Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Lack of principles will drag GOP down with Trump

President Trump is dragging Republicans down with him observes Paul Waldman (Washington Post/Plum Line).

There’s a lot of scrambling going on right now in Washington. The White House is scrambling to justify President Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency in order to obtain money for a border wall that Congress refused to grant him. Congressional Republicans are scrambling to figure out how they perform the latest iteration of an uncomfortable two-step they’ve executed many times before, claiming that they’re deeply “concerned” about what Trump is doing, while not actually doing anything to stop him.

,,, Trump will try to repeat the extraordinary success he achieved last fall, when he did everything in his power to make the midterm election about supposedly terrifying caravans of asylum seekers and the need for walls to keep them away. The result, you may recall, was an enormous victory for Democrats.

Then came the government shutdown — yet another political disaster for the GOP — and Trump’s emergency declaration, which he promptly undercut by admitting that there really isn’t any emergency. “I want to do it faster,” he said. “I could do the wall over a longer period of time. I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster.” If he “didn’t need to do this,” then by definition it isn’t an emergency, which he underscored by promptly heading off for yet another golfing weekend.

And now comes the test. Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bring to the House floor a resolution to reverse the emergency declaration, which will presumably pass. And what will happen in the Senate? Multiple Republicans there have gone on record about the declaration, saying “I would have my doubts” (Sen. Ron Johnson) or “I’m not enthusiastic about it” (Sen. Pat Toomey) or “I have some concerns” (Sen. Roy Blunt), or even “I wish he wouldn’t have done it” (Sen. Chuck Grassley). They think that presidential power has expanded too far, and they worry about setting a precedent that the next Democratic president will use in ways they abhor. But are they actually going to vote with Democrats against Trump?

A few might, but it’s almost impossible to imagine 20 of them voting with all the Democrats to get to the two-thirds majority necessary to override the veto the president has promised. So while the Supreme Court will have the last word, there’s a chance that this controversy will produce the first veto of Trump’s presidency. And that’s fine with him.

Which is the other thing weighing on Republicans’ minds. Trump may be quite happy to have that bill pass and then veto it, so he can say he’s bravely standing up to the “establishment.” He’ll be running a scorched-earth, maximally divisive campaign in 2020, counting on fear and hatred to once again carry him to victory. If he thinks it’s to his benefit to turn on his own party to do it, and attack Republicans in Congress as a bunch of lily-livered wimps whose loathing of immigrants is insufficiently pure, that’s what he’ll do.

And as we reach November 2020, we could see a repeat of 2018, with Trump insisting that political victory will be his if only he tells a few more lurid stories of immigrant crime and holds a few more rallies so that his rabid supporters can chant “Build that wall!” (or “Finish that wall!” or “Paint that wall!” or whatever he decides the latest slogan should be), despite all evidence pointing toward defeat. Should that happen, Republicans whose own necks are on the line will wonder whether they might have done anything to prevent being taken down with him. But by then it will be too late. In fact, it probably already is.

Jennifer Rubin (also at Washington Post) excoriates Senate Republicans in The feeble Republicans will not fulfill their oaths.

Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller’s disastrous appearance on Fox News rightfully got most of the media attention on Sunday. Here was the architect of the emergency declaration unprepared and unable to defend President Trump’s actions as much to do about nothing. We are unsurprised, however, that Trump’s most loyal and dogged anti-immigrant advocate, once outside the cocoon of a White House populated by yes men, should find it hard to present factual answers to legitimate questions.

What was more depressing was the pathetic conduct of Republican senators who seem thoroughly incapable of defending their power of the purse. …

Rubin presents partial transcripts of ’cringeworthy" Sunday morning interviews with Senators Ron Johnson and Lindsey Graham. She concludes:

It is incumbent on every interviewer who questions a Republican to have the politician’s previous statements about executive overreach at the ready, grill them on their hypocrisy and ask three basic questions: 1) Isn’t Trump’s overreach the most egregious of all because it aims to supplant Congress’s Article I role? 2) What evidence of an emergency is there, if even Trump says he “didn’t need to do this”? 3.) When President Warren or President Harris declares an emergency, takes money from the military and uses it for measures necessary to protect the country from the cataclysmic effects of global warming, will you give her your approval?

At times such as this, one really misses the principled, consistent voice of the late senator John McCain. He didn’t undergo torturous confinement for five years to see Graham and the rest trample on the rule of law and give license to an authoritarian bully. Unfortunately, the GOP is the party of Trump and his sycophants, not of constitutional conservatism, limited government or any other defining principle. And it’s certainly not McCain’s GOP.

And that may be the strongest reason why Trump is dragging the Republican party down with him.

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