WHAT’S unusual about the country’s politics in these rollicking new days is how usual they are. For the Grand Old Party’s solid, stolid congressional leadership seems finally to have cut itself loose from its titular leader, Donald J. Trump. Old Reliables like Mitch McConnell are teaming up with even older reliables like John McCain to re-fashion their party in its comfortable old likeness once again. Americans have been here before, and it’s a familiar feeling. So welcome back to the good old days; they’ve been sorely missed.
Normalcy, not nostrums, should be the order of the day, and Republicans are again getting down to the grimy details of legislative deal-making and negotiations. It’s not a pretty job but somebody needs to do it, and this time it’s the Grand Old Party. It’s as if simple sanity had staged a comeback. So it’s on to fiddling with tax tables, adjusting rates and even summoning the courage to eliminate various and popular tax deductions. A lot depends on how well the party does all this dirty, hands-on work, like whether the Republican Party can hold on to its shaky majorities in next year’s mid-term elections. It’s dull but vital work that now faces the party. Not a bit of glamorous ideology to it—just the same old same old.
The temptation to showboat all these issues and risk a government shutdown for fun and political profit will always be with us, but it needs to be resisted. The last time that tactic was tried by a Republican administration, it backfired big time. Please, let’s not go there again. It proved a disaster for both the party and the country. It was, in a single word, irresponsible. And it will not prove any more successful this time. South Carolina’s level-headed Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, advises against so reckless course for his party. And he’s right. “North Korea is looming large,” he warns. “We’d look like crazy people to shut down the government in light of our problems.” Please, let’s not add to them.
Meanwhile, the rumor mill in Washington is spinning wildly as ever, if not more so. The country’s secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, was supposed to be on his way out while the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Pompeo, was supposed to be taking his place as the administration’s revolving door continues to spin ’round and ’round. Arkansas’ Newspaper could only quote Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has a discreet way of saying a lot without really saying anything at all. When questioned, she simply announced that “there are no personnel announcements at this time . . . When the president loses confidence in someone, they will no longer serve in the capacity that they’re in. The president was here today with the secretary of state. They engaged in a foreign leader visit and are continuing to work together to close out what we consider an incredible year.” Blah, blah, blah, Blah! It’s been an incredible year, all right, meaning that not a word of it is credible.