Tuesday, August 22, 2017

History Does Not Conveniently Vanish

Early this year, Julius Krein founded a journal named "American Affairs," dedicated to conservatism and its more earthy manifestation in Donald Trump.

Krein last week received favorable attention for an op-ed in The New York Times in which he acknowledged having "supported the Republican in dozens of articles, radio and TV appearances, even as conservative friends and colleagues said I had to be kidding." He now concedes "my optimism was unfounded. I can't stand by this disgraceful administration any longer, and  I would urge anyone who once supported him as I did to stop defending the 45th president."

Anyone who wants to join the fight is to be welcomed. Still, Eric Armstrong of The New Republic does a credible, if short, takedown of Krein, concluding "even in his denunciation of Trump, Krein whitewashes and justifies Trump’s actions."

There are at least two important items Armstrong missed, the first surprisingly, the second nearly inevitable coming from someone on the left.

Krein writes

The administration inexplicably downgraded infrastructure and corporate tax reform — issues with potentially broad-based support — to pursue a warmed-over version of Paul Ryan’s Obamacare repeal, which ended, predictably, in a humiliating failure.

This is a warmed-over version of the inside Washington view, parroted by pndits and media types everywhere, that the fundamental problem with Trump's rhetoric and focus on health-care reform is that it has prevented  high-minded consideration of massive infrastructure spending and "tax reform." (To Krein's credit, at least he refers to it as "corporate tax reform.")

"Tax reform," however, as the GOP brands it, is reduction of taxes for the wealthy and for corporations.  Moreover, Trump's vision of infrastructure spending- let alone the only sort Speaker Ryan would support- is largely a tax giveaway to corporations and privatization scheme.  And Obamacare repeal did not end "predictably" in failure, but rather by one vote, which might not have occcurred had John McCain (bless his heart) not been stricken with a brain tumor and stared at his legacy.

Writing before the President's Afghan policy was sort-of announced on Monday night, Krein argues that President Trump has betrayed the principles of candidate Trump, whom he claims included

question(ing) elements of what is often called the neoliberal policy consensus — totally open borders for capital and labor; transferring power from national governments to transnational technocracies; unfettered markets; and democracy promotion as the sole premise of foreign policy. In other words, the disappointing legacy we inherited from the Bushes and the Clintons that helped pave the way to Mr. Trump’s election.

Bush 41 served as president from 1989-1992; Clinton 42 from 1993-2000; and Bush 43 from 2001-2008. It is now 2017. Krein seems to have forgotten someone.

He has forgotten someone who (aside from "Obamacare repeal") he didn't remember at all in his piece.   Donald Trump, however, did not forget Barack Obama. Six months ago, Michelle Ruiz (emphasizing Trump's hypocrisy) noted the candidate had "conducted a years-long vendetta against President Obama over his golf game, arguing that the president was neglecting everything from the economy to terror attacks by spending time on the green."  He "regularly railed against President Obama for taking vacations" and called Obama "the founder of ISIS."

The GOP presidential candidate wisely tweeted “Why is @BarackObama constantly issuing executive orders that are major power grabs of authority?” thereby reinforcing the base's perception of the President as dictator-in-chief.  He joined the Party in opposing Obama's Supreme Court selection and tweeted "President Obama will go down as perhaps the worst president in the history of the United States."

Without the birther controversy he promoted, led, and kept alive beyond a reasonable expiration date, Donald Trump probably wouldn't even have been a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination.

Donald Trump ran directly against Hillary Clinton for President. But he also ran against eight years of President Obama, as he and GOP primary voters imagined him.  In Krein's tellling, this somehow became "the disappointing legacy we inherited from the Bushes and the Clintons," despite President Obama's preference for "free" trade; "open borders for capital" and sympathy for immigrants; a transnational outlook that featured TPP and the Paris Accord; and market-based health care reform.

The period from January 20, 2009 through January 19, 2007 featured both accomplishments good and bad , as well as a lack of accomplishment, which in the case of failure to secure approval of the Trans-Pacific Partnership was fortuitous.  Let us not forget- as Julius Krein has- that the 2016 presidential election was won by the individual who most vociferously and viciously condemned Barack Obama.

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