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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Talk of GOP civil war has Trump-bashers digging holes in preparation

Their smiles may conveniently mask the emotions hidden underneath but there’s little doubt quite a bit of tension exists in the Republican Party these days.

By all appearances President Trump isn’t happy with the party’s congressional leadership and the congressional leadership (a.k.a. the establishment) isn’t thrilled with Trump either, practically damning him for his detachment from the on-the-scene negotiations between holdout representatives and senators and those Holetrying to bring everyone to agreement.

The conservative media also seems divided, with one group blaming Congress for the impasse (where it belongs, in my opinion) and others citing Trump’s ongoing Twitter habit and his refusal to let the process quietly play out on the Russia nonsense as “distractions” precluding those on Capitol Hill from moving forward on the party’s legislative goals.

In other words, conditions almost appear ripe for a good old fashioned non-shooting party civil war.

David M. Drucker of the Washington Examiner reports, “Trump's partnership with congressional Republicans has always been something of a shotgun marriage, as underscored by Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., and the cannon he fired at Trump, risking renomination in his 2018 primary, in a new book and round of interviews to promote the tome.

“He's a 71-year-old populist disruptor who was for a time a Democrat, with little use or appreciation for GOP traditions or the conventions of governing. For their part, Republicans on Capitol Hill embraced Trump because they had no choice: Their voters foisted him on them.

“The merger works when they win, most prominently with the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. But recent stumbles have revealed how flimsy it is, with recriminations ensuing over the crash of the Obamacare repeal effort and the Republicans' willingness to defy Trump on foreign policy.”

In his article Drucker notes that the same respect congressional Republicans accorded to George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan is largely absent with the current president. The reporter quotes several in-the-know Republicans talking about how Trump is a Washington outsider and doesn’t work very hard to motivate members of his own party in Congress to pass his agenda.

His agenda? Everyone knows many Washingtonians live inside a virtually impenetrable (by reality) bubble that is resistant to the notion that the American people are sovereign and they expect their government to function irrespective of the internal personality conflicts and petty vendettas of the spoiled infantile policymakers running around in suits and griping endlessly about what “Donny” said yesterday on Twitter.

The solution to the mess seems so simple: look to the promises you made on the campaign trail however long ago, assess a piece of legislation before you, bar the door to lobbyists and interest groups and then cast a vote.

Unfortunately there are usually a host of mitigating factors, including “scores” from the Congressional Budget Office (a largely establishment-controlled enterprise that typically underestimates the cost of government programs and overestimates the impact of eliminating something), but the numbers by themselves should not determine the way a representative or senator votes on an issue. Senator Mike Lee even wrote an op-ed on how the CBO should be compelled to “show its work” – and therefore be accountable for the tremendous pull it carries.

Too many times congressman and senators use such “scores” as a crutch to be for or against a proposal because of artificial concerns about what might happen if action is taken. And let’s not forget that a politician’s first priority is usually toward his or her perceived re-electability, particularly if they’re in a marginal partisan district.

Beyond the political considerations, congressional GOP leaders should be advancing simple issue items devoid of specific figures in favor of building consensus on concepts. If you allow your members to rush to the nearest microphone every time there’s a conflict and start sermonizing about the number of people who would supposedly be squeezed by cutting “Program X” then you’re already behind in the game.

If they’re really for immigration enforcement as GOP leaders claim they are then there shouldn’t be any drawbacks to passing laws furthering that end such as building a wall or appropriating more money for border patrol. To do otherwise is complicating a matter that isn’t all that complex.

For his part Trump could temper some of his tweets but as far as legislation is concerned there is no constitutional presidential duty to get involved with the nitty-gritty details. In fact, it’s arguable the Founding Fathers would have been horrified by the notion of the executive seeking to add his approval to such minutiae – or even worse, needing to lean on lawmakers to support or vote against a bill because of political considerations.

Isn’t that the act of a despot? … Or Obama?

Constitutionally speaking, the president is the farthest removed from electoral accountability on individual legislative issues; the modern presidency has grown way beyond what was originally intended. If anything, Trump’s hands-off style is much closer to what the Founders envisioned rather than having a president persistently looking over the shoulders of congressmen and senators.

In essence the “outsider” Trump is proving to be the most constitutionally sound executive of recent times, a circumstance that should be recognized and celebrated rather than constantly chastised and reproached.

Despite Trump’s attributes, the forces of #NeverTrump will probably never cut him a break.

Roger Kimball wrote at PJ Media last week, “Having once been an active and paid-up member of the anti-Trump brigade, I understand that there are many things to criticize about Donald Trump. I have on several occasions explained why I changed my mind. It boils down to two things: Hillary Clinton on the negative side of the equation, and Trump’s agenda on the positive side...

“So my concluding question is this: Is there anything that Trump could do that would sway the NeverTrumpers? To the extent that the answer is ‘No,’ then you may safely conclude that they are blinded by a sclerotic partisanship that is underwritten by the intolerable fact of having been wrong.”

Being “wrong” is a big part of the anti-Trump contingent’s continued animosity towards him. I’m not exactly sure what these people expect otherwise, but Trump hasn’t really changed much from the campaign days and he’s still largely doing and saying the same things he said he would do in the manner in which interested observers have become accustomed.

So you don’t like Trump’s tweets? Did you like them before he was elected president? Did you speculate he’d morph into a marble model statue of a president once he was sworn-in?

Hardly. Like the proverbial servant who could never please his master no matter how well he performed his duties, #NeverTrump watches over the president with the baneful glare of a step-parent with an impossible-to-accomplish list of “must dos” in order to win their approbation.

It ain’t gonna happen. Take #NeverTrumper Stephen Hayes at The Weekly Standard, who wrote, “Trump’s inability to lead means the likelihood of a conservative agenda’s emerging during this administration is low. And the likelihood of catastrophic decision-making seems higher every day. If there is a chance at comprehensive tax reform, seize it. But Republicans’ overriding concern ought to be limiting the long-term damage Trump can do. Day to day, this means speaking truthfully and forcefully about the administration and its decisions…

“Short-lived White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci was an utterly forgettable political hack. But he said one thing before he was dismissed that’s worth reflecting on: ‘There are people inside the administration that think it is their job to save America from this president. Okay?’ Scaramucci was right about that. We know these people, and we admire them. We wish them every success.”

Hayes’ column is chock full of Trump criticisms ranging from the president’s failure to turn the tide in decades-old conflicts around the world to his contentious relationship with Republicans in Congress. Some of it is fair commentary but the balance is just more sour-grapes “we were right about Trump” boasting everyone’s heard dozens of times before.

Underneath all of it is an easily detectable defense of the establishment status quo, the forces Trump is fighting on all fronts to try and make restorative change in America.

Trump will continue to have his detractors and if there is a “civil war” in the GOP, the first shot will certainly come from the establishment side. These people would bury themselves alive just to prove they can handle a shovel (a quote from the movie Tin Cup).

But if these elites keep going the way they have been lately, they’ll have more than enough volunteers to dig a huge hole and throw the entire Republican Party into it.

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