The Trump Presidency as Covering Fire

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 11.06.41 AMDecember 1, 2017

Can you picture the bit in most war movies and many westerns where someone says, “cover me while I make a break for it,” or “cover me while I get behind them,” or some such.  Always, “cover me….”  What we see is the person doing the “covering” shooting off dozens or hundreds or thousands of bullets while the person being covered performs some other act.  The covering fire acts as a distraction.  (“In military science, suppressive fire (commonly called covering fire) is “fire that degrades the performance of an enemy force below the level needed to fulfill its mission.”)

It strikes me this morning that Trump is providing covering fire for McConnell and Ryan as they shove through a truly awful (unfair, dangerous) tax bill.  While work on the tax bill continues in secret, in appalling haste, and in violation of regular order, our attention is distracted by the mad antics of the man occupying the Presidency of the United States.  His tweets and lies, his soap opera dramas about who’s in or out of his confidence, his insults to allies and praise for thugs, all turn our attention away from the work on tax policy.

I don’t think this is conscious strategy on Trump’s part.  And I have no idea whether this is deliberate on the part of Ryan or McConnell or other Republicans in the Congress. But there is no question they are using Trump’s unhinged behavior to partisan, short-term advantage.  They are doing nothing to restrain this mad performance.  It is a dangerous maneuver for all of us.

Any responsible member of Congress would be putting on hold the legislature’s policy work and turning instead to protecting the core institutions and principles of the American republic.

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett is Emeritus President and Professor of Politics at Earlham College. He has a wife, Ellen, and two sons, Tommy (born 1984) and Robbie (born 2003).
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