‘In the House and the Senate, we own the budget.” It was August 2014, the stretch run before the midterm elections, and Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell was making promises to voters about how he and his party would face down Barack Obama’s lawless presidency. Put us in charge, he explained, and a Republican Congress would defend Americans by using the main tool the Framers gave them, the power of the purse:
That means we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board. All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.
In other words, McConnell and his fellow Republican leaders talked the brave talk when courting voters who wanted the financing plug pulled on Obama policies that are crushing ordinary Americans — the impeachable non-enforcement of our immigration laws that costs Americans jobs, depresses American wages, and stresses American communities; the unfolding Obamacare debacle that deprives ordinary Americans of the doctors and insurance they had, corralling them into plans with premiums and deductibles so high that the “coverage” is illusory.
Alas, when voters trusted them to follow through, when it came time to walk the walk . . . the GOP went AWOL.
And in your heart, you knew they’d renege. When they had the White House and both houses of Congress, they broke the bank and were tossed out of office. When Obama turned out to be even more profligate than Bush, they said, “We need to control the House to control the spending.” So we gave them the House in 2010, and they bleated, “You can’t expect us to control the spending, we’re only one-half of one-third of the government” — and never you mind that it happens to be the one-half of one-third with constitutional supremacy over the purse strings. So, in 2014, we gave them the Senate they said they needed to stop Obama, and they promptly surrendered.
Understand: It’s not like, once they got into the driver’s seat, they forgot how to do those riders Senator McConnell was beating his chest over in August. Sure, there was the post-election pivot, the blather about “proving we can govern” by renouncing budget discipline as a bunch of campaign talk. Yet, no shutdown threat was too risky if it involved something GOP leadership actually cared about. There was, for example, the rider to ban the Securities and Exchange Commission from requiring big corporations to disclose campaign contributions to political-action groups. And there was the rider to prevent the IRS from demanding the donor lists of 501(c)(4) “social welfare organizations” that spend untold millions on GOP election efforts.
But Obamacare? No rider there. And you knew there wouldn’t be: When Ted Cruz had forced a stalemate in 2013, potentially putting President Obama to the choice of funding the entire government except the dread health-care takeover or causing a “shutdown” (that would have left about 80 percent of the government operating), he had been excoriated by Republicans.
How about defunding Obama’s imperious amnesty orders? Nope . . . wouldn’t want to raise a ruckus over that. What of Obama’s proposal to let Iran become a threshold nuclear power and to give the world’s leading state sponsor of anti-American jihadists $150 billion? Republicans responded by abdicating their constitutional treaty power and enacting a law that helped Obama cinch the deal. And how about the $9 trillion Obama has added to the debt our children must shoulder, most of it piled up while Republicans controlled spending? How has the fearsome GOP Congress responded to spending that, in a little over seven years, exceeds the national debt accumulated by the United States in the 220 years from 1787 through 2007? McConnell & Co. decided the best way to handle this crisis was to . . . give Obama a blank check — i.e., no debt limit — through the end of his term. Party on, dude!
There is an intense intramural fight on the right at the moment. It is mainly about anger and the sense of betrayal: Americans are frightened and incensed over what has happened to our country economically, culturally, and security-wise during the Obama years. On our side of the political aisle, there is outrage at the passivity — at times, the complicity — of the party that boldly vowed to stop it, and then, upon being given the chance, raised the white flag on Capitol Hill.
Trump is a narcissist who has made a career of seeing Washington as a rigged game to exploit, not dismantle.
Opportunistically, Donald Trump has seized on the rage.
Trump is a narcissist who has made a career of seeing Washington as a rigged game to exploit, not dismantle. I don’t know Mr. Trump, but I know people who do, people who like and admire him even if they often disagree with him. I take their word for it that he loves the country and is genuinely appalled by what Obama has done to it. It doesn’t solve my problem: Trump is so hopelessly out of his depth that he does not see, even now, how Obama is the logical result of the big-government policies and Beltway progressives Trump has lavished support on for decades — and will wheeler-deal with if he makes it to the Oval Office.
Trump has a showman’s ear for the things people want to hear, the talent to say them as if he meant them, the “hit ’em back twice as hard” bravado that draws in people who’ve taken a beating, and the shrewdness to pepper his flamboyance with flashes of humility — connecting with people whose shoes he has never walked in, letting them in on the secret that it’s all just a shtick. And as president . . . he’d be a disaster.I don’t oppose Trump because I want to protect the Washington cartel. I oppose him because he is the Washington cartel. You think Republicans have broken your hearts. Wait till you get a load of what this guy would do.
That’s just it, though: I’m talking about what Trump would do. He hasn’t done it yet. We anti-Trump forces continue to show, eight ways to Sunday, that there is no reason to believe Trump’s outlandish promises — indeed, that what he says at 8 a.m. is apt to change by 8 p.m., and at neither time resemble his campaign’s position papers. But since he hasn’t yet had the chance to do anything horrible, his backers want to know how come we’re so whipped up about the guy who might screw them but so indulgent of the guys who have screwed them?
It’s a fair question. But the answer is the candidate who actually walks the walk. There’s already been enough talking, and way too much dealing. That’s why I’m supporting Ted Cruz.
— Andrew C. McCarthy is as senior policy fellow at the National Review Institute and a contributing editor of National Review.