WASHINGTON, June 28, 2018 – The combination of President Trump’s increasingly frequent exclusion of Democrats from decision-making, and his tendency to nominate judges who support Republican party priorities, could portend a slide toward a one-party state found in most autocracies, said two of the country’s most two prominent political scholars.
Over the past 18 months, Trump has grown increasingly comfortable excluding Democratic legislators and their constituents from White House events, has rarely visited states which he did not win in 2016, and has largely limited his public appearances to ones where he knows he will be surrounded by supporters.
Indeed, at his campaign-style rallies, his campaign’s private security can remove any person who offers the first hint of protest.
In an interview with BeltwayBreakfast, American Enterprise Institute scholar Norman J. Ornstein said Trump’s exclusion of Democrats from his political calculations marks a troubling departure from the way presidents of both parties have governed since the dawn of the republic.
A different kind of presidency tailored to one political party: Republicans
“Clearly this is a different kind of presidency,” said Ornstein, who, along with the Brookings Institution’s Thomas Mann, has also authored a definitive trio of books chronicling the partisan division that has led to Trump’s rise — “The Broken Branch,” “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks” and “One Nation Under Trump.”
“Every other president that I’ve known, including some who were very, very partisan, was at least more broadly portraying and seeing themselves as presidents of everybody, including those who opposed them.”
Ornstein explained that even the most partisan of chief executives — including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — “recognized that at least when it comes to significant policy proposals, you’re better off building a consensus.”
But Trump has been enabled by Congressional leaders like Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan, Ornstein said, both of whom have kept Democrats — and even some moderate Republicans — from having any input into most important legislative packages.
Even George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were willing to work with Democrats
By contrast, George W. Bush worked with Democrats on No Child Left Behind, as did Reagan on most tax and budget packages.
Under Trump, Ornstein explained that the trend has been towards a de facto one-party legislature where the opposition has no impact.
“This is a different kind of behavior. Combined with the way Ryan and McConnell have been acting, is a very worrisome thing,” he said, noting that Trump’s constant attacks on Democrats’ legitimacy are “not a healthy thing” when it comes to the health of a functioning democracy.
‘The most excessively partisan president we’ve seen in modern American history’
A presidential scholar who predicted Trump’s electoral upset in 2016 warned that Trump’s exclusion of Democrats could herald a slide towards authoritarian, one-party rule.
That scholar, American University’s Allan J. Lichtman, said in a separate interview with BeltwayBreakfast that Trump “probably the most excessively partisan president we’ve seen in modern American history.”
Not only does Trump exclude Democrats, Lichtman said, but he demonizes them, “just like he demonizes anyone who he thinks is in opposition to him or who he thinks he can demonize to fire up his base.”
That tendency to demonize, Lichtman explained, “is just one indication of the authoritarian streak within Donald Trump,” who he said has made his intentions and desires quite clear.
“I think Donald Trump would love to not deal with a contentious free press, a bulky congress, and a judiciary who is not willing to go along with him,” he said. “Trump would very much prefer to be an authoritarian, and it even comes out directly sometimes.”
Trump admires brutal dictators, not democratically-elected leaders
Lichtman said that Trump has made clear that the world leaders he admires are the brutal dictators, not the democratically-elected leaders who run most of America’s closest allies.
There’s “no question,” he said, that Trump’s constant attacks on the legitimacy of Democrats in Congress reveal a desire for a legislative branch that is not a meaningful check on his power.
“In a dictatorship, you don’t have a robust, competitive two-party system. What dictatorships do is what Donald Trump is trying to do but has not been able to do — snuff out the free press, override checks and balances, create scapegoats within the country, and demonize and exclude the opposition. No dictator wants an opposition party,” he said.
While safe gerrymandered district and the general climate of fear Trump inspires among Republicans can explain some of GOP leaders’ failure to stand up to him, the rest, Lichtman said, comes from Republicans’ desire to use the courts to override the will of the voters.
Republicans in Congress remain loyal, he said, because “they’ve also seen Donald Trump appointing judges and Supreme Court justices who will help keep Republicans in power.”
Putting a second Supreme Court justice on the court stacks the body politic for Trump
Trump will see the opportunity to put a second justice on the highest court in the land as nothing but an opportunity to stack the deck in his favor, Lichtman predicted.
“I think the president is likely to put someone on the court who will prove of his own view of presidential power. Trump understands everything in partisan terms or in Trump terms, has shown no respect for American institutions and has shown no respect for the constitution,” Lichtman said.
“He is, and has been for fifty plus years, concerned only with himself and what’s to his advantage.”
Lichtman explained that as Trump’s Republican party has become more and more about social issues, its conservative principles have been allowed to fall by the wayside in favor of the “old-fashioned nationalistic, xenophobic, nationalism…that gave us the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War.”
In a party that is constantly “talking about immigrants ‘infesting’ the country and the killing of babies, there’s not a lot of room for rational discussion and compromise,” he said. “Under Donald Trump, traditional conservative principles have been destroyed. Donald Trump is not a conservative. Donald Trump is a reactionary, he wants to return us to the era of walls around the country” to keep out the so-called “undesirable” immigrants and in the form of tariff barriers.
Is there any grounds for hope over the state of politics in the country? Yes, in impeachment.
But there may be hope yet for those in despair over the state of the country. Lichtman, who has correctly predicted presidential elections since the Reagan years, has also predicted that Trump will be impeached.
Despite everything, it’s a prediction Lichtman says he “absolutely stands by.”
He said:“42 percent of the American people are already advocating the impeachment of Donald Trump, that’s higher than his approval rating in the same poll, something like a dozen points higher than the call for impeachment of Bill Clinton, and about equal to calls for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.” Lichtman also noted that those numbers come from polls taken long before any report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
“My prediction really depends — and I’m pretty confident about this — in some really devastating findings from the special counsel. I don’t think Robert Mueller has been wasting his time for 13 months, there will be some blockbusters that even Republicans won’t be able to ignore.”
When It Comes To Her ‘Be Best’ Campaign, Melania Trump Says She’s Ignoring Critics, Moving Forward
WASHINGTON, November 15, 2018 — As she stepped up to the podium Thursday to address the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference, First Lady Melania Trump’s message for critics who say she should stay away from making the fight against cyberbullying her cause was a familiar one: I don’t care — do you?
While those words became closely associated with her visit to a detention center housing immigrant children who her husband’s administration had taken from their parents, they also summed up the message she delivered at Thursday’s conference.
Speaking at the outset of a panel featuring a number of student anti-cyberbullying advocates, Mrs. Trump addressed her detractors head-on by noting that the argument made by critics — that she shouldn’t be making cyberbullying a cause if she’s not willing to confront her husband about the Twitter-based name calling that has become a centerpiece of his political persona — was “not news or surprising” to her.
“I remain committed to tackling this topic because it will provide a better world for our children,” she said. “I hope that like I do, you will consider using their negative words as motivation to do all you can to bring awareness and understanding about responsible online behavior.”
Mrs. Trump said the conference’s theme, “Creating a Culture of Responsibility Online,” was what her “Be Best” anti-cyberbullying initiative is all about, adding that as a mother to a young son, she feels strongly that children should be taught about online safety and responsible habits from a young age.
Noting that students are routinely taught about showing respect for others in an in-person setting, she said that the question of how to translate those lessons into the digital world was one of the “challenging questions” she has faced as both a mother and as First Lady.
“Today’s technology provides people with a digital shield to hide behind, and being anonymous often takes the place of being caring and responsible, which can lead to children and adults feeling empowered to be unkind and at times, cruel,” she said.
Conway Defends Trump’s Continuing Lie On GOP Attempts To Repeal Pre-Existing Conditions Coverage
WASHINGTON, October 24, 2018 — As the mad dash to the midterm election continues, Donald Trump continues to lie about Republican intentions toward the Affordable Care Act provision that requires insurance carriers to cover preexisting conditions.
At a Monday rally for Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who is up for reelection this year, Trump claimed that Republicans intend to ensure such protections — which were a centerpiece of his predecessor’s signature legislative accomplishment — will remain intact.
On Wednesday, he repeated the claim in a tweet, writing: “Republicans will totally protect people with Pre-Existing Conditions, Democrats will not! Vote Republican.”
When asked by BeltwayBreakfast why Trump was continuing to lie about his own party’s stance on preexisting condition coverage, Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway first suggested this reporter did not understand health care policy, claimed President Trump has a plan to cover pre-existing conditions, and suggested that Republicans are in favor of such coverage because an Indiana GOP Senate candidate provided preexisting condition coverage to employees of his small business before it was required by law.
However, the newfound love for requiring insurance companies to cover preexisting conditions which Trump and his GOP acolytes are now professing flies in the face of nearly ten years of GOP efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The GOP-controlled Congress managed to eliminate the ACA’s mandate to carry health insurance last year when it passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, using so-called reconciliation rules in the Senate to get around the possibility of a Democratic filibuster, which could only be ended if Democrats participated to provide the required 60 votes.
However, GOP’s last wholesale attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act — including the ban on denials for preexisting conditions — failed after the late Senator John McCain, R-Arizona, dramatically lowered his thumb to vote against it during an early-morning Senate session. Trump had wholeheartedly supported the repeal and complained about it for months at his frequent rallies, even as McCain lay dying of brain cancer.
While some Republicans in Congress have previously expressed a desire to try to repeal the ACA once more, a group of Republican state attorneys general is trying to get the courts to do the work for them with a lawsuit which seeks to invalidate the preexisting condition requirement because the individual mandate has been repealed.
Pressed further on why Trump now claims his party will do something it tried for years to do, Conway asked for evidence. When confronted with the GOP’s multiple votes to repeal the ACA, Trump’s support, and the administration’s failure to defend against the GOP-backed lawsuit, she dismissed the votes as irrelevant because Trump is not a legislator, even though he has supported the repeal wholeheartedly as a candidate and as president.
When it was pointed out to Conway that under President Trump, the Department of Justice has taken the unusual step of refusing to defend against the lawsuit, she had no response other than to attack this reporter and ask for the next question.
Haley Resigns As U.N. Ambassador, Shoots Down 2020 Speculation
WASHINGTON, October 9, 2018 — Ambassador Nikki Haley will “take a break” from public service by resigning from her position as the United States’ top U.N. envoy at the end of the year, President Trump said Tuesday morning.
Haley will be leaving “at the end of the year,” Trump said while sitting alongside her in the Oval Office, citing the former South Carolina governor’s desire to “take a break.”
“You have been very special to me, done an incredible job,” he said while addressing Haley, adding that she has done an “incredible job” and “gets it.”
The sudden announcement came less than an hour after Axios broke the surprise news of her resignation.
Within minutes of the story’s appearance online, Haley was spotted by reporters as she walked into the Oval Office with several aides. But when she appeared alongside Trump shortly after she took pains to thank Trump for allowing her to serve, and called her time representing the U.S. at the United Nations “the honor of a lifetime.”
Trump’s conduct of foreign policy, Haley continued, has caused the United States to be respected again.
“Countries may not like what we do, but they respect what we do,” she said.
While some pundits speculated that the timing was connected to the #MeToo-related drama over now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court, when he and Haley appeared before cameras, Trump claimed that Haley first approached him six months ago about setting a timetable to depart before the end of the Trump administration’s second year.
Haley is one of two members of the foreign policy team to have served for the entirety of Trump’s time in office. She joined the administration at a time when very few members of the Republican foreign policy establishment wanted to serve the new president, which served him just fine, as most of them had signed open letters criticizing him.
As so-called moderates like former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were forced out after clashing with Trump over his disdain for international multilateral agreements like the Iran nuclear deal, Haley remained a fixture and an oasis of stability in an administration that has seen turnover at levels unheard of at this point in a president’s first term.
Even as other establishment-minded administration officials incurred Trump’s wrath for pushing back on his most extreme impulses and saw their own reputations sullied, Haley managed to thrive in her role at the U.N.
Her New York-based post gave her a place in the spotlight and a chance to burnish her foreign policy credentials. It also gave her enough geographic distance from Washington to avoid the contempt Trump developed for the members of his national security team who he saw more regularly.
But that geographic distance also allowed her to put political distance between her and the president at moments when she would break from him in one way or another, including the aftermath of last year’s white nationalist riot in Charlottesville, Virginia.
That distance was most evident on the occasions when she would contradict her boss by sharply criticizing the Russian government, even as he continually dismissed the idea that Russia interfered in the 2016 election as a “Democrat hoax” and attacked the Justice Department investigation into the interference as a “witch hunt.”
Haley’s frequent departures from the Gospel of Trump on those matters has made her the subject of endless rumors, most of which place her on the 2020 Republican primary ballot opposing her soon-to-be former boss. But Haley attempted to put a wet blanket on any such speculation by telling reporters that she’d be campaigning for Trump, not against him.
“No, I’m not running in 2020,” she said.