During the past eight years Republicans in Congress spent most of their time obstructing President Barack Obama’s agenda. But they also focused on passing legislation that was popular with their base. They tried to repeal Obamacare over 50 times. They tried to defund Planned Parenthood and they did everything they could to eliminate or hobble climate change initiatives. The draconian concurrent budget resolutions they passed would roll back the social safety net and weaken the federal government. And they promoted religious freedom laws that would protect individuals and businesses that use their religious beliefs as an excuse to discriminate.
Most of these bills simply slipped under the radar because everyone knew they would never be signed into law. Republicans were overjoyed when they finally put a bill to repeal most of Obamacare on the Obama’s desk in 2015 but those who voted for it knew he would veto it. Well, that very same bill failed miserably last week in the Senate as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) tried to pass something – anything — to weaken Obamacare. His caucus wasn’t so enthusiastic when they knew their votes would have consequences.
The GOP quest to repeal Obama’s signature law is not over but the effort so far this year was stopped in its tracks due mainly to protests by concerned, involved citizens. The Congressional Budget Office told them what Republicans were doing to their health care and they reacted loudly and forcefully.
Now Republican leaders are working on their second big priority, tax reform. A robust infrastructure plan that would truly help boost the economy and aid American workers has fallen by the wayside. Although a tax bill is thought to be an easier lift than health care, I am betting the public will be much more interested in the details of this legislation after the Obamacare repeal debacle.
Congress has abandoned Washington for a totally undeserved August vacation where they will no doubt get an ear full from constituents on their legislative failures during the past six months. As they were departing President Trump was turning the White House into a carnival sideshow where no one seems to know what is going to happen next. We can only pray that no crisis like 9/11 or hurricane Katrina occurs.
Fortunately the news media has kept focused on the various investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and I think most of the public is interested in this process too. Trump didn’t help his cause by holding a two plus hour love-in with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the recent G-20 economic summit. To me this meeting was an embarrassment to our nation and we have to wonder what Trump sees in the autocratic Putin who controls the media and eliminates his opponents.
Compared to most other members of the G-20 Russia is big “nothing burger.” According to a chart published by the International Monetary Fund, Russia’s 2017 gross domestic product (GDP) will be $1.56 trillion. That’s slightly less than Canada, slightly more than South Korea and only 63 percent of California’s GDP, the sixed largest in the world. If not for the fact that Russia has around 4,000 nuclear missiles, most of which are probably aimed at the United States, the country would be of little significance in world affairs. Putin wants to change that perception in any way he can.
So what does Russia have that makes it so important in Trump’s eyes. Well, evidence indicates that Russian hackers helped him get elected. No doubt he liked that. Trump Jr. has disclosed that Russians are heavily invested in financing Trump’s businesses. It’s hard to argue with that basis for friendship. Or maybe, just maybe, Russia has some damning video or documents that could severely damage Trump.
Some reporters are beginning to speculate that Putin was more interested in destabilizing our democratic processes than electing Trump. Either way, he got so much more. Trump is disrupting U.S. foreign policy and weakening American leadership around the world. It seems obvious to me that Putin left tracks leading back to the Kremlin so the world would know that Russia could cyberattack the U.S. at will. He thinks that makes Russia look like American’s equal. But not even a savvy politician like Putin could have anticipated the chaos that is occurring in the Trump White House.
I try to look for a silver lining in Trump’s election and I’ll admit it is elusive. But now Republican policies will finally be subjected to full public scrutiny like they were with the Obamacare repeal. Then voters may come to understand what Republicans are trying to do to them. Perhaps they will realize that these conservatives don’t really care about ordinary people’s health care or financial wellbeing. And it may become clear to the middleclass that the GOP tax reform is nothing more than a gift to the rich at their expense.
Some may call me naïve and maybe I am. But I relied on the fairness of well-informed juries in huge litigation cases during my career without regret. I have to believe that when Trump and the GOP leadership show a callous disregard for the public wellbeing in legislation — as they did last week — the good people of this great country will rise up and reject it. We shall see.
Footnote: For those who read my blog about a letter to a Republican congressman; he has not responded.