Correct. Trump is really good at “driving a media agenda.” He takes bold, beyond-the-Overton-window positions; he gets combative in interviews, he insults critics, he insists solutions are simple and that only a conspiracy of the malevolent and foolish stands in the way of enacting them.
.. I used to joke that Bill Clinton was the only guy who could distract attention from a fundraising scandal by getting into a sex scandal.
.. Trump figured out how to overload the system, generating so many headline-grabbing surprises, controversies and personnel changes that few if any really had the time to leave a lasting impression.
.. just during a couple months in the campaign, we saw Trump contending that a federal judge couldn’t rule fairly because “he’s a Mexican;” mock Carly Fiorina’s face; get into a war of words with a slain soldier’s father. Any one of those would have defined and politically destroyed a lesser-known figure.
.. Think about how Obama and the Democrats spent almost all of 2009 and a chunk of 2010 focused on what became Obamacare. But the amount of consistent focus — and presidential persuasion — needed to pass a legislative agenda is completely different from the amount needed to dominate a news cycle.
Every time it seems the president has zeroed in on an issue, and appears determined to see it through — guns and immigration are just the two latest examples — he moves on to something else. And Congress, which isn’t designed to respond swiftly to national events and the wishes of the White House even in the least distracted of circumstances, simply can’t keep up.
The constant whiplash of priorities is getting on lawmakers’ nerves.
“It’s unbelievable to me,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine). “The attention span just seems to be. . . it’s a real problem.”
Congressman, I know you didn’t write the rules, Grassley did back in ’95, and I like Senator Grassley. I think he’s done a phenomenal job on most issues, but are you going to say tonight that you will fight for removal of mandatory counseling and a confidentiality provision in any future legislation?
.. Rep. Costello: The legislation that I have would remove the mandatory counseling. It would also make a Member of Congress personally liable if they engaged in this type of behavior.
Laura Ingraham: What about the names? What about the names? You guys get to keep secrets or do we know who you are? Not you, but you know what I’m saying.
Rep. Costello: The name of the Member of Congress or if it were someone on their staff would be included – that would have to be reported within 60 days of the end of the year. There would also be a survey done every year so that you have staff conveying what they feel the culture is on Capitol Hill.
Their proposal would overhaul the process for filing harassment claims as laid out under the 1995 Congressional Accountability Act and processed under the Office of Compliance. The bill would:
- Waive 30-day requirements each for counseling and mediation sessions before a formal complaint can be filed
- Create a new, optional in-house victims’ counsel position to provide legal advice and representation for complainants
- Eliminate requirements that complainants to sign nondisclosure agreements as a condition for filing a complaint, although nondisclosures are still allowed as part of a negotiated settlement
- Create an online system to initiate complaints
- Require lawmakers to pay out of pocket for any settled claim where they are identified as the harasser. Other claims are still paid for by taxpayers
- Require public disclosure of the employing office when a claim is settled and to disclose the settlement amount
- Require an anonymous “climate survey” of congressional employees every two years
- Extend all employer protections to interns, fellows and pages
.. Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., another cosponsor, said he believed lawmakers would support more transparency for settled claims. “We are employers,” he said, “so how we would process that, how we would handle an employee if they were mistreated, or they did raise a concern, speaks to the character and integrity of how we operate our offices.”
Jackie Speier was a 23-year-old congressional staffer excited about her new job on Capitol Hill when her chief of staff got her alone in a room. The 50-year-old grabbed her face and stuck his tongue down her throat.
Now, four and a half decades later, the Peninsula congresswoman is leading the charge in Congress to clean up what she calls a culture of sexual harassment in the Capitol.
.. “I’m embarrassed to say it, but I think Congress has been an enabler of sexual harassers for a long time,” Speier, a Democrat who represents San Mateo County, said in an interview this week.
.. Speier is now the lead sponsor of a bill that would reform the Office of Compliance, the obscure congressional office that investigates — and, activists say, often covers up — sexual harassment.
.. The office “was really created to protect the harassers,” Speier said.
.. Her legislation would shake that up, prohibiting nondisclosure agreements as a requirement to start an investigation
.. The bill, which was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat, has received bipartisan support.
.. “It does seem like it’s an Animal House up there right now — it’s disgusting.”
.. But Speier said that she knows that national attention can be fickle, and thinks that she and other advocates may have a limited window to pass reforms while the focus is on sexual harassment.
.. Leeann Tweeden, a Los Angeles newscaster, said she decided to publicly accuse Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, of harassing and groping her after interviewing Speier and hearing her story. Tweeden wrote in an article that she came forward because she wanted to have the same effect on other victims of harassment “that Congresswoman Jackie Speier had on me.”
.. Speier has said she knows of two current members of Congress, one a Democrat and the other a Republican, who have been accused of sexual harassment. Neither of those is Franken or Rep. John Conyers
Bannon’s grand ambitions should inspire the same soul-deadening déjà vu, the existential exhaustion, with which Bill Murray’s weatherman greeted every morning in Punxsutawney, Penn. They should bring to mind both Friedrich Nietzsche’s idea of eternal recurrence and his warning that if you stare deep into the abyss, it stares into you.
.. What Bannon is promising is what the Tea Party actually delivered, in a past recent enough to still feel like the present: a dramatic ideological shake-up, an end to D.C. business-as-usual, and the elevation of new leaders with a sweeping vision for a new G.O.P.
.. The ideological shake-up took the form of paper promises, not successful legislation. The end to D.C. business-as-usual just created a new normal of brinkmanship and gridlock. And when the Tea Party’s leaders — Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, above all — reached out to claim their party’s presidential nomination, they found themselves steamrolled by a candidate who scorned all their limited-government ideas and offered, well, Trumpism instead.
.. when it comes to governance, Trumpism turns to have two fatal weaknesses:
- the dearth of Trumpists among elected Republicans, and
- the total policy incapacity of Trump himself.
So having failed in his appointed role as Trump whisperer and White House brain, Bannon has decided to do the Tea Party insurgency thing all over again, except this time with his
- nationalist-populist cocktail instead of the
- last round’s notional libertarianism.
.. Maybe the Tea Party was a dead end, but some Trumpist primary candidates will finally produce a Republican Party capable of doing something with its power.
.. His professed nationalism, with its promise of infrastructure projects and antitrust actions and maybe even tax hikes on the rich, is potentially more popular than the Tea Party vision ..
.. But this imaginative exercise collapses when you look at Bannon’s own record and the candidates he’s recruiting... At the White House, Bannon did not manage to inject much heterodoxy into any part of the same old, same old Republican agenda. But he did encourage the president to pick racialized fights at every chance... his new grass-roots populism promises to be more of the same:
- a notional commitment to some nebulous new agenda,
- with white-identity politics and the
- fear of liberalism supplying the real cultural-political cement... Especially because the would-be senators he’s recruiting are a mix of cynics and fanatics who seem to share no coherent vision, just a common mix of ambition and resentment... if you believe figures like Roy Moore and Erik Prince are going to succeed where Trump is obviously failing, I have some affidavits attesting to Harvey Weinstein’s innocence to sell you... He and his allies are the latest group to recognize the void at the heart of the contemporary Republican Party, the vacuum that somebody, somehow needs to fill.
- .. The activists and enforcers of the Tea Party era tried with a libertarian style of populism.
- Paul Ryan tried with his warmed-over Jack Kempism.
- My friends the “reform conservatives” tried with blueprints for tax credits and wage subsidies.
.. now they, too, need to reckon with a reality that has confounded every kind of Republican reformer since Barack Obama was elected: Our politics are probably too polarized, our legislative branch too gridlocked, and the conservative movement too dysfunctional and self-destructive to build a new agenda from the backbenches of Congress up, or even from the House speaker or Senate majority leader’s office.
.. Our system isn’t really all that republican anymore; it’s imperial, and even an incompetent emperor like Trump is unlikely to restore the legislative branch to its former influence. So if you want to remake the Republican Party as something other than a shambolic repository for anti-liberalism, the only way it’s likely to happen is from the top down —
- with the election of an effective, policy-oriented conservative president (which Donald Trump is not),
- surrounded by people who understand the ways of power (which Bannon, for all his bluster, didn’t) and
- prepared to both negotiate with Democrats and bend his own party to his will.
.. I would not be wasting my time trying to elect a few cranks and gadflies who will make Mitch McConnell’s life more difficult.
Instead I would be looking for the thing that too many people deceived themselves into believing Trump might be, and that Bannonite populism for all its potential strength now lacks: a leader.