Bess column: Shut up or shut down
Chaos theory has been called the study of predicting “inherently unpredictable” systems. It is also an apt description of the study of the Trump presidency. Those closest to the president say he thrives on chaos, relishes tumult, and takes perverse pleasure in stirring up conflict among advisers and associates. The president is energized by noise. While this style of management may have served him as a businessman, it has limited his ability to lead and govern effectively.
President Trump’s unpredictability has plagued members of Congress, his staff, and the public. His indecisiveness is his weakness. His ability to be easily swayed on consequential matters, including immigration, by young, unseasoned aides is harmful to his presidency and the nation. So, too, is his pathological inability to commit to any solid piece of legislation put before him. This has held up the future of DACA recipients, immigration reform, budget appropriations for the Great Wall of Trump, healthcare, and foreign policy. It’s also resulted in one government shutdown, with the possibility of another on the horizon.
Republicans and Democrats in Washington agree on one thing: the president lacks leadership. Days before the government went dark, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, “As soon as we figure out what he is for, then I would be convinced that we were not just spinning our wheels.” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer left the White House hours before a vote to keep government offices open, believing he and President Trump had a deal that would salvage DACA and fund his wall. Shortly after returning to the Capitol, he was informed that the president’s mind had allegedly been changed by adviser Stephen Miller and White House Chief of Staff John Kelly. Chaos.
To be fair, there is plenty of blame to go around. Congress continues to play a role in the stalemate over immigration reform and government funding. Aside from a proposal hashed out by Senators Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, little effort has been made by Republican leadership to reach a bi-partisan agreement to avert a second shutdown. Why should they? They’re in control of both the Legislative and Executive Branches. For now.
Obstructionism is not a one-way street. The Democrats were equally as guilty of partisanship when they dominated both chambers of Congress. The current lack of cooperation between both parties almost guarantees a continuation of ineffectual leadership when the tides turn yet again. It appears that few elected officials are truly interested in dialogue. There are shouts, murmurs, caustic comments, and dangerous accusations that do nothing to advance the agenda of the president or either party. The American people regularly bear witness to a perpetual state of government gridlock, evidence that voters are not being well-represented. Pure chaos.
Another example of poor communication and unjustified noise is the fiery invective of Rep. Devin Nunes, Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Nunes’s unsubstantiated claims of secret societies, his destructive allegations of corruption within the FBI, and his insistence that a “Deep State” exists within the halls of power are diversionary distractions from the truth; the truth about President Trump’s behavior and, perhaps, Nunes’s own questionable activities while a member of the Trump Transition team. Nunes vomits shamelessly upon respected institutions and individuals, putting our nation at risk because of his opportunism and self-aggrandizement.
President Trump’s racist remarks, misogynistic comments, his lies, denials and distortions do nothing to advance civil conversation. Yet, die-hard supporters and members of his party are willing to excuse his bad behavior and foul language because only he can make America great again.
Where our leaders once shared a spirit of cooperation and worked toward a greater good for all, they now travel a path -- lockstep along party lines -- that leads to an uncertain future. There is far too much noise and discord emanating from Washington. To avoid another chaotic race toward shutdown, it’s time for those in power to shut up. And get down to the business of governing.
Blair Bess is a Los Angeles-based television writer, producer, and columnist. He edits the online blog Soaggragated.com, and can be reached at BBess.firstname.lastname@example.org.