Donald the Distractor

This week started off with two Republican senators, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, condemning the leader of their political party, President Donald Trump, for his incessantly un-presidential conduct. To me, their protests were long overdue.

Sure, I know we’ve heard such criticism before. But it has pretty much all come from Democrats. (The exception would be Senator John McCain, who loathes Trump in general.) The White House and Republican leaders chalked up those past criticisms to party politics. However, this time the criticism was from Republicans, U.S. Senators no less.

So, is this the start of something big? Will a growing number of Republican Congress-members join in a public censure of Trump’s behavior? I wouldn’t hold my breath. The two Senators who were so outspoken have also said they aren’t running for reelection. – So much for political bravery.  

I suppose more Republican legislators could speak out if Trump were to become even more outrageous in his actions. Like if he started a name-calling Twitter attack against Pope Francis, or even more shockingly, Rush Limbaugh. Then Trump’s Republican voter base might start to doubt.

Yes, it’s enjoyable for us liberals to see Donald Trump called out for being the ignorant fool that his is. But it’s naive to think criticism is going to change him. A hefty portion of Republican voters still view Trump’s willful ignorance as an admirable quality. The style of a maverick challenging the establishment’s 240-year history of presidential decorum. And beyond all that, we know his impulse control is virtually nonexistent. After 10 months of President Trump’s embarrassing behavior, it seems the only way to restrain him would be to lock him in the oval office trussed up like Hannibal Lecter.

So I’ve concluded that spending more than a minute or two savoring news items about Trump’s latest mouthy missteps is a waste of time. It’s true that continually reminding the American people that the President’s actions are aberrant is a good thing. We should do everything we can to make sure we don’t slide into thinking that Donald Trump’s juvenile behavior is the acceptable norm for every future president. This appears to be one of the concerns of Senators Corker and Flake as they spoke of the impression Trump is making on the younger generation.

But beyond that noble goal, I’m afraid that continuing to treat Donald Trump’s boorish actions as “headline news” is producing a harmful distraction. And I suspect that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan are very pleased about it. Right now there is life-changing legislation being rushed through Congress that isn’t getting nearly the public attention it deserves. There should be detailed discussions about it every day and evening in every newspaper, and every TV and radio news show. If “tax reform” legislation passes with the “reforms” being pushed by Mitch and Paul, America’s middle class and its poor will see the distance between them and wealthiest 1% of American citizens start to resemble the days of European royalty.

For instance, the complete obliteration of inheritance tax (now less than 1% of the federal government’s income, but still about $20-billion annually) will create even more generational wealth for a fortunate few Americans, solidifying even more leverage for affecting our elections for decades to come. And what reasonable person can buy into the idea that the Republican’s promise to lower taxes (an especially nice reward for the top tax bracket) while increasing military spending and the cost of building a gigantic border wall will not result in a further shredding the social safety net. The results of this tax “reform” will not be pretty.

We can, however, hold on to hope that our Congressional Democrats working with a small number of fiscally responsible Republicans, may be able to keep the worst measure of this “reform” from becoming law.

The more informed we are about this issue, the better chance we’ll have to influence the bill’s outcome. And if we don’t succeed, we will at least have some clear arguments for throwing rubber stamp Republicans like Peter Roskam out of the U.S. House in 2018.

So don’t let Donald Trump’s bizarre behavior distract you from what’s really important. It’s true, his loose language can sometimes be dangerous but while he distracts us, the laws being pursued every day by the Republicans in Congress are much scarier.

Nels Howard
NTDO member since 1973