House GOP capitulation to Trump ethics tweet is a really big deal

President-Elect Trump has won another victory before even taking office.  This time, it wasn’t Ford, Carrier, or some other corporation forced to capitulate in the wake of a tweet; it was the majority of the House of Representatives.  Put simply, Trump has demonstrated the he is in charge, and the House majority caucus had better get used to following his lead.

There has been some well justified concern over the willingness of the GOP establishment (Congressional branch) to work with the Trump administration.  After all, he has been attacking them as denizens of the swamp that needs to be drained.  And he palled around with Hillary Clinton and was a Democrat until recently.  So it is a reasonable expectation that this outsider would encounter friction with the now entrenched GOP House majority.

But in the absolutely critical first move the interaction that sets a precedent and remains in memory – the GOP House majority caucus reversed itself and ditched the ethics reform package it blundered into in the first day of the new Congress.  A Trump tweet was sufficient to generate thousands of outraged calls to members’ offices, an avalanche so potent that no politician would dare ignore it.  In short order, like burglars caught in a powerful searchlight, they scuttled the plan and hoped that the whole thing would go away.  If you paid no attention to media yesterday and missed the saturation coverage – as always happens when the GOP does a face-plant – read this New York Times coverage, laced with well deserved snark.

I suppose that it is pretty easy to understand how the majority caucus lost its way.  After all, the anonymous accusations permitted under the current system can be abused.  And members of both parties have been caught in nightmare situations.  If they had but waited, they could have used “ethics reform” as a way of involving Democrats and thereby defending against hypocritical attacks.  They might even have gotten a better package of reforms.  But no...

Perhaps a bit intoxicated with running things under a GOP president, the caucus removed a burr from under its saddle right away.  They changed the ethics machinery because they needed to adopt new rules anyway, and they included it in the package  over the opposition of Paul Ryan, now revealed as not really in charge, no Tip O’Neill in his command of his majority.  This is the opening that Trump, who knows how to spot and take advantage of weakness (part of what makes a “great negotiator”), was looking for. 

Thus, once again, the nickname “The Stupid Party” has been proven thoroughly justified.

Democrats no doubt wondered if Christmas had made a reappearance.  Few things pleasure a Democrat more than the opportunity to hypocritically denounce Republicans, mounted on a high horse of self-righteousness.

Why couldn’t Republicans see this coming?  I don‘t know.  They are supposed to be politicians capable of seeing beyond the immediate step ahead.

Not for the first time, a Donald Trump tweet changed things.

Donald Trump is exercising power in ways never before conceived in American politics.  A president-elect has bent the House majority to his will.  That has never happened before, as far as I know.  And no matter how hard they try to forget it, the precedent has been set, and in Washington, precedent counts for a lot.

In an odd way, the media’s and Democrats’ faux outrage has strengthened the hand of the man they despise and weakened the hand of his intra-party rivals, with whom they share many personal and self-interest ties.

Has there ever been a Congress that started with more self-destructive clumsiness?