D.C. in chaos... and it has only been four months

Ed Howell
Posted 6/8/17

I can’t imagine what it is like to work in governmental Washington right now. It would feel like being placed in God’s blender and being battered into a milk shake — with a bitter taste resulting.

I read Beltway news stories every day …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for becoming a subscriber.

D.C. in chaos... and it has only been four months

Posted

I can’t imagine what it is like to work in governmental Washington right now. It would feel like being placed in God’s blender and being battered into a milk shake — with a bitter taste resulting.

I read Beltway news stories every day over lunch with amazement and dismay. Let’s start with Congress, which is facing major decisions about the either raising the debt limit or defaulting and closing down the government.

According to media reports, almost no talks have been held to deal with it, with Sen. John McCain calling it a “train wreck.”

In fact, after half a year, little legislative achievement has come out of Congress for the president to sign, and a five-week August recess could slow the momentum down even further.

Congress is slogging through nominations for agency appointments, which have been slow to come out of the Trump Administration anyway, and are now being slowed down further by the Democrats, who feel Republicans are not working with them.

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) told the Washington Post both political parties are “intellectually exhausted” and too focused on winning the next election, leading to more day-to-day fights.

Worse, one former energy official said the Trump Administration and Republican leaders in Congress “have no skill set, they have no craftsmanship. They have no connection to the time when people passed legislation.”

Meanwhile, down Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump is still in full swing. He has eliminated a number of Obama regulations and got a justice on the Supreme Court, but that is about it. Health care is stalled in the Senate, and he says tax reform is ahead of schedule, ignoring the fact it hasn’t even been written and is in doubt on Capitol Hill.

According to Time, his infrastructure plan is already in trouble, as it would depend on $200 billion in tax cuts, cut billions from the Highway Trust Fund, cut Amtrack and privatize air traffic controllers.

That wall down in Mexico is giving fiscal conservatives in Congress fits. He proposed a budget with such massive cuts that GOP congressional leaders have all but declared it dead on arrival.

According to the Washington Post, career government officials see Trump doing more destroying than building, and are demoralized.

Demoralized and confusing would likely describe the head people in the administration as well. Officials are working against each other with gusto to the point it is a bewildering place to work. I’ve read multiple times Trump supposedly listens to the last person who talks to him.

It doesn’t help that you can say one thing and the boss then contradicts you on Twitter or elsewhere.

That even goes for the National Security team, who thought they had Trump agreed on stating in his NATO speech that the U.S. affirms the principle of collective defense, that an attack on one is an attack on all.

According to Politico, only when they heard his speech did they know that was deleted, without any warning to them. We’re talking the likes of national security advisor H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who then were left to explain this to reporters.

Meanwhile, according to Politico, the heads of the FBI nor the TSA still haven’t been nominated. Top State Department picks and major ambassador positions still haven’t been filled; ditto on the Homeland Security job that oversees physical and cyber infrastructure. The head of FEMA hasn’t been confirmed and the deputy there hasn’t even been nominated; the deputy for the director of National Intelligence and the director of the National Counterterrorism Center haven’t been nominated. The same goes for the assistant attorney general for national security.

This is to say nothing of some of the more common headlines of the past week: The Russian probe and the question of meddling in the probe itself, as well as the taunting of London’s mayor and promotion of your agenda on Twitter at a time when you are supposed to be focused on publicly standing behind the British after an attack in that city.

Then we have the dumped Paris treaty, which as an environmental solution is probably so-so in nature — it wouldn’t really reduce emissions that much but dumping it wasn’t ever going to save the coal industry.

The treaty was an effort to get others to the table, but private business was already working on emissions. It would never have had much effect here — but it was a U.S-led global effort at consensus that was finished and showed concern.

In the end, Trump may have dumped the treaty to address his base, when the symbolism to European nations was a diplomatic slap in the face and dereliction of duty that could drive more overall cooperation with China, and maybe even with each other. The treaty and the NATO actions amounts there to a question of can the U.S. be trusted to keep commitments, and they are thinking the post-World War II leadership may now be lacking.

Populism for George Wallace helped Wallace but hurt Alabama for years to come; that lesson may now be learned by Trump on a national and international scale, at the detriment of the U.S.

Sadly, I have only scratched the surface, not even mentioning supposedly conflict of interest with the family’s business interests and other ethical problems.

We are dealing with an inexperienced, arrogant, petty man with no attention span, no self-control or discipline, no real concern for his party or base of constituents (based on the budget cuts, such as for the Appalachian Regional Commission), no concern for open government and transparency and no concern even for his highest staff.

Trump has confused and confounded Congress, government staff, reporters, international leaders, investigators, constituents and the like. After four months, he has left the nation in chaos and the world bewildered and saddened. And it’s only been four months. And Congress is mired down as well.

If Trump and his people (and congressional leaders, too) don’t take a quick study of how you run government, I can’t imagine what the next four years will be like.

Ed Howell is the Daily Mountain Eagle’s news editor.