President Donald Trump’s approval rating is digging deeper holes than ever. It’s really low. (36 percent.) And how is the Republican congress doing to keep itself and its constituents happy while the president wallows in loathing?
Based on the six things I wrote on Jan. 16, they’re doing positively terrible. Their report card could be an “F” but there are a few things that inch it up to a still-dismal D-minus. Let’s review.
1. Don’t defend Trump when he blunders: F
The two biggest blunders Trump has made so far are the appointment of Mike Flynn as National Security Adviser, and tweeting unsupported and provably false claims of President Obama “wiretapping” him. Both of these are related to the Trump-Russia investigation, from which Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself.
The pool of blood emanating from this gaping wound is spilling wider and wider. Now it’s enveloped House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, who defended Trump, attended special meetings at the White House, and then offered some murky evidence that there was “incidental” surveillance on Trump. Then Nunes partially walked it back.
There should be a vigorous investigation of the Trump-Russia ties, and the president’s own asinine statements should not be defended. Now it seems more like there’s something to hide, and that an active coverup is in process. The more Republicans pick at this sore, the more it will bleed.
2. Allow the people Trump nominated to learn their jobs and do them: B
This is one area the Congress has handled fairly well. Only three cabinet appointments have yet to be confirmed: Sonny Perdue at Agriculture, Alex Acosta at Labor, and Robert Lighthizer as U.S. Trade Rep. These are expected to be confirmed.
As for Trump’s heavy reliance on his son-in-law Jared Kushner, it seems that Kushner is doing a fair job.
The biggest issue with one executive branch member not learning his job is Trump himself. His complete failure to sell the AHCA and allow Republicans in Congress to fracture is almost unforgivable. Nobody in Congress (this means you, Speaker Ryan) has acted strongly to help train Trump.
They’ve been far too accepting of Steve Bannon’s harsh style and political hardball. How could GOP House leadership ever put up with Bannon telling a group of conservatives “Guys, look. This is not a discussion. This is not a debate. You have no choice but to vote for this bill.”? That’s not the job of anyone in the White House–it’s the job of the party caucus leadership and whips.
The leadership has not done its job when the White House is allowed to run roughshod over them, and in the most disingenuous way. But I’ll (mostly) forgive that sin because I think they believed Trump was going to negotiate, not dictate.
3. Stick it to the Democrats on the Supreme Court. Kill the filibuster: D
The catastrophe of Swampcare has spilled into the Senate fight to confirm Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Democrats were just a few weeks ago believed to be bluffing on mounting a serious filibuster effort. But now it looks like they’ll have more than the 41 votes required to sustain a filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell keeps “telegraphing” his intentions to go nuclear, but he will need unified support to do it. There might be enough bad blood with the president, and worry about future use of the nuclear option used by Democrats against the GOP to sway a few senators like Sen. John McCain.
McConnell needs to stop hinting and simply act. All the behind-the-scenes whipping is hurting not helping. Since Sen. Chuck Schumer declared that he’s going to filibuster Gorsuch no matter what, McConnell should declare he’s going nuclear, no matter what.
By delaying, the GOP has the appearance of being unable to organize a two-car funeral, or the confirmation of the most qualified originalist jurist to be nominated to SCOTUS since Antonin Scalia, when Republicans should own the senate.
4. Lead on Obamacare: F
If there were a grade lower than F, they’d earn it. The only saving grace here is that Swampcare didn’t pass because it wasn’t voted on. It wasn’t voted on because the House Freedom Caucus stood in the breach, at great personal cost.
Congress did not lead on Obamacare. They did not offer a repeal and replace. They came up with a mess, and then defended it when conservatives rightly opposed it.
Mark Meadows betrayed Trump and America and supported Pelosi and Dems to protect Obamacare. https://t.co/zjcfmMhs9P
— Rep. Austin Scott (@AustinScottGA08) March 25, 2017
They allowed the House GOP to fracture, and engaged in damaging blame-shifting.
It was a bad bill, a terrible plan, and it needed to die. This is not the way to lead, and may very well cost Republicans a seat in the first race in the Trump-era, to fill HHS Secretary Tom Price’s seat in GA-6. Fortunately, it seems that the Democrat in the race may have eaten his foot. But so did Republicans in Congress.
5. Don’t back down on Russia: F
Certainly, the problem of leaks in the so-called “Deep State” and intelligence community are problematic. They are, in fact, the real crime here and were correctly framed by former prosecutor, S.C. Rep. Trey Gowdy. But the leak narrative has been overshadowed by the Russia coverup narrative (see #1 above).
Now anytime a Republican wants to pursue the media’s anonymous sources, leaks, and political hack jobs, Democrats can simply throw out the name Devin Nunes. What a shame.
The Russians are bad actors. They did attempt to influence our election. But I believe even if they hadn’t, Trump would have won. The voters in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin weren’t voting for Trump because the Russians uncovered dirt on Hillary Clinton. Her dirt has been baked in so long it’s become part of the kiln. The Russians didn’t manufacture “fake news” to get people to dislike Clinton; she’s dislikable on her own.
Investigating Russia for trying to mess with our election could not hurt Trump unless he or his campaign actually colluded with them. And there’s no evidence pointing to that, but the actions of the White House (Trump, specifically) and his defenders on Capitol Hill offer plenty of circumstantial evidence that there’s more than just coincidence here.
The GOP backed down on Russia and did it in the worst way for the president and for the country.
6. Let Trump take credit for the wins: D
There have been a few wins, but they’ve been buried under a mound of Swampcare, Russia, and stupid tweets.
Trump has moved forward with the Keystone XL, eviscerated former President Obama’s climate change cult, and begun the process of dismantling the administrative state. He did much of this by executive action, without Congress. But Congress has also used the Congressional Review Act effectively to undo some of the Obama regulations.
It’s been a good marriage. Were it not for the high profile fails, this could easily be a B or even an A.
Trump has also shot himself in the foot with his golf outings (that he called “meetings”) and frequent Mar a Lago trips. These are minor issues, but they paint the president as a dissembler, leaving only his hard core supporters believing that he’s as truthful as George Washington and the cherry tree.
On Jan. 16, I wrote “If things go pear-shaped, then he’ll blame you anyway.” This has turned out to be very, very true for conservatives.
There’s really not much here to celebrate, although there are plenty of things we should be celebrating. If Obamacare can’t be repealed, most of the other stuff isn’t going to make up for it, unfortunately.
People just aren’t that wonky when they’re paying $1400 a month for crappy health insurance. And people just aren’t that Make-America-Great-y when they can’t decide whether the Commander-in-Chief is just making stuff up.
Congress has 32 more days until Trump has completed his first 100 days in office. Let’s hope they can up their grade a bit by then.