Republicans need to screen out Trump's noise

Published on Sunday, 3 February 2019 19:52
Written by Jennifer Rubin

Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and her House Democratic caucus have perfected the art of ignoring President Donald Trump’s threats, non-facts and efforts to sway the electorate, thereby putting pressure on Democrats. As to the latter, he’s shown again and again (most recently in his totally ineffective Oval Office address on the border) how little he can move public opinion.

Indeed, it’s fair to say the only hope for the GOP and the country is to ignore Trump entirely and govern as the first branch of government - even on foreign policy, which is usually the province of the executive branch.

On foreign policy, Republicans have started doing just that. The New York Times’ Peter Baker writes: “More than two years into his administration, the disconnect between President Trump and the Republican establishment on foreign policy has rarely been as stark.

In recent days, the president’s own advisers and allies have been pushing back, challenging his view of the world and his prescription for its problems.”

In other words, Republicans are not prepared to adopt Trump’s lies and misconceptions of the world, nor listen to advisers such as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who insist on perpetuating them.

They’ll stick with the facts - and they’ll listen to the senior intelligence officials who remind us that Russia really is seeking to disrupt our democracy, the Islamic State really hasn’t gone away, North Korea really hasn’t shown a willingness to give up its nukes and Iran really isn’t violating the nuclear deal .

It’s remarkable that the distance between Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Trump is about as wide as it was between Trump and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. In fact, a former McConnell adviser is quoted as saying something fairly similar to Mattis’s resignation letter. (“Look, Senator McConnell has a different worldview than the president does. He’s a national security hawk who believes American strength in the world is critical.”)

As The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin points out, “Internationalist Democrats and Republicans are increasingly finding common cause, not only in promoting robust U.S. foreign policy positions but also in asserting the legislative branch’s role in national security decision-making and oversight.” In short, they are ignoring Trump’s lead, in fact pulling against him in ways that are striking for members of the incumbent president’s party.

On the domestic front, lawmakers would do well to adopt a similar approach - ignore Trump.

The president is warning congressional negotiators not to make a deal without a wall. The Post reports: “President Trump warned Wednesday that lawmakers would be ‘wasting their time’ if they do not discuss a wall or physical barrier along the southern border as part of a deal to stave off another government shutdown.”

However, as Pelosi rhetorically when Trump caved on the shutdown, “Have I not been clear on the wall?” There won’t be a wall. Democrats know it.

Experienced appropriators on the conference committee know it. The days of asking Trump permission before deciding and voting on a plan must stop unless Republicans are prepared for politically devastating shutdown 2.0.

There is reason to be optimistic if one considers the people who are in the negotiations. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., has the right idea. The Post reports:

“There’s good people in that conference committee,” said Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., another committee member. “I think we can come to an amiable conclusion if we’re left to our own device.”

Tester said Trump should stay out of it, even though “that’s not his nature, it’s not what he typically does.”

And Tester said he personally is open to fencing on the border, “as long as it’s part of what we analyze as actually making the southern border more secure.”

In sum, ignore the president on foreign and domestic policy, find areas of common agreement across the aisle and then put it on Trump’s desk.

He’ll find a way to spin it as his own idea anyway. You see, it seems not even the president has the nerve to set off a second shutdown.

Jennifer Rubin writes reported opinion for The Washington Post.

Posted in New Britain Herald, Editorials on Sunday, 3 February 2019 19:52. Updated: Sunday, 3 February 2019 19:54.