Trump Is Not the Real Nightmare. Congress Is.

While we wait for a GOP mutiny, they keep giving their useful idiot just enough rope to hang himself.
01/26/2017 10:59 am ET Updated Jan 26, 2017
Mark Makela / Reuters

Piecing Together Republicans’ Coup d’Etat on Capitol Hill.

In the past week of political news mayhem, there are four things that, taken together, suggest all press and public attention is on the wrong set of misdeeds.

Bear with me here:

(1) In yesterday’s Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, a conservative pundit, wrote about the effective ineffectiveness of Trump’s recent spate of executive orders. She said that Trump “seems to be testing just how gullible his anti-immigration supporters are”, describing the orders’ content as essentially staff memos and “props for glorified press events to take the place of real action.” This, I remind you, from a conservative.

(2) Also in WaPo yesterday, public accountability advocates Anne Weismann and Patrice McDermott wrote about a recent Congressional rule they describe as “a gift to lawmakers trying to hide criminal acts”. The new rule designates legislators’ official papers as personal records beyond the reach of ethics watchdogs, investigators and prosecutorial subpoenas. This annuls any victory from the survival of the Office of Congressional Ethics earlier this month by saddling the office with a fatal handicap.

(3) Last Saturday, Robert Reich posted the notes of his conversation with a former Republican Congressman who said the GOP won’t do anything to rein in Trump. First they’ll use him to lock in their pet policy agenda—tax cuts, deregulation, the usual. Then they’ll turn around to impeach and replace the President with Mike Pence, who is one of the club. (Who says treason can’t go both ways?)

And finally,

(4) Yesterday, The New Yorker’s John Cassidy wrote that the only people with the capacity to stop Trump’s crazy are Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. But if Trump’s unfounded allegation of massive voter and proposed investigation “serve as a pretext for legislation designed to make it harder for minorities, immigrants, and poor people to vote, that will be just fine by the G.O.P.” So don’t expect any help from the Congressional leadership.

Which all makes me wonder:

We’re all frustrated that the debate about crowd size and fake voting allegations take airtime and attention away from inconvenient issues like Russian election hacking, tax returns and the details of presidential policy measures that are already betraying his base.

But what if the presidential policies themselves are just pyrotechnics to draw media and public scrutiny away from more technocratic and boring, but more significant and sinister moves elsewhere? It was public outcry and pressure, after all, that forced Congress to backtrack on their plan to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics.

While we (justifiably) fume at the White House over walls and pipelines and visas and torture, on the Hill, Congressional Republicans rewrite the rules of the game to make their power grab irreversible.

While we wait for a GOP mutiny, they keep giving their useful idiot just enough rope to hang himself. It seem the real puppet-masters are in the Capitol rather than the Kremlin.

But they’re still not on our side.

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