Quick Takes: When Ideology Trumps Policy

* Neil Irwin points to the fact that Republicans can’t seem to come together to promote their agenda via legislation and he provides some interesting insight about why that is the case.

Large portions of the Republican caucus embrace a kind of policy nihilism. They criticize any piece of legislation that doesn’t completely accomplish conservative goals, but don’t build coalitions to devise complex legislation themselves…

The last time congressional Republicans have done the major lifting of making domestic policy was Mr. Bush’s first term…

But that’s now a decade and a half ago. Only 51 of the 238 current House Republicans were in Congress then — meaning a significant majority of Republican House members have never been in Congress at a time when their party was making major domestic policy…

If you make a career opposing even the basic work of making the government run, it’s hard to pivot to writing major legislation. In the opposition, it’s easy to be strident and pure in your views. Legislative sausage-making requires compromise and flexibility and focus on the gritty details. Some politicians are great at both opposition and actual legislating — but not many.

* If you remember, the guy Trump fired as National Security Advisor was a raging Islamophobe. After having some trouble finding a replacement, the one he settled on is working in the opposite direction.

Newly named national security adviser and Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is waging an uphill battle to push President Donald Trump and his senior aides to stop using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” according to a pair of recent reports.

An anonymous White House official who attended an all-staff National Security Council meeting last week told CNN that McMaster said the language was unhelpful in combating groups like the Islamic State, and that it undermines U.S. alliances with Middle Eastern nations.

Yet Politico reported Tuesday that the President still intends to include it in his speech to a join session of Congress, citing an anonymous white House source. That suggests McMaster, who has been in his position for just one week, has a ways to go in convincing the administration to tone down its rhetoric.

* The Trump administration’s botched raid in Yemen has been in the news a lot lately. While White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer continues to say that it was a complete operational success, it appears that he is once again spreading “alternative facts.”

Last month’s deadly commando raid in Yemen, which cost the lives of a U.S. Navy SEAL and a number of children, has so far yielded no significant intelligence, U.S. officials told NBC News.

Although Pentagon officials have said the raid produced “actionable intelligence,” senior officials who spoke to NBC News said they were unaware of any, even as the father of the dead SEAL questioned the premise of the raid in an interview with the Miami Herald published Sunday.

* Already AG Sessions has reversed protections for transgender students, re-started the federal government’s use of private prisons, reversed the government’s challenge to Texas voter suppression and promised to crack down on the legal use of marijuana in states that have approved it for recreational purposes. But in the era that spawned the #BlackLivesMatter movement, today he announced that he will reverse course on one of the most significant achievements of the Obama administration’s Civil Rights Division.

Donald Trump’s attorney general said Tuesday the Justice Department will limit its use of a tactic employed aggressively under President Obama — suing police departments for violating the civil rights of minorities.

“We need, so far as we can, to help police departments get better, not diminish their effectiveness. And I’m afraid we’ve done some of that,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“So we’re going to try to pull back on this,” he told a meeting of the nation’s state attorneys general in Washington.

* Yet another Obama era achievement is in jeopardy.

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said today that net neutrality was “a mistake” and that the commission is now “on track” to return to a much lighter style of regulation…

Pai has long been opposed to net neutrality and voted against the proposal when it came up in 2015. While he hasn’t specifically stated that he plans to reverse the order now that he’s chairman, today’s speech suggests pretty clearly that he’s aiming to.

* When it comes to the resistance movement, it is worth noting that 15 progressive policy experts have formed a “Shadow Cabinet” to become an agency-by-agency one-stop portal debunking Trump & staff. Included on the roster are Citizen AG Laurence Tribe, Citizen Secretary of Labor/Commerce Robert Reich and Citizen Secretary of Treasury/Trade Laura Tyson. They’re slick enough to have put together this video, because who says the resistance can’t be fun?

* Finally, tonight Donald Trump will give a speech to a joint session of Congress. One of the ways we normalize him is by forgetting what it’s like to have a sane adult as president. To remind yourself, take a look at some clips of Obama’s speech on February 25, 2009.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.