Friday, April 28, 2017

Learning How to Govern

In the American system political parties are made to govern. They are made to pass legislation and to advance a political agenda. On that score the Republican Congress has been failing. At the risk of repeating what all commentators have been saying, after insisting for seven years that they were going to repeal Obamacare, the Republican House seems not to have had a plan. In that they have been derelict and have clearly damaged the Trump presidency. If you cannot lead you own party, how can you lead the nation?

In 2009 Congressional Democrats held together and passed major pieces of Obama’s legislative program. Republicans seem still to be squabbling among themselves.

Perhaps that is why the generic Congressional ballot is now favoring the Democrats in 2018. Yet, Harry Enten of the 538 blog suggests that midterm elections are almost always about the president. And, in terms of popularity, the president has not been doing well.

The Democratic opposition, in Congress, in the media and on the streets, makes it look as though the nation has not come together under President Trump. If people are refusing to follow you, you do not look like a leader. True enough, the radical left bears considerable responsibility for this state of affairs, but still, the vicious vilification of Trump seems less to be sticking to the resisters than it does to the president.

I think it fair to say that this radicalism is part of the Obama legacy. Obama was very composed himself but his actions unleashed radical forces in the nation—whether BlackLivesMatter or campus witch hunts. After all, his Justice Department blamed black on black violence on white police officers. And it preferred hunting for Islamophobic Americans than fighting the enemy, radical Islam. And Obama ruled by decree, not, for the most part by legislative action.

One should say that in the realm of foreign policy the Trump team seems stellar. From Rex Tillerson to James Mattis to H. R. McMaster, the adults are now in charge of foreign affairs. And they present a better image of America around the world than did Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Susan Rice.

Last night Rex Tillerson presented administration policy to Bret Baier clearly and cogently. He was, as they say, in command of his brief. For those who are gnashing their teeth over the lack of an administration strategy in foreign policy, Tillerson presented one. His performance was so good that Karen Tumulty—scion of an important Democratic family—said that she did not understand why he did not do it more often.

For now, it seems that legislative inaction and chaos on campus has been creating the public attitude. Looking for consolation, Peggy Noonan finds it in enemies the Trump has made. They seem hell bent, she says, on emulating some of Trump’s worst behavior. The point is well taken. I have mentioned it before on this blog.

She notes that while Trump might have been the only Republican who could have won—a statement we greet with skepticism—he might also be the only one who cannot govern. The latter point remains to be seen.

For today, examine Noonan’s comments on Trump’s enemies:

Mr. Trump has struggled so colorfully the past three months, we’ve barely noticed his great good luck—that in that time the Democratic Party and the progressive left have been having a very public nervous breakdown. The new head of the Democratic National Committee, Tom Perez, performs unhinged diatribes. He told an audience in Las Vegas that “Trump doesn’t give a sh— about health care.” In a Maine speech, “They call it a skinny budget. I call it a sh—y budget.” In Newark, he said Republicans “don’t give a sh— about people.”

This is said to be an attempt to get down with millennials. I know a lot of millennials and they’re not idiots, so that won’t work.

The perennially sunny Rep. Maxine Waters of California called Mr. Trump’s cabinet “a bunch of scumbags.” New York’s junior Democratic senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, has taken to using the F-word in interviews.

I thought Mr. Trump was supposed to be the loudmouth vulgarian who swears in public. They are aping what they profess to hate. They excoriated him for lowering the bar. Now look at them.

And they’re doing it because they have nothing else—not a plan, not a program, not a philosophy that can be uttered.

The closest they got to meaning recently was when Mr. Perez found it helpful to say, of a Democratic mayoral candidate who’d backed some pro-life bills, that that kind of thinking had no place in the party. Bernie Sanders rightly called this out as madness. You can’t do this “if we’re going to become a 50-state party.”

The Democrats have nothing to offer. They do not have a plan or a program or policies. They have become what they accused Republicans of being: a party of pure obstruction. But they are also a party that is unhinged and out of control. You might think that this makes them look bad, but the public might also hold the president responsible for not uniting the country.

As for universities, what Noonan calls the progressive left has become radicalized. The hoary virtues of democracy, beginning with respect for the winner of a fair election, and extending to respect for the free speech rights of those you abhor, have been sent packing by bands of anarchist  radicals.

Noonan explains:

That most entrenched bastion of the progressive left, America’s great universities, has been swept by . . . well, one hardly knows what to call it. “Political correctness” is too old and doesn’t do it justice. It is a hysteria—a screeching, ignorant wave of sometimes violent intolerance for free speech. It is mortifying to see those who lead great universities cower in fear of it, attempt to placate it, instead of stopping it.

When I see tapes of the protests and riots at schools like Berkeley, Middlebury, Claremont McKenna and Yale, it doesn’t have the feel of something that happens in politics. It has the special brew of malice and personal instability seen in the Salem witch trials. It sent me back to rereading Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” Heather Mac Donald danced with the devil! Charles Murray put the needle in the poppet! As in 17th-century Salem, the accusers have no proof of anything because they don’t know, read or comprehend anything.

Some liberals are taking notice of the way that campus radicals have been shutting down speakers whose views they do not like. They are beginning to direct their voices against the fascistic left.

Yet, few have pointed the finger at college administrators, portraits in pure cowardice, who are allowing it all to happen. If college authorities refuse to punish the students who have  undertaken to destroy everyone else’s education they are collaborating with the rising fascist tide.

While Trump is lucky to have as his opponents the mindless ranters of the radical left, if the country cannot get itself together, at some point people are going to look to the man in charge. Perhaps that is why the histrionics of the radical left are working to make Trump look like he cannot lead.

Now, if only House Republicans could get their act together and fulfill their commitment to the voters… they might look like they are in charge. And that the president is in charge. 


trigger warning said...

When people I like succeed, they are competent.

When people I don't like succeed, they are lucky.

Peggy Noonan was a fine speechwriter. Deep thinker, she is not.

Ares Olympus said...

It does seem like an open question which is failing apart the fastest, the Republicans or the Democrats, but its the republicans turn to look bad with the presidency, majority power in congress and a vast majority of state governorships, and legislatures.

And I'm starting to think Nader was right - both parties are beholden to big money. Still I'm glad Warren is critical against Obama's $400k speech to Wall Street. It is so curious. Trump, Sanders and Warren might have a lot of agreement on what's wrong, but Trump is over his head, so he's just surrendered the game to the corporate republicans. Everything Trump said about affordable-healthcare-for-all, and higher taxes for billionaires was a feel-good lie.

On foreign policy, it does look like the Trump administration is trying to unify us behind an "America first" doctrine with an aggressive foreign policy and trade, with challenges to funding NATO and NAFTA. And didn't the president just demand South Korea pay more for their THAAD missile defense system?

I certainly can see value in "shaking things up", even if Trump backs down each time he shakes a branch like a bully chimp trying to make others respect him.

I don't know what to make of the North Korea mutual saber rattling. Certainly N. Korea has all the self-justification they want to be afraid, and this might be the first war started by a chimp-on-twitter. But maybe this cowboy diplomacy is what it takes to get China to act first?

It does seem like this is what America was asking for when they elected Trump. They're tired of "strategic patience." They want action, and as long as we're outside of N. Korea's missile range, perhaps we don't care what happens to S. Korea. Who wants to test a missile defense system when it really matters?

It was only a few years ago I looked on a map to see how close Seoul was to the N. Korean border. But of course this is a Mutually-assured-destruction confrontation. If N. Korea acts first, they're gone, and yet China or the U.S. can't act first either since N. Korea leadership has nukes and a will to murder millions of people than face surrender.

Still, I admit if Trump's bluster ends up leading to China using its leverage to de-nuclearify N. Korea without military action, Trump would deserve great praise on this gamble.

Vox has a new article about all of this and our new approach only makes sense if we consider N. Korea as "China's problem child" and force the issue for them.
"It is important for the administration to continue implementing steps the Obama administration had underway,” Laura Rosenberger, the National Security Council’s director for China and Korea from 2012 to 2013, told me earlier this week. "What particularly worries me is the blustery rhetoric we are seeing from administration officials, which seem to be completely divorced from any practical steps or strategy.”

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

"Yet, few have pointed the finger at college administrators, portraits in pure cowardice, who are allowing it all to happen. If college authorities refuse to punish the students who have undertaken to destroy everyone else’s education they are collaborating with the rising fascist tide."

It is quite astounding what higher education has become.

It used to be that some tenured professors had ideas that seemed cryogenically preserved.

Now it seems that students' brains have been cryogenically incapacitated by freezing out free exchange in favor of emotional prophylaxis. It's not about knowledge or intellectual growth anymore. It's like an amygdala petting zoo. No critical thinking at all. Today's university is a national embarrassment.

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