April 12, 2024

or power

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
Patriotism or power
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Patriotism is not an ordinary word. It is a cornerstone word, an assumption word. All politicians are assumed to be patriotic citizens who put country before self, but do they? Are they? Is it conceivable that a congressional leader would put the country at risk so his party could win the presidency?
          A bipartisan team of senators is close to forging a deal on U.S. border policy that would also free up military aid to Ukraine and Israel along with humanitarian aid to Gaza. The proposed deal has the backing of Senate leaders in both political parties, yet House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., calls it “dead on arrival” and refuses to say whether he will put it to a vote on the House floor.
          The border is out of control with a quarter million people crossing illegally in December alone, with millions more left in legal limbo reliant on government services that are rapidly being depleted under the strain of so much desperate humanity.
          Johnson has a decision to make: will he do what is best for the country or what is best for his party’s electoral chances? Will he accept an imperfect compromise that begins to address the crisis on the border, or does he refuse to advance the Senate bill, forged under Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s leadership, and do nothing to fix the border? That choice would also leave Ukraine in the lurch, since the funding is tied together, along with aid for Israel and aid for Gaza.
          The GOP’s far right wing wants Johnson to spurn the deal. Freedom Caucus hardliners want all or nothing on immigration reform or possibly just nothing if it makes the president look bad. President Biden is willing to make significant changes but is resisting GOP demands to limit a president’s ability to “parole” large groups of migrants, when necessary, the way Biden did with tens of thousands of Venezuelans last year.
          On the other hand, House Republicans running for reelection would like to show they have accomplished something by forcing Biden to a reckoning on border policy. If Johnson can get the proposed Senate deal across the finish line with help from Democrats, it would go a long way to cementing him as a bona fide leader as opposed to his predecessor, who was on borrowed time from Day One. 
          The Speaker is facing real head winds. Marjorie Taylor Greene, the outspoken rabblerouser from Georgia, is opposed to any aid at all to Ukraine, and says that if Johnson caves, she will file the necessary papers to remove him from power.
          Johnson talks a good game about Ukraine, aligning himself with McConnell in opposition to Putin’s illegal invasion, but insists he needs more information about what the strategy is to end the war, so it doesn’t become “another Afghanistan.”
          Then there’s the Trump factor. Johnson says he talks often to the former president. With the 2024 election in full swing, will he be taking his cues from Trump and undermine the nation’s security for the sake of his puppet master.
          It’s doubtful that Trump is encouraging Johnson to accept a deal made in the Senate by McConnell that would slow the flow of migrants across the border. Entry polls of voters who caucused in Iowa show immigration is a top issue for Republicans.
          And anger about illegal migrants straining resources and overrunning the culture is a potent counterweight to the abortion issue on the Democratic side.
          If Johnson refuses to bring bipartisan reform of border policy to a vote in the House, along with aid desperately needed in Ukraine, it will be more than politics as usual. Blatantly allowing border crossings to go unchecked and an ally, Ukraine, to potentially collapse, in service of the electoral needs of one man and a handful of his followers, is a disservice to the patriotism of all those who take the oath of office.
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2023 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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