Almost exactly 14 months since the editors at conservative National Review published an entire issue dedicated to being "Against Trump," the magazine held an "ideas summit" titled "Working on a Path Towards Conservatism."
This doesn’t exactly represent suing for peace, particularly since panelist Peter Wehner, of the Ethics & Public Policy Center, evidently believes the nuclear attack codes should be put in a blind trust during the Trump administration. Yet it appeared that, at least on the Trump side, there were no hard feelings, since Kellyanne Conway, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, and HHS Sec. Tom Price appeared at the two-day event.
That may change after the rest of Wehner’s remarks reach the Oval Office. He had no problem personally attacking Trump by recycling the Opposition Media’s false attack lines.
That’s something that struck me about the National Review crowd. During the primary, when Trump appeared at the Values Voters Conference before an audience of evangelicals and conservative Christians, he made a passing reference to "Little Marco" and the crowd immediately booed him to show the remark was out of line.
Yet when Wehner emphatically declared Trump is "erratic, cruel, vindictive and morally corrupt" no one in the crowd of movers-and-shakers let out a peep. It was as if he was speaking before assembly line workers at the "Don’t Blame Me, I voted for Evan McMullin" bumper sticker plant.
The entire "Ideas Summit" atmosphere was one of lukewarm support for the president. I can recall no speakers praising the Trump budget that zeroed out agencies conservatives have railed against for decades, yet the crowd gave Speaker Paul Ryan a partial standing ovation after he spent a half hour essentially asking the audience "are you going to believe me or your lying eyes" with regard to his Obamacare Lite bill.
(My analysis of that legislative and political travesty can be found here.)
As Ryan sat on stage trying to sell his repeal betrayal I couldn’t help but think about the story of the woman who was married for the fourth time and on the night of the wedding asked her husband to be gentle, because she was a virgin. "Virgin!" he said. "Why you’ve been married four times!"
"Yes," she explained. "You see my first husband was sent off to the Korean War the night of the marriage and he was killed at the front. Then I married my second husband the same day he was shipped to Vietnam and although he lived, he was wounded below the waist, and well…"
"So what about your third husband? He never went away to war," objected the newest husband.
"That’s true," she said. "But he was an advertising man and all he ever did was sit on the edge of the bed and tell me how great it was going to be."
The only thing Ryan lacked was the bed.
Sounding like Sean Spicer caught in a denial loop, Ryan fired off buzzword after buzzword as he defended the indefensible. This wasn’t all that hard since the questioner was National Review editor Rich Lowry — a friend of Ryan’s who was ill-equipped to press him on the bill’s betrayal of conservatives.
Ryan would boast "Tastes great!" and Lowry would counter with "Less filling!"
The Speaker tried to surround passage of his bill with a sense of urgency by declaring the GOP, and presumably conservatives, are facing a "once in a lifetime opportunity." So if that is the case, why isn’t the Republican leadership going for the gusto?
Ryan, due to circumstance, and Mitch McConnell, by default, are letting a dead former Klansman and a living Senate minority leader set the agenda for the healthcare debate. The "Byrd Rule" limits what the Obamacare repeal bill can contain and Chuck Schumer’s threat to cast the filibuster hex means McConnell won’t bring the bill to the floor for a regular vote.
McConnell, who evidently believes he’s a curator of the Senate instead of the majority leader, is hell bent on preserving the "rules" of the institution that are hamstringing him. A leader would tell Ryan to send a conservative repeal to the Senate. McConnell then has two options. One, he can make Schumer conduct a real filibuster as was done up until the ‘70s (Click here to see this strategy in action.)
Or he can follow Harry Reid’s example and complete the change of Senate rules and eliminate the filibuster, something I guarantee Schumer will do when he takes power. Either choice would mean elections have consequences and help Republicans honor their promise to the base.
But that won’t happen. The best outcome for conservatives is a defeat of Ryan’s bill and repeal starts over.
Then maybe a "once in a lifetime opportunity" will produce a once in a lifetime bill.
Michael R. Shannon is a commentator, researcher for the League of American Voters, and an award-winning political and advertising consultant with nationwide and international experience. He is author of "Conservative Christian’s Guidebook for Living in Secular Times (Now with added humor!)." Read more of Michael Shannon's reports — Go Here Now.
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