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One Small Step for a Man, One Giant Leap for the Senate: McCain The Statesman Over Trump The Closer (Forbes.com) August 1, 2017

Posted by daviddavenport in Op/Eds, Politics.
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The drama was palpable.  Senator John McCain, long known as a maverick, was flying to Washington, D.C. with his recently diagnosed cancer to cast what could be the deciding vote in the Republicans’ effort to repeal and replace Obamacare, this time with a scaled-down “skinny repeal.”  The vote would be close and it was 1:30 AM when it finally played out, when McCain surprised most with his visible thumb down.  As shock waves rolled across the Senate floor to the White House, McCain said simply, “I thought it was the right thing to do.”

Of great interest was the statement McCain’s office released shortly afterward, saying it was time to “return to the correct way of legislating and send the bill back to committee, hold hearings, receive input from both sides of the aisle, heed the recommendations of the nation’s governors and produce a bill that finally delivers health care for the American people.”  What?  You mean he did this to stand up for democratic deliberation, for bipartisanship, for proper processes?  Yes, he did, which is what statesmen occasionally must do.

In the Senate, we haven’t seen much of that lately.  Instead we see major legislation prepared in secret, sprung on colleagues at the last minute, and passed on narrow party-line votes in order to win.  Winning, taking action, satisfying our political base–this is what the U.S. Congress is about now.  Not deliberation, bipartisanship, finding the right policies for the country.  McCain took one small step for a man, but we hope one giant leap for the Senate.

Actually, this whole business of action over deliberation started with President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s.  In Roosevelt’s 1933 inaugural address, he famously declared that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  But the phrase in that speech that most accurately pointed the way he would take as president was:  “This nation asks for action and action now.”  A key member of Roosevelt’s brain trust, Columbia University professor Rexford Tugwell said:  “He did not very much care what kind of farm relief, or how the principle of cheap and universally available power was arrived at.  Banking regulations might be of any practicable sort…but he was committed to some action in all these matters.”

Roosevelt’s “action and action now” paradigm might have made more sense in the wake of the Great Depression, but it has never gone away.  Since then presidents have declared “wars” on poverty, crime, drugs and all manner of domestic policy problems.  Presidents have demanded “action and action now.”  If the Senate ever was the greatest deliberative body in the world, as some have claimed, it isn’t anymore.  It hardly deliberates at all.  Bills come to the floor from secret chambers, time for debate is limited, amendments are not allowed, and party-line up and down votes are taken.

Unfortunately Donald Trump has very much followed Roosevelt’s lead.  He obviously does not care which version of health care we end up with, he simply wants some kind of repeal and replacement so he can put a notch on his presidential legacy belt and tell his constituents he did it.  Trump says that the Constitution is a “relic” and “very bad for America?”  Why?  Because he says he’s “a closer,” obviously not a deliberator, and the American people want action, not talk.

So, finally a statesman stood up to that and said no.  In the past, an occasional “gang” of senators might do that:  a bipartisan gang of six on health care in 2009, another gang of six on the national debt in 2011, a gang of eight on immigration in 2013.  But this time there was no gang, there was just the maverick, the statesman, John McCain.  But it was enough.

The political system does not so much need a lot of fancy reforms—dealing with the filibuster or the nuclear option or whatever—it needs a few wise and courageous leaders to stand up and do the right thing.  And, at least in this round, The Statesman stood up to The Closer and America won.

 

To view the column at Forbes.com:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddavenport/2017/08/01/one-small-step-for-a-man-one-giant-leap-for-the-senate-mccain-the-statesman-over-trump-the-closer/#224896a03f4c

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