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Robert Reich: Report from Spending Much of This Week in Washington is NOT a Pretty Picture

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Robert Reich:

I’ve spent much of this week in Washington – talking with friends still in government, former colleagues, high-ranking Democrats, a few Republican pundits, and some members of Congress from both sides of the aisle. It was my first visit to our nation’s capital since Trump became president.

My verdict:

1. Washington is more divided, angry, bewildered, and fearful – than I’ve ever seen it.

2. The angry divisions aren’t just Democrats versus Republicans. Rancor is also exploding inside the Republican Party.

3. Republicans (and their patrons in big business) no longer believe Trump will give them cover to do what they want to do. They’re becoming afraid Trump is genuinely nuts, and he’ll pull the party down with him.

4. Many Republicans are also angry at Paul Ryan, whose replacement bill for Obamacare is considered by almost everyone on Capitol Hill to be incredibly dumb.

5. I didn’t talk with anyone inside the White House, but several who have had dealings with it called it a cesspool of intrigue and fear. Apparently everyone working there hates and distrusts everyone else.

6. The Washington foreign policy establishment – both Republican and Democrat – is deeply worried about what’s happening to American foreign policy, and the worldwide perception of America being loony and rudderless. They think Trump is legitimizing far-right movements around the world.

7. Long-time civil servants are getting ready to bail. If they’re close to retirement they’re already halfway out the door. Many in their 30s and 40s are in panic mode.

8. Republican pundits think Bannon is even more unhinged than Trump, seeking to destroy democracy as we’ve known it.

9. Despite all this, no one I talked with thought a Trump impeachment likely, at least not any time soon — unless there’s a smoking gun showing Trump’s involvement in Russia’s intrusion into the election.

10. Many people asked, bewilderedly, “how did this [Trump] happen?” When I suggest it had a lot to do with the 35-year-long decline of incomes of the bottom 60 percent; the growing sense, ever since the Wall Street bailout, that the game is rigged; and the utter failure of both Republicans and Democrats to reverse these trends – they gave me blank stares.

  • More Robert Reich:

    Compare:

    1. By this point in his Presidency, Barack Obama had passed a $831 billion stimulus bill. By early April his first federal budget had passed both chambers of Congress, laying the groundwork for his overhauls of health care and government spending on education. The following year came the re-set of Wall Street, known as Dodd-Frank. Then Obamacare. It was the most significant period of legislating since Lyndon Johnson’s first few years in office.

    2. As Trump hits 50 days in office this week, health-care reform is hobbled by divisions between conservatives who want to cut Medicaid deeper and faster and moderates who want to preserve the Obama-era expansion. Yesterday Trump released a budget with unprecedented cuts to discretionary spending that many Republicans describe as dead on arrival. Trump’s second attempt at an executive order banning travel from several Muslim-majority countries is again being successfully challenged in the courts, eating up more time and resources in an overwhelmed White House. Trump’s “Wall” is a bizarre folly. The Russia investigation, which will begin on Monday with potentially damaging testimony from the F.B.I. director James Comey, is only beginning.

    Trump has also persuaded large numbers of Americans – including many of Republican persuasion – that he’s dangerously unhinged.

    No matter the criteria by which presidencies are judged, Trump’s is on the way to being a total debacle.