DC Still Standing in the Age of Trump, I Guess?

Washington     I count myself lucky, when I’m not in DC.  That’s not a new thing, but a lifelong habit.  It’s a company town, and I don’t much care for the company.

Sitting in Georgetown for a minute on my way to the University this evening, it’s a gray, early spring day.  I can tell it is early spring, because there are fewer winter jackets, more shirtsleeves, and sweaters.  Mainly it’s just overcast and depressing, so welcome to Washington!  Georgetown seems the same as always.  No parking.  Wine shops and fancy clothing stores like Ralph Lauren and others.  The one treat when I came into town every now and again decades ago was a burger at Five Guys, but now they are everywhere from airports to Missoula.  I’m sitting in something that looked like it might work called Wawa’s, a combo sandwich shop, coffee thing, and convenience store with a few tables and a Wi-fi that doesn’t work.  Different verse, same song.

The headlines this morning screamed about the Mueller report and no finding of collusion with the Russians.  The president predictably said he was exonerated, and everyone else from the columnists, editorialists, and talking heads blaring on the news and TV cautioned equally predictably – without seeing the report – that he was certainly not exonerated.  This viewpoint included his newly appointed Attorney General Barr and his old punching bag, Ron Rothstein, the beleaguered deputy attorney general.  They were clear that the report – that none of us has seen – was a minefield and a mess, but they didn’t feel the evidence was conclusive enough to warrant further indictments or charges against the President.  As everyone but the smallest children know this gives the President a break, but it doesn’t end his troubles since there are ongoing investigations in New York and of course now in the House of Representatives in numerous committees.  The harpy chorus on the editorial op ed pages of the Wall Street Journal wanted to question the time and expense, but whatever, the President has to be a happy man, and the rest of the campaigners need to re-calibrate.

It has been clear for quite a while that the campaign and its staffers were too incompetent and chaotic to collude with anyone effectively, much less the Russians.  This was the gang that couldn’t shoot straight and couldn’t believe that they would win this thing.  This was a campaign from top to bottom of grifters looking for the main chance to make a buck and position themselves for something in the future.  They were trying to build a brand, not lead the band.

There are a ton of good solid grounds, both personal and political, available to beat Trump.  We ought to express real joy that the Russians didn’t manage the Trump campaign, thank Mueller and the Department of Justice, and go after Trump on the issues for 2020 and stop pushing rewind on 2016.  That’s a loser.  His amorality, inattention, incompetence, and policy decisions need to be front and center.  He can continue to rant about Hillary and McCain, lost in the past.  We need to move to the future where victory lies waiting.

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First Rule of Politics: Count the Votes

New Orleans    The problem when businessmen go into politics is learning that it is more important to be able to count the votes than just the dollars in your bank account. You can buy a lot in politics, but not everything, because office holders really, really want to hold onto their day jobs, not just your job. When it comes to Congress, there are no term limits, so many of them know they will be in office long after whoever is in the White House comes and goes.

President Trump has handled the learning curve so poorly and at such dangerous speed that he has gone over the cliff now because of his inability to focus on the need to be able to count the votes. In the Senate there is a 53 to 47 edge held by the Republicans over the Democrats, yet somehow with his proposal for $5.7 billion to fund his wall, come hell or high water, he could only muster a vote of 50 to 47 in the Senate, and that included one Democratic crossover from West Virginia. On the Democrats failing motion, they got more votes, 52 to 44, picking up six Republicans who want the government to open and oppose the shutdown.

Now it’s easier to understand Republican Senate Majority Leader’s strange silence for almost a month into the partial government shutdown. He knew he didn’t have the votes for the wall all along! He likely had told the President that before this disaster. Tactically, he was trying to claim that he was ready to bring something forward, “when it had the votes,” but said over and over that he wasn’t going to bring something up just to waste time that either the House wouldn’t approve or the President wouldn’t sign. He’s just let the President twist in the wind, frothing at the mouth to his base, and acting the fool, and waiting until the time was right to teach a lesson to him, even if subtle, and painful to federal employees and the public.

Worse, Trump now finds himself in the worst possible position for any negotiation. He’s stuck “bargaining with himself.” As a term of art, that entails being forced to concede demands made without any compromise on the other side. We saw that with his threat and his attempt to give the State of the Union address to the House of Representatives. There’s a new sheriff in town. With Nancy Pelosi as Speaker, she shut the door on his foot, and forced him to back away. Now, it is proven that he doesn’t have nearly enough votes for his wall.

In negotiating with himself, he’s now saying he wants the billion offered for border security by the Democrats in the House before the Senate vote to be a “down payment” on the wall. That’s not happening, captain!

Senate McConnell needs to whisper louder in his ear, so he really hears it this time. You don’t have the votes. You better start claiming you want border security, so we can all make a deal and get back to work, because your wall just came tumbling down.

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