Friday, May 12, 2017


Dust off the world's smallest violin and play a sad song for Republicans on Capitol Hill. Jonathan Swan of Axios reports:
There is widespread concern among Congressional leadership about Trump's frame of mind in the wake of the Comey firing.

Senior Senate aide: "It has to stop ... never seen anything like this in my entire career."

House leadership source: "Lot of anxiety, don't know next shoe to drop."
Swan goes on to list several "concerns we've heard from senior congressional sources." Here are the first two:
1. Trump going after FBI director he just fired. Trump is supposed to be enacting an agenda, but is setting up a huge fight with someone who has nothing to lose.

2. White House is careening between crisis after crisis. "We need our asset out there every day barnstorming for tax reform, health care," the senate aide said.
Do you know what I love about #2? The phrase "our asset." Idiots! Trump is not your asset. Yes, on balance, he believes what you believe, more or less -- years of Fox News watching have seen to that -- but above all else he believes in looking out for himself, his bank account, his kids' bank accounts, and his tender, delicate, easily bruised ego. Defending all of those things is his top priority. Sorry if you're impatient to get around to those tax cuts.

Meanwhile, on the op-ed pages of The New York Times, right-wing Trump critic Charlie Sykes laments the state of conservatism:
If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.
(Now, now. Stop snickering.)
But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia.

... much of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump.

... the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

... What may have begun as a policy or a tactic in opposition has long since become a reflex. But there is an obvious price to be paid for essentially becoming a party devoted to trolling. In the long run, it’s hard to see how a party dedicated to liberal tears can remain a movement based on ideas or centered on principles.
Sorry, Charlie, but there are a lot of us who think that modern conservatism was never primarily about ideas or principles. Seven years ago, a blog commenter named Bob Cleek gave us Cleek's Law:
Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today, updated daily.
The law might need an update. I'd propose this Revised Cleek's Law:
Today’s conservatism is whatever makes liberals furious today, updated daily.
Or maybe:
Today’s conservatism is whatever conservatives think will make liberals furious, updated daily.
In any case, conservatism hasn't primarily been about policy for a long time. It's been mostly about character attacks -- on Barack and Michelle Obama, on the Clintons, on Nancy Pelosi, on Dan Rather and the Dixie Chicks in the Bush years, on Shirley Sherrod and Planned Parenthood in the Obama years.

But Obama-era Republicans at least believed that a significant part of the mix should be policy ... of a sort. Republicans didn't have an Obamacare replacement, but they all knew that Obamacare is evil. They couldn't write a budget that bore serious scrutiny, but they were certain that taxes on the rich are evil.

That kept the faithful voting in non-presidential elections -- but it couldn't elect a president. The guy who finally won the presidency for them articulated some of their principles, but when they didn't work, he had others (like saving Social Security and making health care universal).

But, more important, he could make liberals furious without talking about policy at all. And the voters -- or 46% of them, which was enough -- loved it.

Sykes thinks conservatism is (or should be) about ideas and principles. But conservatives in the pre-Trump era made it about the builders of the Ground Zero mosque and the retailers whose December store displays said "Happy Holidays." When rage is your best-selling item, of course you're going to lose your party eventually to an anger-management problem made of human flesh. That's what the GOP base has wanted for years, Charlie. Trump provides it without all that icky conservative policy. For the base, that's like two scoops of ice cream, and why bother with dinner.

No comments: