The Sweetest Moment in the Senate

August 2, 2017

It was a moment of drama that surpassed any fiction from George R.R. Martin. Everyone anticipated that John McCain would be the vote to provide salvation for Republicans on the Health Care Bill. What must have been swirling in that mind as he approached the microphone to provide the last vote in the early morning hour? He seemed so calm… so dispassionate, but his heart must have been beating out of his chest and it had to take heroic effort to not laugh out loud. Mitch McConnell and Trump begged him to fly back to D.C. to provide his vote to allow debate and votes on the mystery box health care bill. He was welcomed back as a returning hero when he entered the Senate chamber and voted to allow debate. It looked like he had totally sold out his principles when he voted to support one version of the bill that he said he could never support, but John has a gift for drama.

He lectured the Senate, pleading for normal order and bipartisan cooperation. He berated his fellow Republicans on the shameful process they used to exclude Democrats, and the lunacy of voting on a sham Bill that could only be passed if the House agreed to never pass it into law. He confused his supporters when he voted on the first iteration of the Bill, but he cast his vote only after it was clear it would not pass. He set it all up perfectly.

When McCain cast his vote to kill Trumpcare, he did far more than kill a bill. He detonated a thermonuclear political bomb. His vote was the Red Wedding of Republican leadership. It was a statement that he could not trust Paul Ryan. Republican Senators, desperate for some political cover for voting for a Bill that would be a disaster for their constituents, or not vote for the Bill and admit that the last seven years of promises were nothing more than a lie to get votes. They wanted to have Paul Ryan promise that if they passed the abomination, he would refer it to Committee so the Bill would never see the light of day. House Leader Ryan said he would consider tabling the Bill if passed by the Republican Senators. McCain said that was not enough of a commitment. The vote was an acknowledgement that Ryan could not be trusted.

Mitch McConnell, considered a tactical genius of obstruction, had his first opportunity to show he could do something other than say “no”. Mitch hand-selected a bunch of old white guys to meet in secret to come up with a Bill, but it was the wrong old white guys. McCain was excluded, even with his senior leadership positions in the Senate, because Trump hated him (not in small part because McCain has been the chief Republican voice on the Russian collusion issue). Mitch now looks foolish and weak, and already the humiliation of the failure of their centerpiece promise to voters has caused other Senators to question his leadership role. Now, who expects Mitch to be successful with tax reform? As much as McCain’s vote was a statement of Ryan’s dishonesty, the vote politically emasculated McConnell.

However, as sweet as it was to exact retribution on Ryan and McConnell, nothing – absolutely nothing – must have been sweeter than what the vote did to Trump. The draft dodger who questioned McCain’s heroism as a POW, was cast down from the heavens by the man he mocked, humiliated and dismissed so publicly. McCain and I may be on opposite sides of ideology, but I have always respected his heroism during the war and his willingness to serve the country afterwards. Now he has assumed mythological status in the Pantheon of political paybacks. He did what was right for his constituents, but never has doing the right thing been as sweet as that moment. Good for us and good for him.


Priorities for Michigan

August 1, 2017

It’s close enough to the campaign for Governor of Michigan that potential candidates are courting donors, sponsors and publicity. This is the season of first screens of candidates by the political donor class – a time when bets are placed on candidates to show for the nomination. It has always struck me that this pre-campaign, campaign is dominated by a few donors and king-makers, rather than a discussion of policy proposals. The race to run is determined by who can raise how much money and political establishment support, not by who has the best ideas to solve our problems. The closest we will come to a policy statement will be meaningless clichés such as “I am a problem solver” or “I will put Michigan back to work”.

When I ran for Governor I made numerous, specific proposals to solve the problems of Michigan, but by the time I wrestled the nomination away from the donors and the Dems, they had decided to take their money and go home. The policies I proposed were eclipsed by the politico-media establishment which focuses on personality rather than policies. Even to this day, when I talk with people about the proposals I made over a decade ago the response is predictable: “those are great ideas even for today – I never heard about them during the campaign.” I suggested a health insurance pool or exchange which has proven to reduce premiums in other states since. I suggested alternative sentencing for non-violent drug offenders in secure facilities where treatment was the focus. I suggested raising taxes to initiate a massive infrastructure program that would not only have produced more jobs, it would have attracted the next generation of employers such as high tech companies. I proposed a system of expanding free education to community colleges to retrain unemployed workers and to prepare the next generation of the workforce.

Maybe some of those proposals would still be great ideas, but one thing seems sure – none of those potential solutions, or any others, will determine who will be the nominees for either political party. The media should be insisting on specific policy proposals from any potential candidate, but most likely the coverage will be about the horserace itself. The nomination process is so bereft of substance that matters that winning the nomination itself is a certification of irrelevance to the welfare of the citizens of Michigan.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a candidate who garnered support for their ideas as a means of winning the nomination?