Opinion: The Short Life Span of the Trump-McConnell Buddy Movie
Quest for lower taxes brings unlikely pair together

Dating back to the days of Walter Winchell, there was a standard photo display that newspapers used when celebrity couples headed to Splitsville. Tabloids would feature an earlier picture of the couple frolicking on a beach or walking down the aisle with the caption, “In Happier Days.”

The odds are high that Monday’s buddy-movie Rose Garden press conference with the odd couple of Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell will soon invite similar “In Happier Days” nostalgia. For did anyone believe Trump’s hyperbolic claims that the two men are “closer than ever” and that “the Republican Party is very, very unified”?

Opinion: Harvey Weinstein and the GOP’s Guilt-By-Association Game
A sense of proportion — and less hypocrisy — would be nice

The odds are high that this autumn members of Congress — maybe both Democrats and Republicans — will pocket campaign contributions from Americans who will later be engulfed in scandal. The besmirched political donors could be exposed as Ponzi scheme promoters, corrupt corporate executives, crooked lawyers or sex offenders.

Amid the predictable uproar when the news stories break, there will be loud partisan cries to return all campaign contributions from these disgraced figures. And so congressional incumbents will scramble to explain a half-forgotten $2,700 check from a fundraiser and a hastily scrawled “To My Dear Friend ...” inscription on a photograph from the event.

Opinion: A Fake Senate Hearing on Fake News
What if the Intelligence Committee took up the president’s request

Under Donald Trump’s interpretation of the Constitution, when the president tweets, the Senate must take action immediately.

So it was with Trump’s pointed suggestion last week, filled with the kind of oddball capitalization normally found in ransom notes: “Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!”

Opinion: Liberals Must Find the Right Tone on Guns
Raw emotion does not change votes in Congress

The witty, conservative economist Herb Stein once pooh-poohed apocalyptic predictions with these reassuring words: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Stein, who had served as Richard Nixon’s chief economic adviser, was referring to the trade deficit. But Stein’s Law has a wide application beyond economics — and it offers a dollop of comfort about gun violence after the Las Vegas massacre.

Opinion: The Tax Cut Question — Will Voters Feel Richer or Betrayed by Trump?
Plan may hurt many of the president’s supporters

Tax cuts are the political equivalent of truth serum.

A typical politician can often get away with spinning wildly about economic growth, the budget deficit or even the long-term financial prognosis for Medicare and Social Security.

Opinion: Congress and the Weakest President Since the 1920s
How GOP leaders should behave during their time of reckoning

Dear Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan,

I know you are not in the habit of reading open letters from liberal columnists. But I hope you will make an exception in this case since I am trying to avoid partisan talking points and predictable arguments.

Opinion: Another Health Care Bill, Another Health Care Cliff
Major rewrites of policy deserve more than partisan signoff

Maybe we have finally established a lasting legislative principle for both parties: Don’t ever again try to pass major health care legislation using parliamentary gimmicks to avoid a filibuster.

The Democrats, under Barack Obama, followed this route in 2010 after they lost their filibuster-proof Senate majority when Republican Scott Brown unexpectedly won the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat. As a result, final tinkering and technical improvements could not be made in the Obamacare legislation using a House-Senate conference.

Opinion: The Fatal Flaw for Republicans in Graham-Cassidy
Bill’s passage would make health care dominant issue in 2018 midterms

The Republicans’ latest drive to repeal Obamacare is reminiscent of a poetry fragment from Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade”: “Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why.”

Whatever happens with the bill likely slated to reach the Senate floor next week, it is hard to escape the feeling that this wild charge will end badly for the Republicans.

Opinion: Dancing With the Democrats Will Not Save Trump
Long-term consequences of president’s actions will catch up with him

Memo to the Democrats: Figure out how far Donald Trump is willing to travel on the ground before he gets bored and restless. Whatever the number is for our short-attention-span president (maybe a mile by golf cart and 10 miles by limousine), the Democrats should agree to build a border wall of precisely that length.

Consider it a Potemkin Wall.

Opinion: The Two-Party System on a Sick Bed
It will take more than Trump and infighting to kill the patient

It is as lasting an American literary metaphor as Captain Ahab and the white whale or Hester Prynne and her scarlet “A.”

We are, of course, referring to that branch of science known as cartoon thermodynamics. The first law, as popularized by the late film critic Roger Ebert, is worthy of Isaac Newton: “Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.”

Opinion: How 9/11 Permanently Changed Us
Biggest transformation — a growing climate of mistrust

The front page of The New York Times from the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, conjures up a world both familiar and distant. The lead story highlights talk of tax cuts on Capitol Hill while a major feature conveys the worries of public school officials that dress codes are being flouted: “The days when torn jeans tested the limits are now a fond memory.”

In this era before iPhones and Androids, the Times headlined a page-one article about Paula Zahn’s new CNN contract: “In a Nation of Early Risers, Morning TV Is a Hot Market.” The Times front page also brooded about continuing threats like nuclear smuggling in Asia and the depressing verities of foreign policy: “Mideast Still Roiling.”

Opinion: Puncturing the Happy-Talk Illusion of a Balanced Budget
A little honesty might help Democrats and Republicans

The return of Congress means that the next few months will be boom times for Capitol Hill speechwriters as they tap into a gusher of cliches about the need to balance the federal budget.

From droning floor speeches to syncopated press conferences, the Hill will be alive with apocalyptic rhetoric as the national debt approaches $20 trillion.

Opinion: A Big-Spending Liberal Is a Conservative Who Has Been Flooded
Hurricane Harvey challenges Republican party

Ronald Reagan began a 1986 press conference by trotting out one of his favorite lines: “I’ve always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are: ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”

That sentiment succinctly summarizes the conservative philosophy that has governed the Republican Party since the 1980s — all federal spending is suspect unless it goes to the Pentagon. And it helps explain why in early 2013 virtually every Republican in the Texas congressional delegation voted against the $51-billion emergency aid package after Hurricane Sandy devastated New York and New Jersey.

Opinion: Echoes of Vietnam in Trump’s Afghan About-Face
President’s instinct may be to avoid the appearance of losing a war

Donald Trump is the seventh president since the end of World War II who inherited, on taking office, his predecessor’s war or the planning for one. And like most of these American presidents Trump decided that the most important strategic consideration was not to publicly lose a war on his watch.

No president wants to replicate the experience of Jerry Ford watching images of the last desperate helicopters taking off from the American embassy in Saigon as North Vietnamese troops battered down the gates.

Opinion: Career Advice for Restless Capitol Hill GOP Staffers
Stay put — Congress will be the center of action for rest of Trump’s term

This column is written for every Republican staffer on Capitol Hill who — even now — is debating whether to join the Trump administration. It is also directed at those who have already followed their dreams of striding along the corridors of power and entered the White House.

My advice to you sounds like the dialogue in a disaster movie: “Don’t do it. Run. Get out now. It’s the only escape.”

Opinion: Congress’ Passive Response to North Korea: ‘Not My Table’
Lawmakers need to step up

Just as he did back during Black History Month in February with his startling discovery that Frederick Douglass “is being recognized more and more,” Donald Trump demonstrated in Monday’s White House statement on Charlottesville, Virginia, that he can learn and grow in office.

In 48 short hours, Trump discovered that “racism is evil” and groups like “the KKK, neo-Nazis [and] white supremacists … are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”

Opinion: Trump’s Two-Front War Against McConnell and North Korea
And why Democrats are in no position to laugh

If we survive the tweets of August, a Wall Street Journal headline should be immortalized as a symbol of this long hot summer in Trumpland. In the online edition of Friday’s Journal, the subhead on a stock-picking article actually read: “Analysts are trying to work out what happens to the markets they cover in the event of an all-out nuclear war.”

Here’s my personal stock tip for the apocalypse: Invest in personal hygiene companies like Procter & Gamble since we will need plenty of deodorant in our crowded fallout shelters.

Opinion: GOP Tax Dilemma — Somebody’s Got to Pay More
There’s a reason tax reform doesn’t happen often

“Any deduction you look at in the tax code has a constituency behind it,” John Thune said last week as we chatted about taxes in his Senate office. “If you are going to do tax reform that is revenue-neutral … that means that you have to kill some deductions or scale them back.”

Too often Republican oratory depicts tax reform as across-the-board rate reductions where everyone wins and nobody loses. It is like Garrison Keillor’s Lake Wobegon — “where all the children are above average” — but a lot richer.

Opinion: Question for Congress, What Did You Do During the Trump Reign of Error?
History will judge lawmakers by their behavior during the Trump years

I like to imagine that the next president — regardless of party — will reassure the nation in words similar to Jerry Ford’s memorable line after Richard Nixon’s resignation: “My fellow Americans, our long national nightmare is over.”

I do not have the temerity to predict the timetable for the transfer of power. But I have long nurtured the fantasy that on the morning of Jan. 20, 2021, Donald Trump (whose popularity will have slipped below Chris Christie levels) will be alone in the Oval Office screaming at his TV set as even “Fox & Friends” has turned against him.

Opinion: Summertime and the Living Is Easy in Trump’s Washington
But there’s still time for a cornered chief executive to lash out

Thursday was the kind of molasses-slow news day in Washington, reminiscent of the summers before air-conditioning when Congress and most of the Executive Branch fled the capital for sea breezes and temperate climes.

For the sake of historians chronicling the torpor of the Trump years, here are some of the things that happened on this forgettable Thursday: