Opinion: The Freewheeling John McCain — An Appreciation
Flawed, but still the embodiment of honor, civility, patriotism and bipartisanship

For all their outward cynicism, campaign reporters tend to be closet idealists who dream of covering a candidate who will summon forth the better angels of the American people. Such a mythic candidate is not aloof like Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama, but rather is a flawed figure who transforms himself in the act of running for president.

The doomed Bobby Kennedy of 1968 was that kind of uplifting candidate for an earlier generation of reporters. For a few short months during the primaries, Kennedy rose above his life of privilege and his reputation for ruthlessness to become the tribune of the poor and the dispossessed of all races.

Opinion: History Lessons — Ted Kennedy, Watergate and the Bravest Senate Vote
And stay tuned for a fake news alert …

John McCain’s surgery for a blood clot serves as a reminder that the fate of health care legislation is yet again being shaped by the frailties of the giants of the Senate.

Had Ted Kennedy lived long enough to see the victory of what he called “the cause of my life,” congressional Democrats would have been able to refine the Affordable Care Act. Instead, the victory of Republican Scott Brown in the January 2010 Massachusetts special election to fill the Kennedy seat (effectively a family fiefdom since 1952) deprived Democrats of their filibuster-proof majority.

Opinion: The New Senate Health Care Bill — A Little Bit Louder and a Little Bit Worse
Republicans violating the ‘first, do no harm’ principle

 

The single number that Senate Republicans should dwell on before they vote next week on health care will not bear the imprimatur of the Congressional Budget Office. Rather the most relevant statistic comes courtesy of the Gallup poll: Democrats hold a 19-point edge (55 percent to 36 percent) as the party most trusted to handle health care.

Opinion: Russia Scandal — Where’s the Caviar Atop the Blini?
Divergent goals for investigations could help president contain crisis

One of the small joys of a political scandal is the way it enriches the English language. Entire college courses could be constructed around the linguistic analysis of such Watergate expressions as “cover-up,” “smoking gun,” “cancer on the presidency,” “third-rate burglary” and “twist slowly, slowly in the wind.”

So, too, with the current Trump-Russia furor that resembles — to borrow a line from Winston Churchill — “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.”

Opinion: Fourth of July — A Time to Rate Baseball Teams and Presidents
Considering the unexpected aspects of the first reality show president

LA MALBAIE, Quebec — The choice to spend the long Fourth of July weekend gazing across the broad St. Lawrence River was based entirely on beauty and food. It was not a political decision, so I will spare you any transnational mooning over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Still, there is something intoxicating about being in a spot where the word Trump was not overheard for three days in any conversation whether in French or English. If nothing else, it should offer a tiny bit of perspective on an in-your-face presidency whose Twitter tantrums upend any attempt at dispassionate analysis.

Opinion: Wanted — Three Senate Republicans to End the Mean Season for Health Care
GOP plan is a cure worse than the disease

In a January 2010 speech at Hillsdale College, Paul Ryan decried Barack Obama’s efforts to expand access to health care. The future House speaker declared in apocalyptic tones, “The national health care exchange created by this legislation, together with its massive subsidies for middle income earners, will be the greatest expansion of the welfare state in a generation and possibly in history.”

Then Ryan uttered the fateful words: “Our message must be, ‘We will repeal and replace this government takeover, masked as health care reform.’”

Opinion: Bickering Democrats — Still Mired in the 20th Century
Time for a new agenda and an end to self-destructive proxy battles

Only the downtrodden and dispirited Democrats could work themselves into a bout of I’m-on-the-ledge-and-thinking-about-jumping depression over the failure of a 30-year-old first-time candidate to win a House seat in a Georgia district where he didn’t even live.

Equally ludicrous are the recriminations over Democratic tactics in Georgia-6. Last Tuesday’s special election in the upscale Atlanta suburbs might be a bellwether if it were typical for both sides to spend $50 million on a single House race. At that rate of spending, the 2018 House races would cost about $21 billion.

Opinion: A Don’t-Blame-Us Congress Ducks on Syria
Be bipartisan and authorize a war

It is, of course, not nearly as important as the struggle in GA-6 that is testing what happens when you inject more than $50 million into a single House race and batter the voters into submission with attack ads.

And the topic could not possibly compete with the learned analyses of Megyn Kelly’s NBC interview with conspiracy theorist Alex Jones — a TV show that was probably the biggest broadcast since King Edward VIII went on British radio to announce his abdication to marry “the woman I love.”

Opinion: In Praise of Congressional Openness
Why the tension at the core of American democracy is worth it

In the tear-stained hours after the baseball field shootings, House Chaplain Patrick J. Conroy sounded the right note as he said in his opening prayer, “We are blessed by a free and open society. … But once again, we are reminded there is a vulnerability that comes with that openness.”

That is the tension at the core of American democracy as we stumble through this terror-soaked century. How do we maintain the close connection between the government and the governed without elected officials having to don bulletproof vests every morning along with their American flag pins?

Opinion: Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Challenge of 2018
Over-interpreting British results a risk for Democrats

If campaign consultants in both parties had their way, congressional challengers would never utter an interesting word and incumbents would have their Capitol Hill voting records airbrushed from history. Politics would be reduced to a clash between two physically attractive candidates (preferably with photogenic families), obediently reciting robotic talking points.

The major problem with this beguiling fantasy is a pesky group of human beings known as voters. Increasingly, voters crave authenticity, a hard-to-define attribute that comes across as the antithesis of poll-tested and blow-dried.

Opinion: Pro Tip — Never Cross James Comey
Trump attacks described as ‘lies, plain and simple’

The noun “lie” has been part of the English language for more than a thousand years, since before the Norman Conquest. But never before Thursday morning had it been repeatedly brandished by a defrocked FBI director testifying under oath to describe the president of the United States.

In his opening statement to the Senate Intelligence Committee, James Comey bluntly referred to presidential attacks on his competence as “lies, plain and simple.”

Opinion: How a Textbook in 2067 Might View Donald Trump
Alternate history that the president didn’t make up

Perspective is nearly impossible when you are living through tumultuous events on a daily basis. But by slightly bending the space-time continuum, this column has exclusively obtained a copy of a 2067 tenth-grade American history textbook entitled “Many Peoples, Many Voices, Many Perspectives.”Turning to the chapter on America after the 2016 election, it was fascinating to discover with 50 years hindsight how everything turned out. Actually, because of a quirk in quantum physics, three versions of the chapter were provided with radically different outcomes. Some excerpts:

“...President Trump remained defiant throughout the early summer of 2017. He often rallied his supporters through a primitive form of messaging called Twitter (see “obsolete technologies” on Page 821). Republicans in Congress, fearing the wrath of Trump supporters, avoided a public break with the president, although many (see “Profiles in Courage” page 619) grumbled privately.

Opinion: Truth the Pill for Trump’s Dysfunction
Congress must counter president’s mendacity and meanness

The Associated Press, the nation’s leading and most respected wire service, has always erred on the side of caution. Buried deep in the AP’s DNA is the hazy memory that its leading competitor, the United Press, stained its credibility for decades by prematurely announcing the end of World War I.

But never in the following century did the Associated Press write anything this blunt about any American elected leader: “President Donald Trump can’t be counted on to give accurate information to Americans when violent acts are unfolding abroad.”

Opinion: American Isolationism From the League of Nations to Trump
President’s climate change decision effectively makes U.S. a rogue nation

On November 19, 1919, the Senate failed to muster a two-thirds majority to ratify the Versailles Treaty ending World War I and establishing the League of Nations. As a banner headline in The (New York) Sun shouted, “PEACE TREATY DEFEATED … SECOND BALLOT KILLS ALL HOPE OF LEAGUE.”

The Senate’s refusal to join the League of Nations ushered in two decades of isolationism culminating in an America First movement that argued that Hitler’s takeover of Europe was of no concern to us. At the heart of the America First mindset was a belief that Pittsburgh mattered infinitely more than Nazi-occupied Paris.

Opinion: Trump — A President Without a True Party on Capitol Hill
Tweets suggest the chief executive is increasingly isolated

Entire journalism school courses can be constructed around the knotty question of how to cover Donald Trump’s tweets.

There is a case that these 140-character eruptions force reporters to chase irrelevancies such as Trump's fact-free claim that he really won the popular vote “if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.” But you can also argue that anything like Twitter that provides an unfiltered window into the mind of a president deserves to be scrutinized as much as a staff-written speech read off a Teleprompter.

Opinion: A GOP Guide to Running for Cover on Health Care
Three ways to overcome troubling diagnosis from the CBO

Long ago (that is, back in the days when James Comey was still FBI director), House Republicans rushed their health care bill through by a two-vote margin without waiting for the verdict of the Congressional Budget Office. That early May, haste was understandable since the victorious House Republicans were due at the White House for an Oval Office celebration of a bill that (“Whoops, we forgot about the Senate”) had not actually become a law.

There appeared to be no need for House Republicans to fret about the CBO score since, after all, Donald Trump had already promised in a tweet that “healthcare is coming along great … and it will end in a beautiful picture!” So it was easy for GOP legislators to imagine that the nonpartisan experts at the CBO would find that their bill provided quality affordable health insurance for every single American while saving the Treasury trillions of dollars.

Opinion: Montana Special Election Unlikely to Predict Larger Political Trend
But get ready for a barrage of talking points

Sometime after 10 p.m. Thursday in Washington, everyone in politics will feign being an expert on Montana or, as they will call it with an insider’s flourish, Big Sky Country. The returns from the first statewide race of the Trump era will inevitably trigger the type of frenzied over-analysis reserved for special elections at moments of political turmoil.

If the Republicans hang on to the House seat vacated by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, the sighs of relief from imperiled GOP incumbents may set off every wind chime in the D.C. area. Greg Gianforte, who ran 47,000 votes behind Donald Trump in a losing 2016 bid for governor, brings to the race two decided advantages — he is rich (he sold his software company for $1.5 billion in 2011) and he is a Republican.

Opinion: Red-Scare Henchman a Role Model for Russia-Challenged President
Roy Cohn mentored Donald Trump

Even before the president ominously hinted at a secret White House taping system, the supposed similarities between Donald Trump and Richard Nixon had all but made “Watergate Studies” a required course in journalism departments.

But as we grope to understand the 45th president and (to put it charitably) his erratic behavior, the best historical guide remains the life and times of Roy Cohn, Trump’s original mentor.

Opinion: The Refrain Across Washington — ‘Not Since Watergate ...’
There are indeed similarities between Comey and Archibald Cox’s 1973 ouster

The abrupt firing of James B. Comey as FBI director revealed an enduring truth about the next four years — there will never be a normal day as long as Donald Trump is in the White House. When things seem placid and uneventful in this administration, it is probably because we do not yet know about the abnormalities that are transpiring beneath the surface.

Tuesday seemed like an ordinary spring day in Washington. There were no high-octane congressional hearings, legislative showdowns or significant protests in the streets. Even the FBI director felt secure enough in his position to leave town to attend a meeting in the Los Angeles field office.

Opinion: White House Dysfunction Is Stranger Than Fiction
Michael Flynn case a lasting and dangerous embarrassment

It would have been a climactic scene in any Cold War spy novel. The acting attorney general rushes across town to tell the White House legal counsel that the president’s national security adviser “could be blackmailed by the Russians.”

In this fictional universe, a wave of panic sweeps through the White House as the legal counsel with the attorney general in tow bursts into the Oval Office to warn the president. “Mr. President,” the legal counsel says ominously, “the AG believes that the Russians may be able to turn your national security adviser.”