NAFTA, the USMCA, and Maybe MAGA

The big story on Tuesday was the House judiciary committee drawing up a couple of articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, which the House of Representatives is almost certainly to soon vote for, so you might have overlooked the better news for Trump that the Democrats are also going to soon vote for a north American free trade agreement he has been pursuing called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
The USMCA is not to be confused with the North American Free Trade Agreement, which Trump has long derided as the worst trade deal ever, even if it does basically retain NAFTA’s basic principle of making North America a more or less free trade zone. Not only has Trump rebranded it with more cumbersome initials, this agreement has some of the same modifications that have been made in all the biannual renegotiations since NAFTA was passed, and enough of them are beneficial enough that Trump is boasting it’s the best trade deal ever. The stock markets were all slightly down on the day, but the reviews from the farm and manufacturing and retailing spokespeople and even the mainstream media were all at least lukewarmly positive.
The impeachment articles overshadowed Trump’s accomplishments, though, and the Democrats also got some good press out of the USMCA. They were able to boast that Trump had made some serious concessions to them about environmental protections and labor rights that some prominent congressional Republicans were grousing about, with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi taunting Trump that “We ate their lunch,” and at the same time demonstrate their willingness to work with Trump on the public’s behalf even as they impeach him.
Both sides deserve some credit for arriving at a deal that least resumes the basic structure of a North American free trade zone that has benefited the entire continent since its inception, and letting America’s farmers and manufacturers and retailers resume business more or less as normal. Neither side will probably make a big deal of it, though, as the deal is not all that great and the credit for it is spread too thin, and this impeachment business will be the bigger story.

— Bud Norman

An Angry Day

President Donald Trump is an ill-tempered fellow even on a good day, and Wednesday was not at all a good day.
The House of Representatives passed a resolution rebuking Trump’s widely criticized decision to with American forces from by a vote of 354-60-4, with a majority of the chamber’s Republican members piling on. Yet another administration official was testifying to the House impeachment inquiry despite presidential orders not to, and yet another poll showed that Trump’s impeachment and removal from office already has the support of a majority of the country. A visiting British couple seeking justice for a son who was killed by an the wife of American government employee who was driving on the wrong side of the road refused Trump’s offer of a surprise meeting with the driver, saying they felt “ambushed,” and depriving Trump of what a staffer said he hoped would be a telegenic “hug and make up moment”for an otherwise dreary news cycle.
All of which made Trump even surlier than usual, which is saying something. In a White House meeting with the Democratic congressional leadership he called House Speaker Nancy Pelosi a “third-rate politician,” said that former Defense Secretary James Mattis was “the world’s most overrated general” and not “tough enough,” with Pelosi calling a “meltdown” and Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer describing the conversation as  “not a dialogue but a diatribe, a very nasty diatribe.”
At a later joint news conference with Italian President Sergio Mattarella Trump chided his guest for failing to spend 2 percent of his country’s gross domestic product on defense spending, comparing Italy unfavorably to the Turkish government that is currently using its military might to wipe out America’s erstwhile Kurdish allies in Syria. Trump added that the Kurds are “no angels,” and suggested they’re all aligned with a Kurdish terror group active in Turkey, which came after Trump told the Democratic leaders that the Kurds are also communists and that “you’re probably fine with that.” The president even had some insults for Republican South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is usually a reliable sycophant but has lately dare to disagree with Trump’s Syrian policy. For good measure,  he claimed that the conspiracy that’s out to get him goes up to President Barack Obama.
Trump’s die-hard fans love the tough talk, but it doesn’t win any new voters, and it’s hard to see what good it does. The Democratic congressional leaders and the Italian president and the growing chorus of Republican critics clearly aren’t cowed by it, and to most of the country Trump comes off as angry and unhinged. If there were some reasonable explanation for Trump’s seemingly transactional dealings with Ukraine and other foreign governments that could be expressed in a calm and presidential voice the president would be well advised to go with that, but for now he doesn’t have that at his disposal, and is instead going with the raw anger that somehow got him elected.

— Bud Norman

No One is Unimpeachable

The damn Democrats are officially launching an impeachment inquiry regarding President Donald Trump, with the blessing of very cautious House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and we can’t blame them. If a Democratic president was as credibly accused of doing what Trump stands credibly accused of doing a Republican majority in the House of Representatives would surely be doing the same, and we’d wish them well.
The proverbial straw that broke Pelosi’s rigid back is apparently the widely reported story about Trump asking the Ukrainian government to provide dirt on potential Democratic rival Joe Biden. Trump swears he’d never do such a thing, and is promising to release a transcript of the telephone conversation with the Ukrainian leader to prove it, so far now we’ll wait to see how that turns out, but given Trump’s past statements aabout his about his willingness to accept foreign interference in an election we’ll read that transcript with a suspicious eye.
Even if the latest Trump scandal about Ukraine doesn’t prove damning enough, which is quite possible given how slippery Trump has proved during his long career as a celebrity, and how loyal the hard-core fans are, the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives still has plenty to work with. There are the millions of dollars that are pouring into Trump-owned businesses with every presidential golf game, and more millions of dollars of arguably unconstitutional emoluments from foreign governments pouring into other Trump-owned properties, and the special counsel investigation that documented Russia’s meddling on Trump’s behalf and cited 10 different instances when Trump tried to impede an investigation into that, which used to be considered an abuse of power and obstruction of justice.
There are a number of other impeachable offenses Trump stands credibly accused of, from altering weather forecasts with a felt tip pen to his accommodationist policy toward Russia, and several more scandals we can’t currently recall might also appear in the impeachment bill, but for now that doesn’t much matter. Even if the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives votes to impeach Trump, as it might well do, there’s little chance that the razor-thin Republican majority in the Senate will provide the 67 votes needed to convict and remove a president.
If Trump is acquitted by the Senate in an impeachment trial he’ll run on for reelection as only the fourth president to be be impeached by the House of Representatives, and on unprecedented footing. All three of the previous impeached presidents faced judgment in their second terms. and although none were convicted in the Senate President Richard Nixon did resign rather than accept that inevitable fate. Trump might well use his vindication by a Republican-majority Senate to cast himself as a victim of a “deep state” conspiracy, and by a year from from next November he’ll probably have plenty of persuasive arguments against whatever nominee the damn Democrats come up with.
Rhese scandals have a cumulative effect, though, and we figure that come a year from next November the Democratic nominee will also have plenty to say. As Trump has boasted he really could shoot a man on Fifth Avenue and not lose a supporter, but he doesn’t seem to be picking up any new votes.

— Bud Norman

Back Where They Came From

Sunday was a slow news day, so naturally President Donald President gave all the media something to write and talk about with another controversial “tweet.” This time he suggested that four minority congresswomen should go back where they came from.
“So interesting to see ‘Progressive’ Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run,” Trump “tweeted” in his usual idiosyncratic prose style. “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done.” He later added that “I’m sure Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!”
Trump was apparently referring to New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar. All four have lately been prominent in the news for their attempts to drag the Democratic further to the left, and their willingness to publicly criticize House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her relatively centrist positions.
There’s some speculation in the media that Trump was attempting to further divide the Democratic party, but it had the effect of united Democrats in their condemnation of the “tweet.” Pelosi replied that Trump was trying to “make America white again,” all of the candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination denounced the “tweet” as racist and divisive, and the rest of the party piled on. Most of the media were similarly appalled.
There were no criticisms from congressional Republicans, but neither was anyone in the Grand Old Party offering praise. When acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan was asked about it on “Face the Nation,” he said “You’re going to have to ask the president what he means by those specific ‘tweets.'”
The die-hard fans will surely love it, on the other hand. “Donald comes right and says what we’re all thinking,” the die-hard fans always say, and they’ve always thought that dark-hued people from “shit hole countries” should go back where they came from. There are excellent and not at all racist arguments for conservative stands on every issue from economics to border enforcement, and we miss a Republican party that used to make that case, but in the third year of the Trump administration the brazen appeals to prejudice are what fires up the base.
Which is not say anything nice about Representatives Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and Tlaib and Omar. They’re all loony-left, as far as we’re concerned, to the point that our pre-Trump Republican selves and even Trump himself are in the unfamiliar and uncomfortable position of rooting for Pelosi. They all advocate a failed socialism and a radical environmentalism and a divisive ethnic identity politics, and their anti-western alliance foreign policy instincts are arguably worse than Trump’s.
An educated and articulate president would be able swat away such left-wing silliness with a few minutes of factual and logical rhetoric, but Trump is not at all that president. Tlaib and Omar have both made statements that even fellow Democrats considered anti-Jewish, but Trump’s denunciations made it clear he was anti-Muslim. As ridiculous as Ocasio-Cortez’ “New Green Deal” is, Trump made up things that aren’t in the plan to ridicule. We’re not sure what Trump’s beef with is Pressley, other than she’s black and a woman and liberal from Massachusetts, but that should suffice for Trump’s base to want her send her back with the rest of them to where she came from.
Unfortunately for Trump and the die-hard fans, Ocasio-Cortez comes from New York, Pressley comes from Massachusetts, and Tlaib comes from Michigan. Omar was born in Somalia, which was indeed a failed state even then, and was then a refugee for four years in Kenya, but she can hardly be blamed for that, and at the age of 10 she was granted asylum by a more welcoming America and became a naturalized citizen at the age of 17. She’s a hijab-wearing Muslim with crazy ideas about everything, but she’s a certifiable American citizen and duly elected member of the United States Congress, and for now there’s no sending her back where she came from.
Trump gave the die-hard fans something to cheer about, but we doubt he won any new fans in the process. He has more than year before the next election to woo those non-racist and mostly female educated suburban voters who used to vote Republican and are satisfied with the economy and relative lack of war but hate pretty much everything else about him, but Trump apparently believes he can win reelection with the “lock ’em up” and “send ’em back where they came from” vote.
Unless the likes of Ocasio-Cortez and Pressley and Tlaib and Omar get their way, it seems a long shot bet to us.

— Bud Norman

The Next Big Debt-Ceiling Fight

Yet another fight over once again raising America’s debt ceiling is coming up, and we expect it will be even uglier than usual. For one thing the September deadline will come as the presidential and congressional primaries are heating up, which always complicates things, and for another thing the federal government is more dysfunctional than ever.
Treasury Secretary has met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the matter, but Pelosi is for now insisting on a two-year budget deal. Several Republican Senators also want an actual budget instead of yet another continuing resolution that provides at least two years off from these every six months or so squabbles, but that’s easier said than done.
There hasn’t been an actual budget passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by a president for more than a decade, and you have to go back to the days of President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich to find one that balanced. Since then both parties have waited until the last minute before the global economic catastrophe that would result from the government defaulting on its very large debt, playing brinksmanship to extract whatever concessions the parties could gain from another, and wound up a with a deficit-spending resolution that kicked the can another six months down the road. This time will probably be the same, but different.
This time the congressional Democrats are more restive than usual, with Pelosi publicly feuding with several recently famous freshman members of her caucus, and all the Democratic presidential contenders pushing the party further to the left. Not long ago Pelosi was the Republican party’s poster girl for San Francisco-style liberalism, but these days she’s the relatively sane center of the Democratic party, and she’s always been a pragmatic enough politician to cut those last minute deals that saved the global economy from catastrophe. For the moment she seems firmly in control of her party, but September’s a long time from now.
For the foreseeable future President Donald Trump is firmly in control of the Republican party, but that’s not reassuring. Trump ran on the argument that he’s history’s greatest master of the art of the deal, based on his business record, but so far he’s proved no more successful in negotiating deals with the congressional Democrats than he was with his six-times bankrupt casinos. While he “tweets” schoolyard taunts against Senate majority leader “Cryin'” Chuck Schumer and t”Nervous Nancy” Pelosi, he’s yet to best them in a political showdown on almost anything. He crashed claimed credit for the last of those occasional partial government showdowns, then blamed the Democrats when the shutdown didn’t poll well, and wound up signing off on another continuing resolution that fully funded lots of bleeding heart social programs beloved by the Democrats.
This time around should be the same. The talk radio talkers will grouse about Trump’s concessions, but they’ll quickly move on to what the damned Democrats did, and Trump’s die-hard fans will forgive him anything. There are also a few on-the-fence voters who will give him credit for his centrist pragmatism, nobody will be able to blame him for the default that brought down the global economy, and that this point nobody cares about those several Republican senators’ old-fashioned idea of getting back to passing budgets with bi-partisan support and a presidential signature. Trump’s position of strength gives him every incentive to cave.
At this point large portions of both parties only care about depriving the other party of any tangible victory, and won’t yield an inch toward any kind of national consensus about how to spend the public’s money. They wouldn’t mind a global economic catastrophe, either, so long as they could blame it on the other side. As the presidential and congressional primary races heat up, those elements will have some influence on the debate.
Still, we expect this time around will be largely the same as the last many times around. We no longer have much faith in the leaders of either party, but we retain a cynical and hopeful faith in human nature. None of our elected leaders want to have been around during a global economic catastrophe, if only because it’s a bad career move, even if they could plausibly blame it on the other side. At some point, according to our observation of recent politics and human nature, both sides will eventually blink, and both will get enough and give enough for their voters to brag and grouse about.
Which is about the best we can hope for these days. That idea Pelosi and those prominent Senate Republicans have about a two-year budget seems pretty far-fetched for the moment. The idea that it might be balanced is preposterous.

— Bud Norman

Bad Times for the Democrats, Too

The trade deficit and the national debt are at record levels, there are the usual number of new developments regarding various political scandals, as well as other stories embarrassing to President Donald Trump, but we also notice that the damned Democrats have their own problems.
The Democrats’ majority in the House of Representatives is currently squabbling over what to do about one of their two Muslim members’ “tweets” are undeniably anti-Israel and quite arguably anti-Jewish, and the party writ large is debating whether to veer slowly to the left or to hold hands and hit the pedal and hurl off like “Thelma and Louise” over the far-left cliff. So far the center-left holds the rhetorical advantage and all the positions of power, but we’re talking about the likes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer, and there’s a palpable sense of worry in the party that it could lose yet again to the likes of Trump.
The flap about Rep. Ilhan Omar’s “tweets” won’t help the cause. Omar is from a Somali refugee family and represents a Minnesota district that has a surprising number of Somali-American voters along with the usual assortment of Minnesota liberals, and she holds the expected Muslim and liberal views about foreign policy, and the Republicans would understandably and dearly love to make the soft face peering out from chador the face of the Democratic party. The Democrats can’t quite bring themselves to rebuke Omar, but they’d dearly and understandably prefer some other face.
By now most Democrats either endorse or don’t much mind Omar’s anti-Israel stands, but when she “tweeted” that the American-Israeli Political Action Committee was buying Congressional support with “the Benjamins — a reference to the guy on the $100 bill, not the Old Testament figure — that seemed too much an ancient Jewish stereotype even for many modern day Democrats. Pelosi “signaled a willingness to advance a softly worded resolution related to anti-Semitism,” The Washington Post reports, but it was scuttled by opposition from New York Representative and left-wing daring Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the other Muslim congresswoman and the rest of the off–the-cliff left wing of the party, and “now leaders are cobbling together a broader draft that would oppose many forms of offensive actions.” With further embarrassment, the Post’s correspondent noted that “It may seem trivial — a nonbonding resolution expressing opposition intolerance of all kinds — but this a critical test for leadership to bring the caucus back together.”
So far Pelosi and Schumer have been successful in keeping their party in its usual lockstep, to a point that Trump is openly envious, but this seems a tough test for even better leadership to pass. For decades the Democratic party rightly prided itself on its steadfast support fo the Jewish people, and President Harry Truman was the first world leader to recognize the state of Israel and Sen. Bobby Kennedy was shot down for his steadfast support of the Jewish state, but since then things have gotten complicated. After Israel somehow won a series of wars against the combined might of its more populous Islamic neighbors in the late ’60s and early ’70s the Democrats’ instinctive favoritism for the underdog naturally shifted to the Islamic victims of western colonialism, while on the home front the party shifted its attention from the Jews to a far bigger black voting bloc that often feuded with Jewish interests in the all-important big cities and had more of that old-fashioned southern anti-Semitism that polite people will admit.
The Democrats could get plenty of Republicans to join with them in voting for some vaguely worded non-binding resolution in favor of tolerance for all religious views, but these days that seems unlikely. Vague language about “All religious views” might be construed to include some Baptist who doesn’t want to bake a cake for a same-sex marriage, or some Muslim or Jew or Hindu with similar traditional convictions, and with sexual issues overriding religious issues these days the modern Democrat can only be so tolerant. Some day in the near future historians will wonder why so many of the last few church-going and Bible-believing Christians in America voted for a thrice-married and six-times-bankrupt casino-and-strip-club mogul, and we can only advise them to look at what he was running against.
The off-the-far-left-cliff wing of the Democratic party makes Trump’s economic policies look pretty good, too. Although it would take some doing they’d probably swell the budget deficits even more than Trump has, and their tax hikes would make even worse than Trump’s tax cuts have, and they same to have same absurd protectionist instincts as Trump. Their “Green New Deal”is almost as stupid as Trump makes it out to be, and their socialist utopia would probably look a lot more like Venezuela than Scandinavia. If future historians ever have to wonder why America would re-elect the likes of Trump we’d advise them to take a look at who he was running against.

— Bud Norman

The Son-in-Law Rises Again

The partial government shutdown is now in its 33rd day, and hundreds of thousands of government workers are going a third week without pay, with many of them calling in sick as a result, but the good news is that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner is bravely taking charge of the situation.
In case you’re unaware of the wunderkind’s remarkable resume, the heavily indebted real estate mogul has also been given responsibility for ending America’s opioid crisis and bringing peace to the Middle East and re-inventing the federal government, among other things. Although he doesn’t seem to have quite yet accomplished any of these Herculean tasks, he’s reportedly asserted himself into the shutdown negotiations, which look to be as intractable as any of his many other jobs. There’s much skepticism about his ability to pull any of it off, but the young fellow is apparently as self-confident as ever.
According to The Washington Post’s reporting Kushner is sure that the Democrats in congress will soon capitulate to President Donald Trump’s demand for five billion dollars or so of funding for the big and beautiful border wall that he promised his supporters, and that Trump’s smartest move is to remain obstinate in the demand. Kushner has a more impressive job description than we do, including the difficult task of being Trump’s son-in-law, but we nonetheless wonder where he gets such cockamamie ideas.
All of the public opinion polls show that a plurality of Americans don’t want a border wall, and a clear majority don’t think it justifies a partial government shutdown, and such veteran politicians and wily wheeler-dealers as Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seem to be enjoying the hit Trump has taken in polls. Trump is no longer making more than a token effort to argue that the Mexicans are eventually going to repay whatever money the Democrats might fork over, he’s now willing to let the Democrats call it something other than a big beautiful wall, and until the right wing provocateurs Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham spoke he was willing to capitulate on the whole idea, and for now he seems to have the far worse negotiating position. Several congressional Republicans are already planning to vote for a budget bill or continuing resolution to fully re-open the government that doesn’t include funding for the border wall, including all the congressmen who represent districts along the border.
There’s always a chance Trump’s rhetorical eloquence will persuade a majority of Americans that a big beautiful border wall is the most important issue facing the nation, perhaps when he delivers his State of the Union address in front of some raucous rally crowd in some deep-red state in the coming days, but so far that hasn’t happened. The president’s son-in-law reportedly played a role in getting the criminal justice reform bill passed, but that was a weak-on-crime bill that all the Democrats wanted and the likes of Limbaugh and Coulter and Ingraham didn’t talk about, and it doesn’t suggest he’s much a negotiator. Kushner is famous for rarely speaking in public, so it’s harder to assess his oratorical abilities, but based on what we have heard we don’t give him a better chance of swaying public opinion that his father-in-law. Our guess is he’ll be most useful to the president as an eventual scapegoat.
Meanwhile, Trump’s daughter-in-law is getting involved, and so far that’s not been helpful. Lara Trump, wife of the still-married Eric Trump, told a news outlet that those unpaid federal workers should “stay strong” and insist on a border wall before they get paid. The billionaire heiress said acknowledge that going weeks without a paycheck “is a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of country, and their children and grandchildren and generations after will thank them for their sacrifice right now.” She’s more well spoken that her father-in-law and brother-in law, but we expect that even more unpaid government workers will be calling in sick today.

— Bud Norman

Pelosi Punches Back

One thing President Donald Trump’s die-hard fans always say in his defense is that “at least he fights,” which for both better and worse is undeniably true, but it should oblige them to admit that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is pretty scrappy as well. The veteran political fighter’s latest jab is disinviting Trump to deliver his State of the Union address in the House of Representatives, arguing that the ongoing partial government shutdown makes it impossible to provide adequate security, and it looks to us like a very shrewd tactic.
The move is certain to infuriate Trump, who surely relishes all the pomp and circumstance and the interruption of regularly scheduled prime time television that a State of the Union address in the House chamber affords a president, and there doesn’t seem to be much he can do about. Even presidents can’t address the House chamber except at the invitation of the House, the concerns about security for the entire Congress and the Supreme Court and the President and all of his cabinet except for one “designated survivor” are quite plausible during this record-setting partial government shutdown, and both Trump and Pelosi can read the opinion polls showing most Americans blame Trump for the situation. The Constitution requires that president make an annual report to the Congress concerning the state of the union, but it doesn’t stipulate that the report be delivered in the House chamber, and Pelosi is quite right that Trump can provide a written report, as presidents routinely did until electronic media came along, or give a televised speech in the White House or anywhere else he might choose.
None of those options are quite so appealing to a reality show impresario such as Trump as a captive television audience watching his fellow Republicans cheer him and those damned Democrats disrespectfully declining to acknowledge his applause lines, but the only other option seems to be ending the partial government shutdown. Given the Democratic majority in the House and the majority of public opinion on its side, the prevailing political reality requires that Trump infuriate all his die-hard fans by dropping his demand for an unpopular wall along the entire southern border to do so, and that should prove even more intolerable than another of Trump’s low-energy teleprompter-ed and single camera Oval Office addresses. He might choose to deliver the State of the Union address in front of an enthusiastic rally of die-hard fans in those red “MAGA” caps chanting to lock up Pelosi, but we’re sure he’d rather not, as it doesn’t have the same dignity as those House chamber that presidents have come to expect.
Worse yet, it all signals anew that Pelosi is as always as willing to fight on all fronts just as down and dirty as Trump’s fans admire him for fighting, and once again suggests that she’s far better at it than such a relative political neophyte as Trump. As old-fashioned conservatives we still can’t stand the woman nor her team, as she’s not only the quintessentially stereotypical San Francisco liberal but also a literal one, yet from our seats on the political sidelines we have to admit she’s scarily good at the game. Trump still boasts of his tough negotiating tactics, but those were honed in the private sector where he frequently wound up bankrupt, and he’s currently up against someone more experienced in the more rules-based game of the public sector, and she clearly knows those rules better, and for now  she’s got public opinion on her side.

— Bud Norman

The Lady Regains the Gavel

California’s Rep. Nancy Pelosi is once again the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and that should prove interesting. Say what you want abut Pelosi, and everybody has plenty to say, but there’s no denying she’s been a formidable force and intriguing in recent American history.
Pelosi is both a stereotypical and literal San Francisco liberal, whose two previous terms as Speaker saw massive deficits and pork-laden stimulus spending and the convoluted health care reform called Obamacare, and she’s hated with a rate red-hot passion by the right. Grainy and unflattering black-and-white photographs have been a staple of Republican campaign attack ads for years, the mention of her name prompts boos and hisses at Trump rallies and on conservative talk radio, and she’s once again an effective fundraising bogey-woman for the Grand Old Party.
Much of the left doesn’t much like her, either, for reasons of its own. As crazy left as Pelosi seems to anyone even slightly right of center, much of the Democratic rank and file and nseveral of the newly installed Democratic members of the House regard her as too accommodating to the center and insufficiently sufficiently socialist, which is a scary thought for such old-fashioned establishment Republicans as ourselves to contemplate. On the other hand, much of the right now reviles such old-fashioned establishments as former House Speaker Paul Ryan and current current Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as too accommodating to the center and insufficiently loyal to whatever President Donald Trump is “tweeting” about on any given day, and we have to admit that’s pretty scary, too.
Despite Pelosi’s unpopularity she won the speakership with a few votes to spare, having fended off a futile challenge from the impatient-for-socialist-utopia youngsters on the leftmost edges of the party, and we’d advise Trump and his Republican allies in Congress not to underestimate her political skills. In the same way we regard LeBron James, we don’t root for the team she’s playing for but have to admit she’s damned good at the game. She was an effective thorn in the side of President George W. Bush for the last two years of his presidency, but blocked the far left’s demand for his impeachment and then joined with him and a bipartisan group of centrist Democrats and Republicans to negotiate the Troubled Asset Relief Program that was reviled by both the left and right but in retrospect probably prevented the great recession of ’08 from becoming another great depression, and she effectively did all sorts of mischief during the first two years of President Barack Obama’s administration.
Pelosi is the daughter of Thomas D’Alesandro Jr., who was a a famously ruthless Maryland congressman and Baltimore mayor, and while Trump was learning from his father how to bribe politicians Pelosi was learning how to strong arm unprincipled building contractors in need of a building permit. She easily rose through the ranks of California’s hippy-dippy Democratic party, just as easily clawed her way to the leadership of the congressional Democrats, and is clearly unintimidated by the likes of Trump. Pelosi’s daughter is a well respected documentary filmmaker in her own right, and has recently described that her beloved mom as someone who”will cut your head off and you won’t even know you’re bleeding,” and Trump and the rest of the Republicans should heed the warning. For now she has the better political hand to play, what with Trump having preemptively claimed responsibility for an unpopular partial government shutdown to get funding his unpopular border wall idea, and we expect she’ll play her cards better than the failed casino mogul she’s up against.
We still can’t stand the woman, and don’t see her second speakership turning out well for anyone, but we figure it could have been worse. The Democratic party has many members even crazier than Pelosi, as we shudder to realize, and there’s hope she’s pragmatic enough to reach some compromises on some essential matters with the saner members of the Republican party. Although Pelosi is once again resisting calls for impeachment she’ll no doubt go at Trump with all the subpoena power her Democratic majority in the House can muster, but that’s all right with us, and we’re still hoping the center will somehow hold.

— Bud Norman

America’s Annual Attention Deficit About the Annual Budget Deficit

Not so very long ago, American conservatives used to fret about the swelling federal debt. Back when the debt was swelling at the rate of a trillion dollars a year under President Barack Obama it was conservatism’s most pressing issue, and led to the Republican party regaining control of both chambers of Congress, which successfully cut the annual budget deficits to a mere half-trlllion or so. With the annual budget deficits back up to a trillion bucks under President Donald Trump, however, only the most old-fashioned sorts of conservative are worried about it.
Back during his improbable presidential campaign Trump made some wildly extravagant promises about paying off the entire national debt in four years, but he also made some similarly wild and extravagant promises about huge tax cuts and increased military spending and an expensive infrastructure bill and a big beautiful wall along the entire southern border and allowing no changes to such popular programs as Medicare. At other times the self-proclaimed “King of Debt” also talked about racking up even more debt because of the temporarily low interest rates, and rattled international markets by openly speculating on the sort of defaults and haircuts that he’d relied on during his failed career as a casino mogul, but for some reason a plurality of Rebublican primary voters trusted Trump’s assurances it would all somehow work out.
Now Trump is once again talking about cutting deficits, but he’s finding it hard to do given all the other promises he’s made. The sizable tax cut Trump signed into law might yet fuel enough economic growth to cut into the deficits, but for now and the foreseeable future it’s lowering federal revenues as spending go up. Trump got the record defense spending that he wanted, and although he’s now reportedly open to cutting it slightly he seems to have some ill-informed ideas about military technology and still wants an expensive military parade and has troops idly awaiting an epic clash with a few thousand unarmed asylum-seekers at the southern border.
So far as we can tell from Trump’s vague explanations his infrastructure plan relies largely on private investment that the private investors surely expect to be compensated for one way or another, but it’s still expensive, and unless he can get it passed during the lame duck sessions it’s unlikely the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives will make it happen. The outgoing Republican majority in the House was only willing to cough up a measly couple of billion dollars for Trump’s big beautiful border wall, and the incoming Democratic majority is unlikely to be as generous as that, and Trump is threatening a government shutdown over it even as he resumes talking about cutting the deficit.
Trump is still holding to his campaign promises about allowing no changes to Medicare or Social Security, too, which makes it pretty much impossible to put a noticeable dent in the budget deficits. Everything in the federal budget other than the military and servicing the existing federal debt is relatively paltry compared to those programs, and even if Trump somehow were able to eliminate all the undeniable waste and fraud it wouldn’t compare to a month’s spending on what Trump has declared sacrosanct, and even the stingiest conservative must concede that there are certain expensive services a government can only provide.
The expert and apolitical trustees of the Medicare and Social Security funds are predicting both programs will go belly up right around the time we’re eligible for their benefits, but for now they’re both so popular that it would take a pretty courageous politician to dare suggest even the mild reforms that might forestall the disaster. Once upon a time such Republican politicians as House Speaker Paul Ryan dared suggest paying current beneficiaries according to the deal they’d signed on to, and a deal to those currently paying in that the government could realistically hope to make good on, but Ryan’s leaving public life after two years of signing off on trillion dollar deficits, and we don’t expect presumptive House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to suggest such essential reforms.
Nobody likes taxes and everyone likes their government checks and services, and most Americans are misinformed about the relatively paltry sums America is spending on foreign aid and abortion advice and subsidies for the arts and other resented-by-Republicans programs, and the administration of justice and maintenance of federal highways and other popular projects are more expensive than most Americans realize, so solving the political problem of deficits and debts is far more complicated than Trump made it sound back during the campaign. Despite his very stable genius and unaccountable knowledge of military technology Trump still doesn’t seem to have the answer, even though it’s long been apparent to the more old-fashioned sorts of conservatives, and he’s not the sort to tell his supporters anything they don’t want to hear.
Obama still deserves blame for the trillion dollar deficits that he needlessly racked up even during the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, and we’re sure Trump will continue to blame him, but Trump will also surely find someone to blame for the trillion dollar deficits he’s racked up in what he boasts is the greatest American economy ever, so we’re not hopeful the problem will be solved in time to pay for our golden years. In the meantime the government will be paying a few trifling millions of dollars a month to Trump’s golf resorts, but the Democrats in the House will probably tell Trump to keep his extravagant campaign promise to have Mexico pay for that big beautiful border wall and let him take the hit in the polls if he follows through on his threat of a government shutdown, that slender Republican majority in the Senate and Trump’s veto power will probably forestall the Democrats most expensive ambitions, so there’s a chance that at least America will head to the inevitable fiscal cliff at a slightly slower speed.

— Bud Norman