We are running a terribly unwise experiment: What happens when you replace U.S. presidential leadership with the slapstick antics of a clown? Last weekend, President Donald Trump issued the following statement: "Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me 'old,' when I would NEVER call him 'short and fat?' Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend — and maybe someday that will happen!"
"Thoughts and prayers" are fine. Locking arms "through the tears and the sadness," as President Donald Trump prescribed, is all well and good. But none of this does a damn thing to stop, or even slow, the carnage. Last Sunday, in Sutherland Springs, Texas, a disturbed and angry man with a military-style semiautomatic assault rifle opened fire at the First Baptist Church during services, killing 26 people. It was the worst church shooting in modern American history. Think about that: We've seen enough mass killings at houses of worship that we can rank them in order.
Donald Trump is not the disease that afflicts our politics. He's a symptom, like nausea or an embarrassing rash. Both major parties are in crisis, and I believe the reason is that the ground has shifted beneath them in ways they do not understand. Until the contours of the new political landscape become clear and the parties reshape themselves accordingly, I fear that chaos and turmoil will reign as the new normal.
Confronted with allegations of serial sexual abuse and rape, Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein's instinct was to lie: "I came of age in the '60s and '70s, when all the rules about behavior and workplaces were different. That was the culture then." No, it wasn't. The different-era defense was also used by those who would excuse fugitive director Roman Polanski's confessed 1977 crime, drugging and having sex with a 13-year-old girl. And those willing to forgive and forget the first 20 or so of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults, which took place during those scarlet decades.
We will never know why. We already know how, but we don't care about that. And we know, beyond the slightest doubt, that it will happen again. There can be no rational motive for mass murder, which means that asking why Stephen Paddock turned the Las Vegas Strip into a killing zone is ultimately a futile exercise. He may have had nominal or imagined reasons for his homicidal anger. But nothing can really explain the decision to spray thousands of concert-goers with automatic weapons fire, killing at least 58 and injuring hundreds more.
Motivated by the cynical aims of fulfilling a bumper-sticker campaign promise and lavishing tax cuts on the wealthy, Republicans are threatening to pass a health care bill they know will make millions of Americans sicker and poorer. Do they think we don't see what they're doing?
The smartest, savviest people in Washington will tell you Bernie Sanders' "Medicare for all" idea is dead on arrival, a waste of time and energy. But since those same smart, savvy people told you Donald Trump didn't have a prayer of becoming president, I'd advise keeping an open mind. What the Vermont senator's bill has going for it is simple: It's the right thing to do.
Chuck and Nancy and Donald and Ivanka seemed to thoroughly enjoy their meeting at the White House the other day. Mitch and Paul, not so much. Does it really surprise anyone that President Donald Trump betrayed the Republican leaders who have been trying their best to carry water for him on Capitol Hill — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan — and is playing footsie with their Democratic rivals? It shouldn't.
What I heard from President Donald Trump in his speech Tuesday night was a greatest-hits compilation of campaign promises he has no earthly way to keep. "Dying industries will come roaring back to life," he vowed. Gleaming new roads, bridges and airports will magically materialize. Health care will be better, cheaper and available to all. Terrorism, crime, poverty and even drug addiction will cease to plague our soon-to-be-great-again land. What I didn't hear was anything to reassure the nation that its fate is in competent hands.
What's the holdup, House Republicans? During the Obama administration, you passed literally dozens of bills to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, knowing none had any chance of being signed into law. Now that President Donald Trump is in the White House, why can't you seem to pull the trigger?