One of my pet peeves is constantly reading the press refer to Steve Bannon as “far-right.” Bannon is nasty, destructive, intolerant, Machiavellian, pompous, and dishonest. What he is not is far-right; I am.
I don’t know how it started, but for as long as I can remember RINOs (Republicans In Name Only – pronounced like “rhino”) has been used to describe moderate/liberal members of the GOP. It was an insult leveled primarily by hardcore conservatives against Republicans who would shirk from their professed beliefs when it came time to cast an unpopular vote. Unlike rhinos, RINOs are in no danger of going extinct.
I was a Republican long before I was a conservative. Heck, I was a Republican well before I could even vote. When I was a young child, I was asked some questions about the president that went like this:
Q: Where does the president live?
Me: In the White House.
Q: And what is the president’s job?
Me: To keep the Democrats out of the building.
As a little kid, I didn’t really understand all the policy implications of tax cuts, deregulation, or building up the military, but I knew Democrats shouldn’t be in power.
Much latter in life I started thinking about why that is; why is it better for Republicans to run the government, not Democrats. That’s when I truly became a conservative.
For decades, Republicans have criticized Democrat hypocrisy. Bill Clinton was accused of rape and admitted (after committing perjury) to an affair with a young intern over whom he held significant power. Despite this, Democrats, who otherwise argued that all women who claim to be victims of sexual assault should be believed, nevertheless enthusiastically supported a man repeatedly charged with those heinous crimes and instead attacked his accusers.
Ted Kennedy drove his car into a lake and left his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, behind to drown. There were rumors of an affair, but whatever he felt for the young woman was not enough because Kennedy did not even report the incident to the police until the next day – after someone else discovered a dead body in his sunken car. Despite this, he was called a lion of the Senate and elected to several more terms by Democrats who claim to oppose violence against women.
Both men committed horrible crimes but were forgiven by their party because The Cause was more important.
As big promises continue to go unfilled, some people have started blaming Trump for governmental inaction. They say Obamacare repeal has not passed because instead of giving speeches and holding rallies to sell the bill to the American people, Trump instead spent his time golfing and insulting morning cable news hosts over Twitter. Others say Trump damaged chances to pass a repeal bill by constantly alternating between championing the bill, calling it “mean,” saying we need to pass it now, and saying Congress should do nothing until Obamacare fails on its own.
They also say there has not even been a proposal made for tax reform, building a wall on the southern border, and many other important issues due to what they call Trump’s short attention span and ignorance of details and the basic functioning of the Federal Government.
Some even question the billionaire’s management skills. They point to Trump’s statements that he would hire the best people, and yet there is a steady stream of senior level government officials either quitting or being fired so early in the administration. Did he not hire the best people like he promised, they ask, or his he now firing the best people and hiring people who are not as good?
I understand the urge to mock Trump for his failures. After all, he did say it would be easy and bragged about how much winning he would have. He said only he could fix it, and the failures of previous leaders proved they were stupid. It might be tempting to turn those words around and use them against Trump.
But we have to recognize that being president is harder than anyone could have known. Making deals is an art, not a science. It is not something you can learn by just reading a book.
Any day now, Trump will use the vast swath of goodwill he has stored up with Congressional Republicans. All the time he has spent talking with and supporting senators will pay off when he calls in the favors he’s built up. He can do this because he’s smart. He knew that if he routinely insulted legislators he needs support from it could backfire in critical moments. That’s why he would never do something so idiotic as to threaten to withhold Interior Department funding from the senator who chairs the subcommittee that appropriates funding for the Interior Department. Those are self inflicted wounds the stupid politicians of the past might have been unable to avoid, but a genius businessman like Trump would never fall for it.
Yes, Trump made big promises and has accomplished almost nothing. Yes, Trump repeatedly bragged about his brilliance and skill, and is now fairing worse than those he called stupid. But his failure to do what he promised or even show much interest in it does not make him a failure.
Republicans who supported Trump in the primary might be rethinking their position now, wondering if they made the right decision. Don’t! It was impossible to know back then that an inexperienced reality TV show host with a history of liberal positions, bankruptcies, and investigations for fraud could be anything other than a great president.
Besides, who else were you going to support? Rubio? Cruz? Walker? Perry? Jindal? What are the odds that a Senator or Governor with a proven record of conservatism and understanding of government would have done any better?
Don’t blame yourself. Don’t blame Trump. The real problem are those weak kneed Republicans who refused to support the bill Trump said is mean and shouldn’t be passed. Congressional Republicans are clearly sabotaging Trump’s administration and making him fire his National Security Adviser, FBI Director, Chief of Staff, etc. less than half a year into his administration. If you want to know why White House staffers are constantly leaking to the press or publicly feuding with each other, look no further than Ryan and McConnell. It’s their fault. All of it. Trump is a genius. Or so I’m told.
In the last week, the news has been dominated first by Trump firing FBI Director Comey, then by reports that Trump gave classified information to Russia that could harm a US ally. These are both very important stories, but while the media has been focused almost entirely on these two events, we should consider what else has and has not happened.
The American Conservative Union (ACU) was founded in 1964 at a time when the conservative movement was in its infancy. Barry Goldwater had just lost a crushing election, but something new was starting. The ACU served two purposes – to consolidate conservative gains and to define its boundaries. The new organization brought together conservative thinkers to formulate the ideology and was part of the movement to distance conservatism from the John Birch Society, a conspiracy minded group that tried to claim association.
In 1973, the ACU held the first annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) to bring together conservatives from across the country. It is one of the major events for conservatives, and proudly boasts of regular attendance by conservative icons such as Ronald Reagan, who headlined the very first CPAC. I have attended CPAC for the last four years, including this weekend, and have noticed a startling change this year.