You'll have to forgive me for writing this so early, since the tradition is to give a new president 100 days before such an evaluation, but these are not normal times. It's only been two months since Trump took office, but it certainly feels like a lot longer than that. Trump's pace has been pretty frantic during this period, which is the main reason why I decided to take a quick look at how Trump's presidency measures up to his campaign rhetoric.
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What are the chances that the Ryancare bill will pass Congress? We are now two days from its first test, and the answer is as unclear as ever. Whatever happens is going to take the measure of the relative political strength of Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. If the Tea Partiers win this struggle, it could doom any chances for actual governance from the Republican Congress for the next few years. If the Tea Partiers lose, there may be a frenzy of primary challenges for sitting Republicans in Congress in 2018. Either way, the next two days could be definitive.
As is becoming the new normal, a ton of things happened in Washington this week. Donald Trump kicked the week off by tweeting out a conspiracy theory, then he rolled out "Muslim Ban 2.0," and by week's end a gigantic fracas within the Republican Party was building to fever pitch. Oh, and that fever will not be covered by the new GOP Obamacare replacement plan, sorry.
I realize I'm a wee bit early for a Saint Patrick's Day column, but tomorrow is our regularly-scheduled Friday Talking Points, and Saturday I will be hoisting a pint of Sir Arthur Guinness' fine product, so we'll just have to make do with today.
Almost seven years after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), the Republicans have finally released their much-anticipated replacement bill. They had been content, up until quite recently, to just use "repeal" as a rallying cry without giving a whole lot of thought to replacing Obamacare with anything, and for good reason. No matter whether you agree with them or not, you have to admit that, politically, this tactic worked wonders for them. But now that there's a Republican in the White House again, the pressure was on Paul Ryan to actually show America what Republicans would do differently than Obamacare. Late yesterday, his bill was finally publicly unveiled.
This was supposed to be a good week for Donald Trump. He was going to give a big speech, and he was all set to roll out the 2.0 version of his Muslim ban. As usual in the Trump administration, though, things didn't quite work out as planned.
The Democratic National Committee met this weekend and elected as its new chairman Tom Perez, who narrowly beat out Keith Ellison on the second round of voting. It was the most contentious race for party chair seen in decades, so the first challenge Perez is going to face is whether he can quickly achieve any sort of party unity before the big push for the midterm elections gets underway. He's got his work cut out for him, but the bigger question is whether he'll be an effective party leader for the Democrats, and whether he can reverse the slide in the party's relative strength both nationwide and at the state and local level.
That question is becoming more and more acute for the rest of the world, in reference to President Donald Trump versus the rest of the Trump administration. If you were the foreign minister from a country in Europe, for example, would you believe what Trump says about American policy towards Europe and Russia, or would you believe his minions, such as the Vice President Mike Pence or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson? This dilemma could become a sort of low-level ongoing crisis, since Trump's comments are so far removed from what others in his administration are saying. Who are you going to believe? The boss, or the underling who is making much more sense? That's a pretty risky geopolitical gamble to make, no matter which side you choose to believe.
I thought I'd take a little break from politics today to address some scientific news. Astronomers recently announced (with much fanfare) that they had identified a planetary system with seven possible Earthlike planets orbiting it. This, inevitably, gave rise to claims such as "[it] could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth." That's a pretty superlative statement, but we'll ignore it for now (hey, even scientists like to create media buzz, right?). Because in all the stories I read about the discovery, there was a significant lack of some necessary context. Namely, the sheer distances involved.
There are two things currently happening in the world of Democratic and progressive politics, which are happening independently of each other, for the most part. This weekend, the Democratic National Committee will meet to elect a new chair. Meanwhile, out in the hinterlands, the progressive wave of energy and resistance to Donald Trump and his agenda shows no signs of abating. But I would extend a word of caution to whomever becomes the next D.N.C. chair: Don't attempt to corral or co-opt the burgeoning Indivisible movement -- instead, just do your damnedest to fulfill their expectations.