Y■ Bob Franken / Columnist
ou are probably asking yourself, “What was that all about?” Just because the government shutdown ended shortly after it began, it doesn’t mean that it won’t happen again in just a few weeks — and it definitely doesn’t mean that our great leaders in Washington covered themselves in glory. Quite the opposite. They can’t even guarantee that they can handle their most rudimentary job, which is to keep the federal government functioning.
When all is said and done, the bulk of the debate was about who would be held responsible for this debacle. It wasn’t about the merits of the issues, but almost exclusively about how this mess could be exploited. Before they got down to business, what we witnessed was our top politicians all talking past the others, trying to push the poll numbers their way.
Here we had Donald Trump marking his one-year anniversary as president by presiding over a breakdown that he had a large hand in creating. From the moment he was sworn in, actually long before that, he set a tone that makes it far too difficult to find the compromises that are essential for a democracy to operate. His insistence on constant, hateful confrontation makes civility impossible.
He is aided and abetted by fellow Republicans who have abandoned any molecule of principle. In the name of self-serving ambition, they indulge Trump’s worst instincts. Actually, he doesn’t have any good instincts, but they’re with him, even though they know better. Of course, they’ll drop him like a stone if he falters, but for the moment, since it’s in their interest to go along with his immorality, they’ve displayed their amorality.
Meanwhile, all the Democrats do is sputter. There’s no effective opposition. The party’s guiding principle right now is to not be Donald Trump. Is that enough for those several hundred thousand women who organized their second annual resistance marches? Can they be counted on to turn out on Election Days 2018 and 2020, and actually vote this time against Trump and his GOP collaborators? Wouldn’t it be great if they had someone to vote for? So far, the party’s field of candidates seems somewhat barren … so much so that there was a brief “Oprah for President” groundswell.
The Republicans drew blood with their talking point that America’s armed forces were being unfunded while Democrats refused to keep the government operating because there was no deal to include legislation that would protect the 690,000 “Dreamers” from deportation. Dreamers are the kids brought into the country when their parents snuck in. Both sides claim to be sympathetic to their plight, but for a while, Trump and his GOP accomplices have been turning on them; Trump, of course, by Twitter: “Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration. Can’t let that happen!”
Trump doesn’t comprehend that the fundamental art of the deal is based on credibility … promises must be kept. But when he makes one, the ideologues around him quickly convince him to abandon it.
For now, another crisis has been temporarily averted. We’ll lurch to the next one and the next one, accompanied by the constant finger pointing. Americans can do little but extend their own fingers at the lot of them.
Copyright 2018 Bob Franken