So far, for me, watching the Trump administration is like watching some bizarre experimental theatrical production in which three completely different plays are being staged at the same time.
On one stage is the farce put on by the news media and the left (but I repeat myself). They are hysterical, dishonest and deranged. They see Russian spies under the bed. They bewail violations of civil rights where none exist. They cry scandal at every slip of the president’s tongue. They’re absurd. If there is a real danger to our country right now, it comes from the left-slash-media’s ceaseless emotionalism and distortion combined with their willingness to sanction and encourage genuine, as opposed to metaphorical, violence.
On another stage is the president. He says stuff that isn’t so. Some of it is meaningless. I don’t care if he exaggerates his electoral victory or his inaugural crowds or the number of illegal voters. I could pretend to care, but I’d be faking it. I just don’t. Let Trump be Trump. But it concerns me when he says we should take Iraqi oil and then DefSec James Mattis says no, we’re not taking Iraqi oil — especially when I’ve heard National security advisor pick H.R. McMaster say, “If you treat civilian populations with anything but respect you’re working for your enemy.” The point is: Trump has a loose way of mouthing off. Sometimes, when you’re president, that’s not so good.
Finally, on the third stage, there is practical reality, the things that happen, the things the administration has done. These, so far, are largely great. Spectacular appointments, great Supreme Court pick, righting our relations with Israel after eight years of stabbing one of our best allies back and front, putting the brakes on regulations and federal hiring — all wonderful. A few glitches, of course, but all in all, Trump is keeping his best promises and I honor him for it and it makes me glad.
But day by day, it’s beginning to dawn on me: there is a fourth stage, too, a stage that is so far dark. Congress. The Waldo Congress, I call them, because — where the hell are they?
House Speaker Paul Ryan has put his reputation on the line by telling Sean Hannity that the major parts of the Trump agenda will be accomplished in the first two hundred days: “Inside the two hundred day window is the regulatory reforms we talked about, is the repeal and replace Obamacare; it’s the budget; it’s the rebuilding of our military; it’s tax reform… and infrastructure.” Meanwhile, Congressmen Dave Brat and Mark Meadows tell Sean they see no indication any of this will get done; RealClearPolitics reporter A.B. Stoddard says there’s no will to accomplish tax reform on the Hill (I have no link, but she said it on Fox News’s Special Report); and Drudge links to stories almost daily saying Obamacare repeal will never happen.
I think I might be forgiven for wondering if — after confronting leftist protesters at town halls around the country, and after years of ceaselessly being assaulted and slandered by our leftist media — Congress has lost the nerve to make the sort of bold moves President The Donald is pushing. If so, the enthusiasm shown for the president at the Conservative Political Action Conference, and the articulate pugilism of Steve Bannon there, may be just the spine-stiffening tonic our lawmakers need. Conservatives have their doubts about Trump. They may bridle when Kellyanne Conway, in an off-hand witticism, says that Trump will transform CPAC into TPAC. Fair enough.
But so far, there is plenty enough conservatism in the Trump agenda to suit me — far more, I daresay, than I feared there would be. And if the president’s popularity with the CPAC base can drag our Waldo Congress into the open, then I’m ready to join the applause.