While the media fixates on the circus surrounding Mitch McConnell v. Steve Bannon with Donald Trump as ringmaster and the Democrats in the role of the increasingly disloyal — now Harvey-besmirched — opposition, the real story involves none of these people directly.
Four Republican senators hold and have held our country in their hands for most of this year by themselves. They obstruct progress by wielding far too much power than their positions and number merit.
They are Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Rand Paul of Kentucky, and John McCain of Arizona.
These four prevented healthcare reform and they now stand in the way of tax reform.
Of them, only Paul has something of an excuse. A libertarian, his positions at least make sense ideologically. The other three act out of a kind of morally narcissistic pique, an almost pathological need to be at the center of every controversial issue, to make the world hang on their decisions and then sigh in disappointment as they ultimately vote “nyet.” (Or, in the case of Democrats, applaud them as great “patriots” above party politics.)
In McCain’s case, this narcissistic craving for attention is exacerbated by a heavy dollop of Trump hatred. John can’t stand Donald and is unlikely to support any legislation that would bring credit to the president, regardless of its value. McCain undoubtedly considers this a justifiable response to Trump’s besmirching of the Arizonan’s war hero reputation early in the campaign, but the job of a senator is to serve the people of his state (and the country) and not his own necessity for vengeance.
The conventional explanation for the four senators’ resistance — considerably more effective, so far, than the more trumpeted “Resistance” of the left — is that they are representing the needs of their states. That might have had some minute superficial truth, temporary as it was, in the realm of healthcare, but regarding tax reform it is complete nonsense.
The most important reform, one that affects all fifty states, is lowering the corporate tax rate from the absurd 35%, which puts our companies at such a disadvantage and incentivizes them to leave billions in foreign accounts, to something close to 20%. Even lower would be great. (By comparison, the corporate rate of our leading economic competitor, China, is 25%, with certain privileged businesses — aka “qualified enterprises“– reduced to 15%. Ireland is at 12.5% and possibly dropping to 8%.)
A Congress that was even remotely doing its job would have changed ours years ago. But it doesn’t seem to be able to act even on something this obvious. People like the above mentioned four are at the root of this stasis, putting their own parochial interests over those of the American people.
When Steve Bannon speaks of “primarying” politicians like this, he isn’t really being a bully or an extremist, as the media likes to paint him. He is actually making quite a bit of sense. Trump appears to know this and, from the look on his face at Monday’s joint press conference, McConnell does too.
Whether Mitch himself is to blame for the legislative failures of the last eight or so months or whether Collins, Murkowski, Paul and McCain are just too intransigent is difficult to say. As Trump made clear Monday, we shall soon find out.
Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Academy Award-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His latest book is I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already.