The whole point of Donald Trump was supposed to be: BUT HE FIGHTS. He doesn’t care what anybody thinks of him, he doesn’t mind offending people, he likes it when his opponents scream and throw tantrums. Unlike those wimpy traditional Republicans that he and his supporters are totally driving out of the party, he’s going to go in and really get stuff done instead of just talking about it and then chickening out.
If you questioned any of this mythology during the primaries or the election, you were sure to be called a “cuck”—short for “cuckold,” you see—as a really classy way of telling you what an emasculated girly-man you must be not to believe in Donald Trump’s superior toughness.
Yet Trump didn’t drive out the traditional Republicans. They’re still there in Congress, Paul Ryan and all. And they’re in his administration, starting with his Chief of Staff Reince Priebus. And we’re starting to see that maybe the politician who obsessively talks about his TV ratings and what everybody is saying about him really does allow what other people think to have an impact.
So while the Trump administration has so far done a few really good things—three cheers for the Gorsuch appointment—we shouldn’t be surprised to see it making some total cuck moves. Here are five that have already happened or are in the works.
1. Jeff Sessions appeasing the media mob.
The Democrats’ sudden Russia hysteria has them freaking out that a senator once had a conversation with a Russian diplomat, which actually happens all the time. Ask Claire McCaskill.
This is the kind of obviously bogus political witch hunt Trump is supposed to dismiss with a mean tweet and a wave of his undersized hands. Instead, Sessions responded by meekly recusing himself from a Justice Department investigation into Russia’s ties with the administration.
It doesn’t really matter whether or not Sessions is part of that investigation. What matters is that this is the kind of inside-Washington media gotcha game Trump was supposed to render irrelevant. Instead, just as the right-leaning media were rallying to defend Sessions—including a lot of us who spent 2016 being dismissed as spineless cuckolds—he runs out to appease the media mob.
2. Not repealing Obamacare.
I can’t count how many times I heard, as proof of the testicular inadequacy of the old Republican guard, the complaint that they hadn’t yet repealed Obamacare. Parliamentary procedure and political barriers be damned, they were supposed to have done it already.
Well, all right. Donald Trump has been in the White House for more than month, backed by majorities in both houses of Congress. Why is Obamacare still here?
The obvious move is to roll it back, now, and put the Democrats on the hook for blocking any new reforms needed to pick up the pieces. A tough negotiator would get that. At the very least, it would demonstrate to the rank and file of the right—and to the majority of the public that dislikes Obamacare—that the new administration intends to deliver on its promises.
Republicans are promising a unified effort with White House backing, but it’s revealing who they’re having to threaten to bring into line: the most committed opponents of Obamacare, Tea Party firebrands like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee, who are concerned the Republican replacement will just be “Obamacare Lite.” But to heck with them, we have Democrats and moderates to appease! So: “‘Conservatives are going to be in a box,’ said one senior Republican lawmaker. Trump, the source predicted, eventually will ‘go out front and…tell the conservatives…they’re either for this or for keeping Obamacare.'” Hmmm. That really sounds like the sort of thing John Boehner would have done.
When you were told that Trump would fight, were you aware that he was going to be fighting the opponents of Obamacare at least as much as its defenders? No? Because some of us expected that.
3. Not tearing up the Iran deal.
On the stump, Donald Trump promised to tear up the Obama administration’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran. He has since dropped that language, reverting to talking about imposing sanctions to enforce the deal, which is not exactly a break from the previous administration. Moreover, when a French ambassador recently expressed concern that the US wanted to dump the deal, Trump’s Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denied it.
You could argue, as some are now doing, that there aren’t a lot of good alternatives to the Iran deal short of a massive bombing campaign against the country’s hidden nuclear facilities. Or, less plausibly, you could argue that we are in greater need of Iran’s cooperation against ISIS in Syria. But those are the kind of ordinary, pragmatic calculations we expect from wimpy establishment types. You know, the kind of people who now seem to be running the administration’s foreign policy.
4. Not tearing up the climate agreement.
Speaking of terrible deals Trump vowed to get rid of, he might now be going wobbly on the Paris climate agreement because his daughter likes it. Don’t complain at me for saying that. I got that from James Delingpole, writing at—wait for it—Breitbart. Here’s Delingpole also describing the mealy-mouthed cautiousness of Trump’s new EPA head:
To get an idea of how big the problem is you should have been there at CPAC at the weekend, as I was, when Scott Pruitt – the new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was asked what he thought about man-made climate change.
He just didn’t dare say.
Here he was, in the seductive and friendly company of conservative interviewer Dr Gina Loudon, in front of a 100 per cent sympathetic audience of GOP faithful, and still he fudged the question with a waffling, awkward, embarrassed, fence-sitting, evasive, non-answer…. [J]udging on his public appearances in the fortnight since he was confirmed in the post, I’d say he’s sounding too much the cautious, career-safe politician and not enough the fearless and refreshing Trump-style radical.
Funny how that works.
5. Sending up trial balloons about amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Just before his recent address to Congress, Trump sent up trial balloons to the press about opening up a “path to citizenship” for some illegal immigrants, precisely the sort of thing he condemned during his campaign as “amnesty.” This caused some of his supporters—including that guy with the lovely avatar of Lady Liberty telling pesky immigrants to get off her lawn—to panic.
Now, maybe Trump was just yanking the media’s chain. But this looks to me more like a negotiator taking a hard line in public while trying to hint behind the scenes that he’s really open to a deal. We know from Trump’s history with “Dreamers” that he probably wants to support some form of amnesty. But he painted himself into a corner by starting his campaign with disparaging remarks about immigrants and recruiting a support base of anti-immigration fanatics. So he’s trying to figure a way out of the box and toward a deal.
Maybe it’s true that “Most Trump supporters can recognize that his initial promises of mass deportation were an opening bid that would eventually get bargained down to something more humane.” But that kind of sounds like politics as usual, right?
I’ll grant that some of these issues are not settled yet, and maybe Trump will stick to a hard line on some of them. My point is that we shouldn’t be surprised at signs that he won’t.
We shouldn’t be surprised if the bluster of the campaign season is melting as it encounters the reality of political compromise and our political system’s natural resistance to radical change. I’ve known all along that the reason you’re not getting everything you want isn’t because we just needed the right leader who would be bolder and more shirtlessly manly than everyone else. The reason is that the American people are not overwhelmingly in favor of your wish list, or mine.
This has been true for all of my adult life. I’ve managed to get used to it and to expect a series of close contests, some incremental victories, and if we’re lucky now and again a bold step forward, while we work at the more difficult job of long-term ideological change. It’s a job that calls for the real tough guys, the ones who are willing to put in hard and unrewarding work over the long haul. Trump supporters who are ready to grow out of seductively easy tactics like calling their opponents rude names are welcome to join us.
In the meantime, take what you can get from the Trump administration, but don’t be too crushed when he turns out to be just another politician.