The Meaning of Ryan’s Departure

Paul Ryan’s fate over the past several years is as good an indication as any of how far our politics have fallen.

.. Though the anti-Ryan vitriol faded after Steve Bannon’s defenestration, he continued to be viewed with suspicion by the talk-radio crowd and other arms of Trump Inc.

This was his reward for attempting to drag his party, and the country, toward a grown-up reckoning with our debt. Nearly singlehandedly, Paul Ryan had managed to put tackling entitlements on the national agenda.

.. making incremental reforms now—with no changes for current beneficiaries or those in their 50s—can prevent drastic shortfalls and extreme benefit cuts that will be necessary in just 16 years when Social Security is depleted. The outlook is even worse for Medicare and Medicaid.

But Donald Trump arrived on scene with the supposedly blinding insight that changes to entitlements are unpopular. Well, no kidding. He promised never to touch Medicare and Social Security—not even to ensure their future solvency. And so, the responsible, future-oriented Paul Ryan found himself governing with a backward-looking, whistling past the graveyard president.

.. Ryan and the party he helped to lead also lost its compass on Ryan’s own signature issue—fiscal responsibility.

.. it would have been nice if the party that fulminated about the dangers of deficits in the Obama years had found anything at all to cut—particularly when the economy is growing and unemployment is low.

.. Under Republican guidance, the federal deficit will be roughly double what it was in the final year of the Obama administration.

.. What has Trump taught? That trade wars are the way to improve the lives of the working class? They are popular, at least with Republicans.

.. 65 percent of Republicans favored Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs.

.. We are not behaving as responsible adults. Our greatest political challenge is out of control debt. Our greatest social challenges are declining families, increasing dependency, and eroding social cohesion. The debt could have been addressed by government.

Democrats Don’t Want to Be Conor Lamb

“For all of you who think that the Democrats have found a new way to win here by having these cookie cutter white guys run as quasi-moderate liberal conservatives, moderate Democrat conservatives, that isn’t gonna fly party-wide. The leftist radicals that run this party are not gonna let these guys get away with this ’cause they’re not gonna let their liberalism be watered down.”

.. The left is doctrinaire. The left is in your face. The left is not into deceit and compromise the way this guy’s talking about.” Well, from The Politico, the headline: “Democrats’ Civil War Flares After Lamb’s Upset Win.” Do I need to go any further? The headline alone establishes my point yesterday.

.. “Conservative Democrats argue the party needs to embrace his centrist message in other battleground races.” Liberals in the party say BS. “Conor Lamb’s triumph in Trump country is being heralded by conservative Democrats –” There’s no such thing by the way. Not really.

A conservative Democrat is not a Democrat or he’s a liar. There is no such thing as a conservative De.

.. Joe Manchin, they’re not conservative Democrats. There’s no such thing as a conservative Democrat.

In fact, you know what the role of the Never Trumpers is? What do you think the role of David Brooks and David Frum and all these other clowns, the Mona Charens, what do you think their role really is? What do they do? They go on TV and they are heralded as what? Conservatives. Intellectual conservatives. Smart conservatives, right? These are the educated, these are the non-Klan member conservatives, right? These are the mainstream think tank intellectual leading conservative.

.. And what do they do? They don’t just bash Trump. They bash other conservatives. The reason why they’re on PBS and the reason why Mona got her Washington Post Style section story after CPAC, the purpose they serve is that they go on mass media as conservatives criticizing conservative policy, criticizing other conservatives. And that gives it even more credibility than when the left does it.

Never Trumpers are not embarrassed to be conservatives except when Trump’s name enters the discussion. Then they become embarrassed to be conservatives, and then they embark on a strategy designed to keep whatever stench they think attaches to Trump off of them. It is not to advance conservatism. And that’s the problem most people have with the Never Trumpers on the conservative side. They’re not really trying to advance conservatism because Trump’s doing that, and they still disagree with it, and they’re trying to undermine it.

.. One or two of them that are pro-life and gun. That does not make you a conservative. How do they vote on Big Government? How do they vote on spending? How do they vote on all of these traditional things? How they vote on abortion?

.. I guarantee you that when the pedal meets the road, when the rubber meets the road, pedal hits the metal, these people are voting Democrat.

.. This guy is telling the Democrats, stop this radical leftist dumb stuff and let’s go sound like Trump, let’s go sound like moderates, let’s go sound like conservatives, and that’s how we win.

.. Radical, leftist, extremist socialism is going to be what defines this party, as far as they are concerned.

I’m Glad I Got Booed at CPAC

Ask me that at a cocktail party and I will talk your ear off about how the very people who had lectured us about the utter venality of workplace sexual harassment throughout the 1980s became suddenly quiescent when the malefactor was Bill Clinton.

.. How can conservative women hope to have any credibility on the subject of sexual harassment or relations between the sexes when they excuse the behavior of President Trump? And how can we participate in any conversation about sexual ethics when the Republican president and the Republican Party backed a man credibly accused of child molestation for the United States Senate?

I watched my fellow panelists’ eyes widen. And then the booing began.

.. I’d been dreading it for days, but when it came, I almost welcomed it. There is nothing more freeing than telling the truth. And it must be done, again and again, by those of us who refuse to be absorbed into this brainless, sinister, clownish thing called Trumpism, by those of us who refuse to overlook the fools, frauds and fascists attempting to glide along in his slipstream into respectability.

.. Just hearing the words you know are true can serve as ballast, steadying your mind when so much seems unreal.

.. A substantial number of people applauded. And as I was hustled out of the building by security, various supporters gave me the thumbs up sign.

.. Just before I reached the exit, a woman approached me and called my name. “That was so brave!” she told me.

She was one of my fellow panelists. I hope she’s encouraged. I am.

Is Trump Guilty, or Does He Just Look Guilty?

When absorbing news about the Mueller investigation, I can’t help thinking of Saddam Hussein. No, I’m not equating our president with the late Iraqi dictator. I’m thinking more about our assumptions regarding Saddam’s guilt. In the run-up to the Iraq war, the whole world was asking whether Hussein had a secret WMD program. The head of our CIA said it was a “slam dunk.” Our allies’ intelligence agencies agreed. There were good reasons to think it was true.

.. He sure acts guilty. Let us count some of the ways. He chose Paul Manafort, well known for shady Russia ties, as campaign manager. He picked Carter Page, a wannabee Russian agent, as a campaign foreign-policy adviser. Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Manafort met with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer. The president reportedly dictated a false statement about the meeting when it became public. With the Trump campaign’s approval, Page traveled to Moscow in July 2016. Wikileaks was in touch with Trump Jr. After Michael Flynn, who had failed to disclose his lobbying for Russia and Turkey, was fired for lying to the vice president, Trump asked James Comey to go easy on him. The fact that Flynn lied to the FBI is odd. Why lie? It’s routine for incoming administration officials to have contact with other governments.

Jared Kushner attempted to set up a back channel to communicate with Russia through the Russianembassy. Trump told the Russian ambassador in an Oval Office meeting that he had fired Comey, thereby “relieving great pressure” regarding Russia. Trump resisted sanctions on Russia and, after they passed by veto-proof margins, failed to implement them. Trump suggested, after meeting the Russian leader, that the U.S. and Russia should set up a joint cyber-security effort (causing security experts to spit out their coffee.) He repeatedly said he believed Putin’s denials of election meddling and fretted that he was insulting Putin by asking.

He has obsessed about the Mueller investigation and taken every opportunity to impugn it. He reportedly ordered that Mueller be fired at one point. He colluded with Representative Devin Nunes, talk radio, Fox News, and other sycophants to discredit the FBI.

.. Trump publicly humiliated his attorney general for recusing himself from the Russia investigation — as if Sessions were his personal lawyer, but moreover, as if he has something to hide from an investigation into Russian meddling in our election. And there’s more.

.. . It seems perfectly plausible to me that Trump was cultivating his Russia ties during the presidential race because he believed he would lose. He would then monetize this goodwill with business deals (to supplement the large share he already had, his persistent denials notwithstanding).

I Alone Can Fix

But is Twitter really the problem?

.. Twitter is just a tool. With or without it, Trump’s conduct would be disordered and self-sabotaging. The Comey firing is but one of hundreds of examples.

.. The crude way Trump fired Comey — without the courtesy of a meeting or even a phone call — guaranteed a new and skilled enemy.

.. Twitter played no role in Trump’s blurting of classified information to the Russian ambassador and foreign minister, or in his choice to slander Comey as a “nut job” to them. Twitter wasn’t implicated in many other blunders, such as undermining the NATO alliance by refusing to confirm our commitment to Article 5; praising the Philippine president for his extrajudicial murders of drug addicts and dealers

.. It is Trump’s inexplicable and insatiable appetite for conflict that keeps roiling the waters.

.. When the city of London has just endured another horrific terror attack, the decent thing is to express American sympathy and solidarity. Trump instead picked a fight with London’s mayor.

.. Trump is feuding with his own staff and even with his family.

.. This is a reprise of a campaign theme, perhaps the chief campaign theme. America, Trump argued, was being led by boobs and incompetents. “I alone can fix.”

.. But the truth is that he is the incompetent, and too vain and insecure to recognize his own faults. When he screws up, he blames those around him.

.. even the best people are diminished and tarnished by what Trump requires of them and does to them.

.. He makes liars of previously honorable men and women.