Palace whispers in the court of King Donald

Image from The Economist magazine article.

IT IS too soon to know whether Donald Trump’s sudden, regal dismissal of the FBI director—“Off with his head!”—will trigger a constitutional crisis. Much depends on who is appointed to succeed James Comey, and on the fate of FBI probes into Russian meddling in the election of 2016.

It is not too soon to make a more general observation. Less than four months into the reign of King Donald, his impetuous ways are making it more likely that his presidency will be a failure, with few large achievements to its name. That is not journalistic snark but a statement of fact, based on warnings from prominent Republicans and Democrats, notably in the Senate.

The 100 members of the Senate have a touchy relationship with every president. They are grandees, with a keen sense of superiority over the toiling hacks who serve in the House of Representatives and the here-today-gone-tomorrow political appointees who run the executive branch. Senators are treated as princes when they travel overseas, briefed by grizzled American generals and treated to tea by local potentates. In their dreams, election campaigns might still involve addressing crowds from the flag-draped caboose of a private train. Small wonder, then, that senators often resent the still-grander life of a president. Yet their dismay over Mr Trump sounds different.

As the Trump era began, Democratic senators recalled how this populist president had scorned both parties on the campaign trail, and wondered whether he might seek new, bipartisan coalitions to help hard-pressed working Americans. Democrats would muse, off the record, about the terms they would demand for supporting policies like a vast infrastructure programme. Perhaps, for example, they might seek union wage rates for workers building Mr Trump’s new airports and bridges. Republican senators worried, privately, about the same thing from the other side. They fretted that their new president would strike bargains with the new Democratic leader in the Senate, the canny, deal-cutting Charles Schumer of New York. To comfort themselves, Republicans imagined Mr Trump as a sort of salesman-CEO, selling comprehensive tax reform and deregulation to the masses while delegating day-to-day government to conventional conservatives such as his vice-president, Mike Pence.

Not any more. Increasingly the mood among Senate Republicans is a mixture of incredulity and gloom, as each political success (the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as a Supreme Court justice, deftly handled cruise-missile strikes on Syria) is followed by a momentum-killing outburst from the president.

Some cast Mr Trump’s woes as a crisis of messaging and of White House staff discipline. At a recent lunch for Senate Republicans , Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the owl-like majority leader, scolded Mr Pence over a Trump tweet that suggested a government shutdown might be a nifty idea. You don’t believe that, we don’t believe that, and that sort of tweet only makes our lives harder, Mr McConnell reportedly told the vice-president. Prominent Republicans and Democrats have offered Mr Trump the same advice: find a chief of staff in the ferocious mould of James Baker, chief enforcer in the White Houses of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Some senators have still more specific counsel to offer. They urge Mr Trump to create a domestic policy team that apes the professionalism of his national security team. They praise his second national security adviser, Lieutenant-General H.R. McMaster, for turning around a group left in chaos by his ill-starred predecessor, Mike Flynn, and hail the way that his defence secretary, James Mattis, works with the secretary of state, Rex Tillerson. Not only do the chieftains of the Pentagon and State Department meet on their own at least once a week for breakfast to share their thinking, when recommending policies they try to present the president with a single option.

At the root of each fresh crisis lies Mr Trump’s character. If he were a king in velvet and ermine that would matter less. But he is an American president. Party loyalty may save him from a revolution. But, startlingly early on, his own colleagues are starting to wonder what King Donald is for.

Read the complete article on The Economist magazine web site.

U.S. House and Senate Bills and Resolutions web site.

U.S. Capitol. West Side. Wikimedia.

U.S. Capitol. West Side. Wikimedia.

Ever wonder what the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are actually doing in the way of writing or passing Bills or Resolutions? Politicians can be a tricky bunch. They’ll distract you with a wave of their right hand while their left hand is lifting your wallet. With Mr. Trump attracting so much attention the actual work of the government is sometimes not as prominent as it should be.

Here are two links for readers interested in keeping track of what your representatives are doing in Washington, or attempting to do. The site is called GovTrack and here is the link to GovTrack’s House and Senate Bills and Resolutions.

I have to confess that more than a few of the Bills and Resolutions make for a dry read. Which probably explains why more than one politician has been caught on camera napping, or absent during the reading.

If you want to know what your government is up to, there’s no place better than checking out where they work and seeing for yourself what they are doing with your tax dollars. When you see something you don’t like or have a question about, call or email or write your representative and try to get an answer.

Here’s one Bill for example.

“A BILL

To amend the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to provide for requirements relating to documentation for major acquisition programs, and for other purposes.”

That seems pretty dry until you scroll down and find,

Major acquisition program defined

In this section, the term major acquisition program means a Department acquisition program that is estimated by the Secretary to require an eventual total expenditure of at least $300,000,000 (based on fiscal year 2017 constant dollars) over its lifecycle cost.

300 Million Dollars? Yikes. That’s for each Department acquisition program. How many programs are there? 20? 50? Heck even 10 programs would mean at least 3 Billion Dollars. A penny here and a penny there and pretty soon we’re talking real money. Here’s the link to his Bill.