The 10 Challenges Republicans Now Face – David Frum | The Atlantic

The 10 Challenges Republicans Now Face

With efforts to repeal Obamacare collapsing, the GOP faces a difficult landscape as it looks ahead to 2018.

David Frum | The Atlantic

Here’s an after-action report, as Congress prepares to recess:

1.The signature Republican domestic-policy demand of the past seven years is dead again. Deader than ever. Brought down by Republicans themselves, in the face of nearly unanimously hostile public opinion.

2.Democratic constituencies have been mobilized to an intensity not seen since the worst days of the Iraq war. They have crowded town halls and barraged senators with phone calls and messages. The party’s serious internal differences — including over the future of health care — have been laid aside for the time being.     

3.Republican constituencies have been split and demoralized. Working – and middle-class – Republicans have been put on notice: Their party wanted to cut their Medicaid and other health-care benefits. Why should they show up in November to vote for more of that?

4.Upmarket Republicans have been formally informed: Their party was duping them on Obamacare repeal, in all those years of yammering, it never developed anything like an alternative. The Obamacare taxes will remain in place, as will the law’s other costs and burdens. Why should they show up in November to vote for more of that?

5.The White House is melting down in recrimination, rage, and failure. While opponents condemn Trump as authoritarian and corrupt, supporters in Congress and media want to talk about almost anything else: Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, dirty rap lyrics — anything.

6.Donors are hearing that funds donated to the Republican National Committee and other party funds have been used to pay the personal legal bills of the supposedly super-rich Trump family — and that more such spending is probably on the way.

7.The special counsel’s investigation is triggering more and more erratic behavior from the president. Trump has repeatedly and publicly denounced his own attorney general — the one cabinet secretary executing a policy generally popular with the party’s conservative base, immigration enforcement. And this before the investigation has resulted in any legal consequences.

8.The president has achieved the lowest approval rating ever recorded for a chief executive at this point in his tenure, despite generally favorable economic news and the absence of any acute foreign-policy crisis.

9.The Democrats need take only 14 seats to flip the House. There are 7 Republican incumbents on the ballot in California, where the president’s approval rating has tumbled to 25 percent, down five points since Inauguration Day. There are 5 more in New Jersey, where Governor Chris Christie’s approval rating has plunged to 15 percent.

10.The 2018 Senate map favors Republicans, but the president has gone out of his way to tie the single most imperiled Republican incumbent, Nevada’s Dean Heller, tightly to him and to the unpopular health-care bill. The president is waging open war against Arizona’s Jeff Flake — and his approval rating has sunk below 50 percent in states that might otherwise have been thought of as pickup opportunities, including Missouri and Michigan.

Republican talkers have been warning that the failure of repeal would doom the party’s chances in 2018.

That’s not quite right: Repeal would have been so unpopular that its success would actually have been the worst GOP outcome.

But what is right is that the internal party dysfunction — and White House chaos — that produced the repeal failure is also leading to electoral defeat.

It may well produce an electoral defeat of the epic scale of 2006 and 2010 for the party of the most disliked and distrusted first-term president of modern times.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On July 31, 2017 at 12:00 am

    President Trump’s Really Weak Week

    Maureen Dowd | Sunday Review Op-ed

    WASHINGTON — Donald Trump was promising to destroy a vile criminal cartel.
    Unfortunately, NOT his own.

    But one could be forgiven for mistaking the vicious tactics of the MS-13 gang, as described by the president in a Long Island speech on Friday, with those of the Trump White House.

    “They don’t like shooting people because it’s too quick, it’s too fast,” Trump said, adding: “They like to knife them and cut them, and let them die slowly because that way, it’s more painful, and they enjoy watching that much more. These are animals.”

    The president could have been describing his own sadistic assault on Jeff Sessions, “as flies to wanton boys,” as Shakespeare said.

    Trump turned Sessions — with all his backward views on gays, drugs and criminal justice — into an unlikely hero for lawmakers from both parties who began hailing him as a crown jewel of American jurisprudence.

    In his speech, Trump encouraged police brutality and said he was “the big, big believer and admirer of the people in law enforcement, O.K.?” He said that he’s protecting the backs of law enforcement “100 percent.”

    Except for Jeff Sessions, Sally Yates, Preet Bharara and Robert Mueller.

    As two people close to Trump told The Times’s Maggie Haberman when asked why he was tormenting Sessions instead of firing him: BECAUSE HE CAN.

    Six months in, Trump has pushed out a staggering number of top people, culminating with Reince Priebus. And in his paranoid, aggrieved isolation, he’s even thinking about nixing Steve Bannon, nemesis of the Mooch, and mulling firing the one who could get him fired, Mueller, and pardoning himself for possible charges.

    Trump learned his technique of publicly criticizing and freely firing from George Steinbrenner, one of the ruthless, towering characters he modeled himself on when he started hanging out at Yankee Stadium in the ’70s.

    The dark pandemonium of the Trump West Wing has become a wormy scene worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. As Trump Fox News cheerleader Katrina Pierson likes to say, “People have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

    Trump unleashed his Mini-Me pit bull Anthony Scaramucci to maul Priebus, and The Mooch cast himself as Cain to Priebus’s Abel, eviscerating him in a lewd rant to, of all places, The New Yorker.

    Then Trump delivered the coup de graceless Friday evening, tweeting from Air Force One as Priebus deplaned that he was replacing the chief of staff with Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

    Trump had always resented Priebus for advising him to get out of the race after the Billy Bush “Access Hollywood” tape story broke — known as Priebus’s “scarlet A.H.,” according to The Washington Post — and for not understanding that Trump is not a mere Republican; he’s the head of his own “beautiful,” us-against-them movement, “the likes of which the world has never seen.”

    Priebus wasn’t “an original,” as early Trump loyalists are known, or a populist.

    But he was Paul Ryan’s Wisconsin BFF, which made Trump doubt where his chief of staff’s loyalties lay when it came to Congress. And Trump and the Mooch had fingered Priebus as a leaker, which bugs them, even though they themselves are leakers extraordinaire.

    As The Post reports, Trump’s delighted demeaning of Priebus included this incident:

    “At one point, during a meeting in the Oval Office, a fly began buzzing overhead, distracting the president. As the fly continued to circle, Trump summoned his chief of staff and tasked him with killing the insect.”

    After torturing Reince for months, Trump happily gave him the final humiliating shove.

    As the tweets hit the White House cellphones, Priebus’s colleagues Stephen Miller and Dan Scavino jumped out of the Suburban they were sharing with Priebus, leaving the jobless man in a driving rain on the tarmac at Andrews Air Force Base, the weakest link tossed off the sled for the press wolves.

    You’re a killer and a king or a loser, as Fred Trump liked to say.

    And anyone who doesn’t understand that Trump is more important than the G.O.P. or the institution of the presidency is, in his mind, a loser.

    Anyone who doesn’t get that loyalty should be for Trump personally – rather than the country – is, to Trump, a loser.

    Trump is trapped in a caricature of masculinity that corrodes his judgment.

    As red meat for his base, he tweeted that after consulting his generals he was banning transgenders from the military. But his defense secretary, James Mattis, and generals quickly pushed back on that idea.

    With Priebus, The Post reported, the president obsessed on impotence. “The word was ‘weak’ – ‘weak,’ ‘weak,’ ‘weak,’ ‘Can’t get it done,’” an official told the paper.

    But after all his bragging about being a great negotiator and closer, it is President Trump who “Can’t get it done.”

    He couldn’t even close the deal on a pathetic, bare-bones health care bill, ineffectually bullying Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska, and failing to win over John McCain, who gleefully had his revenge for Trump’s mockery of him as being a loser because he was captured in war.

    Trump can’t get it done for his pal, Putin, either.

    In fact, the biggest legislative accomplishment before Congress leaves for August will have been passing new sanctions on Russia because lawmakers don’t trust their own president. Talk about WEAK.

    Congressional Republicans are losing their fear of Trump, making ever more snarky comments about him.

    North Korea is shooting off missiles and the White House is flustered. The generals are resisting Trump’s tweet edicts.

    The mortified leader of the Boy Scouts had to apologize for the president’s suggestive and partisan speech.

    And what could be weaker than that?

    I invite you to follow me on Twitter (@MaureenDowd) and join me on Facebook.

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 31, 2017 at 7:07 am

    Did Hillary Clinton win after all? The collapse of Trumpcare has turned her defeat into unexpected victory

    Republicans made a dog’s ear of trying to repeal the law. But credit is due to
    Democrats too

    David Usborne – New York |Independent UK

    We’ve been gorging on the travails of Donald Trump and the Republicans.

    When a president and his own governing party step in so many cowpats in so brief a period of time, it’s hard to avert your gaze. What’s next? Mitch McConnell drops his trousers on the steps of Congress?

    That happened already, of course. The humiliation that was the Senate rebuke in the wee hours of Friday to McConnell’s last-gasp effort to kill the Affordable Care Act – or Obamacare – can’t be overstated.

    A majority leader just doesn’t ask for a floor vote unless he knows how it will turn out. Not at 1.30am. Not when half the land has stayed awake to watch. Not when the thing you’re trying to do has been the sole obsession of your party for nigh eight years.

    But let’s give some due to the Democrats, who have almost been forgotten in all of this.

    “It’s been a long, long road. I suggest we turn the page,” Chuck Schumer, the Minority leader, offered minutes after McConnell’s so-called “Skinny Bill” at least to unwind parts of Obamacare fell to defeat. If the senator from New York was looking smug, you could hardly blame him.

    Hillary Clinton wins!

    That was the headline we thought we were going to be reading last November. But maybe now she does. The one thing that most terrified her supporters about the unthinkable occurring – complete Republican control of Washington – was that the only really big thing Democrats had done in eight years with Barack Obama at the top would be destroyed.

    Obamacare, an attempt at last to bring a kind of universal health coverage to the last country in the developed world not to have it, was, Clinton declared, “one of the great accomplishments not only of this president, but of the Democratic Party going back to Harry Truman”.

    Call it a vicarious victory for Clinton, at least. It comes thanks to Schumer who warned colleagues in January that Republicans would try to pick them off one by one in their quest to kill the health law.

    Only by sticking together would they thwart them. This wasn’t going to be easy.

    The Democrats are no more ideologically homogeneous than the Republicans are, ranging from Bernie Sanders on the left to Joe Manchin of West Virginia at the centre. But they did it.

    They also coordinated with a fearsome army of grass-roots resisters, including groups like MoveOn.org, Indivisible and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee.

    Relations were sometimes tense, the anti-Trump factions not always convinced the Senate Democrats would stay strong. Indeed, Schumer was not always as obstructive on the Hill as they wanted.

    But his strategy of more constructive resistance – he allowed members to talk to Republicans about improving Obamacare but never, ever about repealing it outright – worked. Instead of Republicans exploiting Democrat disunity, it was Democrats who exploited the Republican’s.

    All the while, a group of former Obama aides who had been at ground zero of passing the Affordable Care Act and then shielding it from various assaults had come quietly out of retirement to form a third front.

    Called Protect Our Care, the group included Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, who was plotting a month-long, nationwide bus tour to pressure Republicans not to dump Obamacare. That won’t be necessary now.

    As the New York Times reported this week, Leslie Dach, one of Obama’s top health care officials, meanwhile ran a war room in Washington also helping to coordinate the grass-roots resistance.

    What they did was win the propaganda war. The White House and congressional Republicans continued to pedal the notion that Obamacare was a catastrophe.

    Americans couldn’t use the doctors they wanted, faced stiff fines if they ignored the law’s requirement that every American buy insurance and sometimes lost coverage anyway because of soaring premiums.

    Elements of the message were true – premiums are rising fast. But the momentum was shifting to the Democrats. The greatest of ironies is this:

    Obamacare was never as popular when Obama was president as it is now, with more than 50 per cent of Americans now saying they’d like to keep it.

    It didn’t hurt that every new Republican proposal came with a new forecast from the Congressional Budget Office of how many Americans would lose coverage as a result. 26 million. 23 million. 16 million.

    Republicans sometimes have the easier job of getting their message across just because it is so simple: government intrusion is bad. Taxes are bad. Freedom to choose is good, and so forth.

    But all that is only so much ideological guff when policy decisions actually impact directly on people’s lives. Even Trump voters started to see through it. If you are poor and live in one of the 33 states that accepted a massive expansion of Medicaid benefits that was allowable under Obamacare, they were always going to ask what will happen to them if those benefits are erased.

    Republicans should have grasped that once new benefits are given, there is no taking them away. The watered-down Skinny Bill was a nonsense, because it sought to leave the good bits of Obamacare intact while taking away the “bad” bits like the mandate that said you must have health insurance just as you must have car insurance.

    You can’t have one without the other; the system would simply collapse. It’s why Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina publicly called it a “fraud” and why, in the most dramatic moment of his career, the ailing Senator John McCain killed it by voting “no” alongside Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine.

    Clinton is putting the final touches to a book about her failed 2016 run due out in September called What Happened. She might indulge now in writing an epilogue. Maybe We Won After All.

  • Clyde Duncan  On July 31, 2017 at 11:44 am

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