Watching Trump’s Address to Congress With a Gasbag

President Donald Trump's Address to Congress - Brother-in-Law GasbagI have pushed back my article about the ties between libertarianism and fascism because I was forced to watch much of Trump’s address to Congress. You see, I’m down visiting my sister, and my brother-in-law is a Trump fan.

Note that I say he is a “fan” and not a supporter. He doesn’t vote and isn’t politically involved. But he does like Trump for the typical reasons we all saw throughout the campaign. Trump “tells it like it is” and supports his racist notions like undocumented immigrants taking more from the government than they give. But mostly, my brother-in-law likes to hoot and holler because he thinks it’s funny because everyone in his immediate family hates Trump.

Three Reasons Event Turned Serious

I was cooking, so I was in and out, and thus didn’t see the whole thing. But it was interesting that the entire event evolved to a more serious affair, with my brother-in-law having less fun. This was due to me. And it was for a few of reasons. One is that his Trump fandom has made my sister so reflexively hostile that I come off as mellow. A second reason is that I was able to fact-check Trump in real time.

This second issue is telling of Trump’s speech. I don’t pay attention to politics the way that I used to. Yet the speech was filled the same lies and deceptions that have been widely debunked that it was an easy matter to run a constant, well-informed, commentary.

NATO

A third reason is probably that I gained some credibility when Trump spoke about NATO. Long before the speech started, I explained that I hated these speeches. Nothing new is said and there is as much time spent applauding as speaking. It is just an ad for the president. But what he said about NATO was actually important:

We strongly support NATO, an alliance forged through the bonds of two world wars and the Cold War and defeated communism. But our partners must meet their financial obligations, and now, based on our very strong and frank discussions, they are beginning to do just that.

Leave aside the idea that we “defeated” communism. And especially leave aside this whole idea (common in conservative thought, but even more intense with Trump) that poor little USA finances everything and gets taken advantage of. Trump made a clear statement of NATO support. Normally, that wouldn’t matter. But he’s spent the last two months making our NATO allies very concerned that he was more committed to Russia’s international needs and desires than he is our long-time NATO partners.

So this clear statement of commitment to NATO was important. I was shocked and genuinely pleased to hear it, so it probably made my running commentary seem more objective. Because the rest of Trump’s speech was a disaster.

(“I Do Not Think…)

(“Disaster” is a word Trump loves to use to describe Obamacare. Indeed, he used it last night. But is always makes me think of Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” It’s insured over 20 million more people; it has cost less than predicted; the rate of healthcare inflation has gone down. Not a disaster. But you’ll note that Republicans almost never have a systemic critique of Obamacare. It is always some vague appeal to “freedom” or some bit of anecdotal evidence about premiums skyrocketing. But if they would admit to what they really think, they would be right, “It’s been a disaster because it raised taxes on the rich!”)

Trump Was the Same as Ever

It was amazing to watch Trump use the same tired lines that he has so long been using. And despite his disingenuous pleading to Democrats to join him, he was just as vile as ever. I told my sister at one point that it was a perfect example of demagoguery. The constant refrain of America’s weakness (when we spend roughly as much on our military as the rest of the world combined) was particularly telling. And I think my counter to that was appealing to my brother-in-law, because even most conservatives secretly know that we aren’t weak and that this is just nonsensical political rhetoric.

Of course, I suspect that the spin of mainstream pundits will be that Trump did well. After all, these things are always graded on a curve. And that’s sad. After all, again Trump told the nation that violent crime is surging in this nation when it isn’t. That alone should make the press apoplectic. But instead, if Trump lies and otherwise deceives less than usual, he’s “presidential.”

Deflating My Brother-in-Law

So I think the speech will probably cause Trump’s approval rating to go up — at least temporarily. But on the plus side, I seem to have managed to deflate the gasbag that my brother-in-law is regarding Trump. At least temporarily.

Republicans Pushing Forward With Obamacare Repeal

Brian Beutler - Repeal ObamacareOver the course of Barack Obama’s presidency, House Republicans voted to partially or entirely repeal the Affordable Care Act so many times that watchers lost count at around 60. But it seems the GOP didn’t truly believe it could win the White House in 2016, because they never coalesced around a non-symbolic plan to repeal Obamacare and what, if anything, to replace it with.

Republicans on Capitol Hill today are thus mired in dysfunction. The main impediment to repealing Obamacare is a substantial bloc of GOP lawmakers who won’t vote to repeal the law without a replacement in hand, and the main impediment to replacing Obamacare is a lack of consensus among Republicans about what they should enact in its place.

That consensus eluded Republicans for the entire Obama presidency — long enough to suspect it isn’t going to arise now, magically, in the brief window Republicans have to make good on years’ worth of promises that seem more impossible each day. President Donald Trump invited derision on Monday when he said, “nobody knew health care could be so complicated,” yet he was merely revealing he had been taken in by those very promises.

But the drive to repeal Obamacare has its own momentum. Republicans have staked so much of their credibility on the repeal pledge that they can’t easily walk away from it. Even if President Donald Trump and GOP leaders recognized that they were marching their party into a trap, they are gripped by a collective action problem, wherein nobody wants to be held accountable for failure or surrender.

–Brian Beutler
Republicans’ Final Heinous Push for Obamacare Repeal