexperience a good thing when it comes to running the federal government? Hmm. Let me think about that.

Oh, yeah. We’ve got a political novice in the White House at this very moment. The president took office after spending his entire professional life seeking to fatten his financial portfolio. He had zero public service experience before taking office. He is learning a hard lesson that governing isn’t nearly the same as running a business empire.

I believe, therefore, that government experience is vital.

The upcoming midterm election is going to turn on a lot of factors. Term limits might return as a top-drawer political issue. Fine. Let’s have that debate. I likely won’t budge from my long-held belief that we already have term limits. We call them “elections.”

***

Here’s what I wrote five years ago about this very issue:

Term limits? We already have them

 

‘Fine-tuned machine’ keeps misfiring

I saw a graphic a day or two ago that I found quite stunning.

I mean, didn’t Donald J. Trump describe his administration running like a “fine-tuned machine”? The graphic showed the long and growing list of senior administration aides who’ve resigned or been terminated.

National security adviser Michael Flynn, FBI Director James Comey, two communications directors (Michael Dubke and Anthony “Mooch” Scaramucci), HHS Secretary Tom Price, White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, press secretary Sean Spicer, senior political strategist Stephen K. Bannon. I know I’m missing someone, but you get the idea.

The fine-tuned machine has yet to produce a significant legislative victory for the president. It came up on the short end of an Alabama Republican Party primary race this week in which the other guy defeated the man Trump had endorsed. The Republican-led U.S. Senate gave up on its effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act; oh, and by the way, the deadline for getting Senate approval with a simple majority is going to arrive in just a couple of hours.

Trump botched his response to the Charlottesville riot, fueling suspicions about racist sentiments within the White House.

The chaos continues. The president seems to relish it. He welcomes it. He demands it.

Trump’s response to helping stricken citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands has come under question. He has responded with tweets that have criticized the mayor of San Juan, P.R. Sheesh, man!

Oh, and now the president is up to his eyeballs in a feud with the National Football League over players who “take a knee” while the National Anthem is being played. They’re protesting police conduct, but Trump has yanked that argument toward whether pro football players are “disrespecting the flag and the U.S. Constitution.”

Is this the way a “fine-tuned machine” operates?

I, um, think not.

GOP set to self-inflict a mortal wound?

The buzz around political circles is that Republican Party “insurgents” are set to declare civil war against the party “establishment” in their effort to elect Roy Moore of Alabama to the U.S. Senate.

Good luck with that one, folks.

Moore defeated Sen. Luther Strange this week in a GOP primary runoff. Moore now will face Doug Jones in a general election later this year to fill the seat vacated when Jeff Sessions left to become attorney general.

Civil war? Is it really going to happen?

Moore is no friend of the GOP higher-ups. He savaged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell while defeating Strange, who by the way did the same thing. Both men sidled up to Donald Trump, who endorsed Strange.

Let the fight begin

Moore is a renegade, to be sure. He thinks gay people should be made criminals. He was twice removed as Alabama Supreme Court chief justice because (a) he installed and refused to remove a Ten Commandments monument on public property and (b) refused to honor a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that declared that gay marriage is legal in this country.

Now he’s gotten the support of former Trump senior strategist Steve Bannon, who’s back in charge of Breitbart News. Bannon is sounding the bugle to launch the civil war against that GOP establishment.

Bannon is old enough to remember the last time a major political party — the Democrats — engaged in such an internal conflict. It erupted in 1968 and continued through the 1972 presidential election. The Vietnam War divided Democrats. It was Hawks vs. Doves. The fight tore at the nation’s soul, as did the war itself.

Democrats lost the White House in 1968 and then got obliterated in 1972. The major recuperative factor that enabled the Democrats to regain the White House occurred when the Watergate break-in and subsequent presidential cover-up doomed President Nixon. They won the 1976 election, then got clobbered in 1980 and 1984. Oh, and let’s not forget about the primary battle that erupted in 1980 when Sen. Ted Kennedy challenged President Carter.

Civil war … again?

Bring it!