Oh, the hopes that can be raised and dashed in a few seconds in our chaotic public life.
One such moment came this week, when President Trump publicly acknowledged that “we’re not getting the job done.” Now, “we’re” is a contraction of “we are.” “We,” the pronoun in that contraction, means: “I and the rest of a group that includes me.”
Which, if interpreted the way “we” conventionally is, appeared to mean that on Monday, Oct. 16, Year of Our Lord 2017, Donald Trump was ready to accept some responsibility for failure. Until the president’s Super (Duper) Ego offered an instant course correction: “I’m not going to blame myself.” And yet, hopes rose again, with the president’s very next words, which, taken at face value, seemed to portend something equally historic.
“I’ll be honest,” Trump said.
Had a new day dawned in these truth-troubled times? Alas, no. We — that is, the group not including Trump but attuned to the real meaning of words — quickly discovered that the president was pressing “honest” into use as a synonym for “self-excusing,” as became obvious with Trump’s next few words: “They are not getting the job done.”
In the Senate, Mitch McConnell sits atop the GOP’s nongoverning majority. Which made the day awkward indeed, since McConnell is both the man Trump invited to the White House on Monday and the person Steve Bannon is seeking to depose as he travels the country recruiting kooks and conspiracy theorists for his run-Republicans-against-Republicans insurgency.
Normally, one might feel sorry for the majority leader, pursued as he is by a grungy grudge-harborer who, like the bear-mauled fur trader in “The Revenant,” has dug himself free of a shallow grave and set out across the vast ranges of the political landscape in pursuit of the target of his unshaven ire. Except that this is Mitch McConnell we’re talking about, a man whose biggest “achievement” in public life has been figuring out how to apply the filibuster rules to all aspects of Senate procedure, the better to keep anyone else from accomplishing anything.
Time was, some members of the Washington press spoke of McConnell as a master strategist. Sadly for Mitch, this current era of Republican rule has subjected him to the rigors of the Peter Principle. These days, it is not a cagey fox that a mention of McConnell conjures up, but rather one of those poor, slow-witted turtles that strands itself on beaches every fall.
So whose fault is it, really, this barren desert of Republican rule, its dreary horizon unleavened by even the mirage of accomplishment? Well, Trump is the president. He was supposedly the master deal maker, the man who knew how to get things done. And he did delude the good and simple Trumpkins with an array of political promises starkly at odds with reality. Like the wall Mexico would pay for. And the ACA replacement that would provide health care that was much better and much cheaper. One supposes McConnell could have spoken up and said: “Hey, take it from me, none of that will work.” But that would have made him a Republican renegade, and Trump would have probably tagged him with a nasty nickname straight from the fourth grade. Snitchin’ Mitch, or something along those lines.
Then again, McConnell did promise a productive age of GOP rule. And it is remarkable that after seven years of vowing to repeal and replace the ACA, congressional Republicans didn’t have anything resembling a workable alternative.
Luckily for both sides in this intra-party civil war, the GOP’s cup of incompetence runneth over.
Which means there’s enough for everyone to slop a big splash on his tie.Scot Lehigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.