From the time Donald J. Trump became their candidate until he took the oath of office, congressional Republicans treated his policy pronouncements -- largely out of step with Republican dogma -- as essentially a distraction. He would talk. They would drive the policies.Seriously? Steinhauer thinks pre-Trump Republicans opposed expanding the military or increasing the number of Border Patrol agents? Or even barriers on the border? Did she miss the largely Republican-driven shutdowns of immigration reform efforts in both the Bush and Obama years? Or anti-immigration anger so vociferous that it led John McCain, once a supporter of reform, to demand that the government "complete the danged fence"?
But now, the question of whether congressional Republicans would change President Trump or Mr. Trump would change them has an early answer. Mr. Trump cheerfully addressed the group here at their policy retreat on Thursday, and they responded with applause to many proposals they have long opposed.
Republican lawmakers appear more than ready to open up the coffers for a $12 billion to $15 billion border wall, perhaps without the commensurate spending cuts that they demanded when it came to disaster aid, money to fight the Zika virus or funds for the tainted water system in Flint, Mich. They also seem to back a swelling of the federal payroll that Mr. Trump has called for in the form of a larger military and 5,000 more border patrol agents.
And Steinhauer is shocked that Republicans are suddenly willing to engage in deficit spending for Trump when they wouldn't for President Obama? I thought Jonathan Chait covered this very succinctly in November:
Republicans blew up the deficit under Ronald Reagan, then fomented hysterical warnings of insolvency under Bill Clinton. When Clinton’s policies structurally balanced the budget, they unbalanced it with massive tax cuts, a military and security buildup, and a prescription drug benefit, all entirely debt-financed. When the first signs of recession appeared in early 2008, Republicans did support a Keynesian stimulus bill. As Obama entered office, the seeming mild recession that had spurred both parties to action a year before had spiraled into a bottomless crisis unlike any in memory. But at the moment the justification for Keynesian stimulus had become stronger than at any time in the previous 80 years, Republicans embraced austerity, insisting temporary deficit spending would worsen the economy. They held to that stance -- with the exception of tax cuts for the rich, which they support regardless of circumstance -- throughout Obama’s presidency....Steinhauer continues:
... Once fierce promoters of the separation of powers, Republicans are now embracing Mr. Trump’s early governing by executive order, something they loudly decried during Mr. Obama’s second term.But as we continue to learn from BuzzFeed's Chris Geidner, executive orders (including some of the specific orders emanating from the Trump White House) were part of a strategy intended for a Mitt Romney presidency in 2012:
When White House press secretary Sean Spicer was asked Wednesday about a potential executive order that would revive Bush-era detention and interrogation policies, he flatly denied any knowledge of its existence....More from Steinhauer:
But the document is one of more than four dozen potential executive orders prepared for a would-be President Mitt Romney during his unsuccessful 2012 presidential campaign, BuzzFeed News has learned. Several of these documents appear to have been used by the Trump administration in the president’s first week in office...
Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt, who led Romney’s transition planning efforts, told BuzzFeed News that the documents were part of extensive transition planning aimed at creating “executive order drafts prepared on various subjects related to commitments Romney made during the campaign.”
Many Republicans, who have been longstanding opponents of Russia and written laws that prohibit torture, have chosen to overlook, or even concur with, Mr. Trump’s embrace of both. Even on the subject of Mr. Trump’s call for an investigation into voter fraud, a widely debunked claim, Republicans have often demurred. “The notion that election fraud is a fiction is not true,” said the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.I'll give her Russia -- Trump's love of Vladimir Putin is a big break with GOP orthodoxy. (And I'll give her trade, which she mentions elsewhere -- protectionism isn't mainstream in the GOP.)
But torture and an obsession with voter fraud? Has Steinhauer forgotten, um, the last Republican president of the United States, who brought back torture as official U.S. policy and whose administration became obsessed with prosecuting alleged electoral irregularities? Has Steinhauer paid no attention to the fixation on voter fraud in states controlled by Republicans?
Trump is, in a number of ways, not a typical Republican. But in far more ways he's just the modern GOP on rage-inducing drugs. I know the press continues to believe that the GOP would be a nice, collegial party in Trump's absence, but it's not true. Conservatism made him. He's a Republican evolution, not an aberration.