Columns » Max Brantley

Political ups and downs

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Liberals have to look hard for bright spots these days, unless they take comfort from a president who's become a global laughingstock. Hard to laugh at the prospect of 44 more months of it.

I held a little bit of hope to an upstart's challenge of a favored Republican in the race for Montana's U.S. House seat. And then, the night before election day, the favored Republican, Greg Gianforte, assaulted a newspaper reporter for pressing him for a comment on the Congressional Budget Office's report on the ill effects of the health bill passed by the House.

Would Montana elect a man charged with assault because he'd been asked repeatedly for an answer on a question he'd dodged throughout the race? They would.

There were extenuating circumstances. Seventy percent of the vote was cast early, before the assault. Gianforte should have won by 20 against a Democratic candidate with baggage. The race proved, again, however, that health care is a rising issue and Republicans' insistence on rolling back the benefits of Obamacare may do them harm.

But there was little comfort in right-wing triumphalism. Rudeness and even violence are acceptable behavior in the era of Trump, if you believe much of the comment. Take just two from our own Arkansas Blog:

"Only media morons think they are entitled to badger someone as they please." Asking two questions is, apparently, badgering and a license to punch.

Said a state Republican Party official, "How many times is someone expected to nicely tell a jerk to f-off before flooring him. Yes, yes, public officials are held to a higher standard, etc. But what if it were any of you? Guy shoves a recorder in your face and pesters the shit out of you. Most of you would become snowflakes but I'd wager a few would move him out of the way. I am not saying what the candidate did was appropriate but some of these reporters think they have a license to be assholes. They do not."

These were restrained views compared with others I read and general behavior of some in the MAGA crowd. That rogue sheriff in Milwaukee that Trump may appoint to a federal position sicced a gang of his deputies on a guy who stared at him funny on a plane. Stared at him.

Trump has stirred an even greater antipathy toward reporters than already existed. He's not likely to back off as the media pack bores in on his Russian connections. I'm not ready to talk impeachment by a longshot. But I am unsettled by a president with demonstrated warmth toward Russia after an election in which Russians worked to defeat Hillary Clinton. Time was, Republicans thought Russians were the enemy.

But .... I did get a few laughs this week from a Republican initiative in Arkansas. Governor Hutchinson has hired someone to transform government and one of the early initiatives is a digital suggestion box. You can send to a website or call a hotline with ways to improve government. Nearly 300 ideas rolled in at the outset.

I loved many of the suggestions. Don't build the Ten Commandments monument. End capital punishment. Sell beer on Sunday. Keep Attorney General Leslie Rutledge off national TV. Get Sen. Jason Rapert out of Arkansas. Stop handouts of huge sums of money to a "virtual" charter school. Let cities regulate guns.

I know. Neither the governor nor the legislature is likely to adopt any of these causes. But the resistance at least continues. That's what real men and women do: Stand up and be counted. Cowards dodge questions on health care, punch reporters and lie about it.

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