As we hit the 100-day mark for the historic failure that is the Trump presidency, the question we should be discussing is not whether his first 100 days have been a disaster — of course they have been— but why they’ve been a disaster.
And the one unavoidable conclusion is that it’s not all Donald Trump’s fault.
Congressional Republicans — starting with Paul Ryan — are major players in the disaster. It’s not just that they enabled Trump. Which they did. It’s not just that they stood by while Trump played the race card and the xenophobia card and the whole ugly deck of cards. Which they did.
It’s not just that GOP leaders sold their souls for legislation they can’t even seem to pass. Which they did. (At least when New Deal Democrats sold their souls to Dixiecrats, they got legislation passed for their sins.)
It’s not just that GOP leaders who know better stand by as Trump sends ICE agents to round up non-criminal undocumented immigrants, forcing people back into the shadows, ensuring that millions of them — most lured here by the promise of jobs — must live in fear. Which they do.
That’s just the beginning. There are the various House committees that can’t bring themselves to investigate the Russian impact on the 2016 elections or admit that a special prosecutor is needed. And the Senate that confirmed some of the least qualified cabinet secretaries in recent history. And the members from both houses of Congress who largely look the other way as Trump rattles his sabers. (This just in: Even as Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was sounding out North Korea for possible direct talks — and strategic patience — Trump is being quoted as saying we could be looking at a “major, major conflict” with North Korea.)
It’s not even the fact that Republicans can’t bring themselves to concede the level of Trump’s ignorance, even as Trump gladly does so. In a Reuters 100-day interview, Trump said he was surprised at how hard the job was. And the sad thing — for once, truly sad — is that he said it without embarrassment. He just doesn’t know enough to know he should be embarrassed.
No, the real blame here is that the GOP Congress, after standing firm in opposition to all things Obama, seems to have nothing to offer in Obama’s stead. If Trump’s report card after 100 days is a solid F, what do you give Congress?
Let’s take two of Trump’s most notable failures. The first is the wall, or the non-wall, or the fantasy wall, or the never-to-be-built wall. No one wants to pay for a wall, for which estimates run as high as $25 billion and which, if built, would be a testimony to the failure of America’s foreign policy with Mexico. Of course Mexico is not going to pay for it. That was just Trumpian bluster. And, of course, Congress is not going to pay for it. He tried the bluff on Congress, which immediately called him. And clearly every poll shows the people don’t want to pay for it because that was never part of the deal.
OK, so that’s on Trump, who was ready to let the government shut down for a wall most people don’t want. But it’s also on those many timid Republicans unwilling to say how absurd the idea is, even when, according to the Wall Street Journal, not a single Republican whose district stands along the Mexican border now publicly favors the non-wall.
But then there’s the bigger failure, the one that was much harder to foresee, the failure to repeal and/or replace Obamacare. Byron York has a piece in the Washington Examiner in which he says Republicans tell him that as many as 50 GOP House members don’t want to repeal Obamacare. If you can do the math — and Trump’s one-entire-page tax “plan” suggests he can’t — you see that that means they don’t have the votes to repeal or replace Obamacare.
Yes, you can blame Trump for saying that he would repeal Obamacare on his first day, but you can’t blame him for assuming Republicans were serious about repealing it. They had voted, by one count, 74 times to repeal or delay or replace it. Why wouldn’t he assume that Obamacare must really be the horror show that virtually every Republican in every state has been saying for years?
And if it’s fair to say that Trump couldn’t negotiate a deal because he doesn’t know anything about health care or that cutting a deal with the far-right Freedom Caucus would lose votes from centrist Republicans, it’s also fair to say that Paul Ryan should have known he couldn’t get the votes. It’s clear now that Republicans who represent moderate districts know they’d get crushed in 2018 if they voted to pull the plug on a law that Trump’s opposition has suddenly made, well, popular.
To understand the failure, look to our own Mike Coffman, who made the spectacular gaffe of publicly supporting the first Ryan AHCA bill, the one that didn’t even come to a vote because it would have been defeated. Now that we’re in Round 2, with a replacement bill rushed to the front to give Trump a 100-day boost, Coffman says he’s a “no” if the vote were today, even though there won’t be a vote this week — because Republicans still don’t have the votes.
But Coffman needed to get on record fast because he needed to get on board with his district. It was an embarrassing cave for Coffman — who is trying to distance himself from Trump without distancing himself too far —but not just for Coffman. The first 100 days are an embarrassment for Trump, for Republicans, for the nation.