Everything is Great. Just Great.
March 9, 2017 · 9:00 AM EST
To listen to White House spokesman Sean Spicer, everything is going great. Because of President Donald Trump, new jobs are being created, restrictive and burdensome regulations are being eliminated, and the U.S. military will get the additional money it needs to keep the country safe. There will be tax cuts, for both individuals and corporations, and better health insurance.
And the Trump administration itself is running like a well-oiled machine, without back-biting or infighting. Everyone loves everyone else, and everyone is fighting to save the country by promoting the Trump agenda.
On Capitol Hill, Republicans are awash in optimism. The House leadership has put together a brilliant health care bill that will replace Obamacare, which is now collapsing under its own weight. The GOP bill makes certain that all Americans will have greater access to affordable health care.
Of course, that’s only a start. Tax reform, infrastructure spending and school choice are all going to make the country smarter, safer, freer and wealthier.
There are surely reasons for optimism – the stock market and job growth, for example – and it’s good that House Republicans have a legislative vehicle to “reform” health care insurance coverage. Getting rid of “bad” regulations is always wise, and almost all Americans want our country to be strong and safe.
But in spite of the euphoria and promises, you have to be delusional to think that things both in this country and around the world look completely, totally and unquestionably rosy.
Yes, part of governing involves cheerleading to create enthusiasm and a sense of momentum. But it also involves a serious discussion of options and goals, an acknowledgement of problems and uncertainties, and an honest discussion of consequences. As usual, we are getting none of that.
Instead, the White House continues to look chaotic, with the Tweeter-in-Chief ignoring the most minimal standards of reasonableness and thoughtfulness, undermining crucial democratic institutions and relying on conservative media outlets to inform him about issues and events.
Even more worrisome, some senior administration officials who were expected to compensate for Trump’s lack of knowledge and subtlety, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, have turned out to be lap dogs for a president who appears to have a serious personality disorder.
House Republicans’ health care proposal immediately met firm opposition on the right, including among key outside groups. In the Senate, opposition has already started to surface among moderates, who fear that over time the plan will squeeze Medicaid (and the less affluent).
You wouldn’t know any of this if you listened only to Speaker Paul Ryan, who guarantees passage of a bill because Republicans promised to replace Obamacare, or Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso, who never, ever has any doubts about his position.
Even more important, House Republicans have not explained why insurance companies would be more interested in participating under the new proposal than they were under Obamacare or why costs will decline.
Beyond that, there are questions about the rest of the Trump agenda.
Everyone seems to think infrastructure spending is a good idea, but not everyone is comfortable with the cost and the impact on the deficit. Some programmatic cuts will be necessary to build a wall along the border with Mexico and to pay for lower taxes, which guarantees opposition on the Hill. And while the Administration is hitting on all cylinders, according to the White House, hundreds of important positions below cabinet level remain unfilled.
Internationally, things are a mess.
North Korea obviously is a threat to America’s Asian allies and to the U.S. itself. Russia continues to try to weaken the West, particularly during campaigns. Authoritarian, populist officeholders and candidates, even in Europe, are playing to people’s fears, paranoia and prejudices. And America’s allies wonder about the United States’ international commitments, values and decision-making.
Life is complicated, and so is politics. Democrats promised health care reform and delivered a mess. Now, Republicans are promising reform. You’d be wise to expect another mess.
I have stock holdings and have benefitted from the recent run-up in the market, some of which is due to White House promises of tax cuts and eliminating regulations. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see dangers, threats and vulnerabilities ahead.
Unfortunately, Washington, D.C. is still unwilling to make tough calls and to be honest with the American public. It’s the same regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats are in control or whether the issue is health care, taxes, spending, the environment, immigration, entitlements or national security. But, of course, neither party will admit it.
For now, the burden is on the GOP to defend its actions by saying more than “Obama did it too.” Whatever you thought about the former president, Donald Trump has rarely demonstrated that he is thoughtful, knowledgeable, measured and dignified. Nor is there any reason to believe that he understands the challenges of the future.
Other than that, things are great. Really great.