By Bill Kaplan

The column below reflects the views of the author, and these opinions are neither endorsed nor supported by

Last October, 30 former GOP lawmakers, including retired Wisconsin Representative Tom Petri, jointly denounced Trump, saying: he lacked “the competence, intelligence, knowledge, understanding, empathy, judgment and temperament necessary to keep America on a safe and steady course ….” They went on to criticize Trump’s bigotry and racism, such as seeking “to impose religious tests for entry into the United States.” The Republicans concluded: “He (Trump) offends our allies and praises dictators. His public statements are peppered with lies. He belittles our heroes and insults the parents of men who have died serving our country. Every day brings a fresh revelation ….” Spot-on.

What an extraordinary first week. Trump acting like a South American caudillo (strongman), but pretending to be a populist, began issuing pronouncements and decrees. First was a delusional refusal to accept that the inaugural crowd was smaller than his ego. On Friday, the Washington Post disclosed that Trump tried to directly coerce the National Park Service to somehow produce photographs proving the media lied. But it was Trump and his minions, including White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, who doubled down on “alternative facts”. It gets worse.

The narcissistic Trump continued to be crestfallen that he lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million. So he spun a false narrative, 3-5 million votes were “illegally” cast. Even Trump’s lawyers have said: “All available evidence suggests that the 2016 general (presidential) election was not tainted by fraud or mistake”. House Speaker Paul Ryan bestirred himself: “I’ve seen no evidence to that effect ….” However, Wisconsin GOP Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, a strong supporter of renewing the Voting Rights Act, surprisingly couldn’t find his voice to denounce Trump’s falsehood. There’s more.

The Trump White House, ignoring Congress, began issuing decrees: Gut the Affordable Care Act (ACA); bring back secret CIA prisons and torture (Wisconsin GOP Senator Ron Johnson, who voted to ban torture in 2015, did not repudiate Trump’s draft); freeze federal hiring but increase military spending; build a wall along the Mexican border and impose a religious test on refugees, while suspending entry. Spineless Ryan endorsed the wall and heartless refugee policy. The Statue of Liberty weeps. Americans are not safer. One last bombshell.

On Friday, the Washington Post highlighted explosive revelations from a leaked recording of a closed-door discussion in Philadelphia by congressional Republicans on repealing the ACA. Gone were poll-tested bromides and clichés from Ryan and Johnson: Congress is on a “rescue mission”, we don’t want “to pull the rug out from underneath people” or that the ACA is in a “death spiral”. Instead the recording showed GOP lawmakers panicking over the adverse political consequences for the GOP of taking health care coverage away from 30 million Americans, including 431,000 Wisconsinites (Urban Institute).

Ohio GOP Senator Rob Portman warned Republicans that ACA funding and taxes (on wealthy) would be needed to pay for any GOP replacement. The rubber met the road. What a week – delusion and lies, but clarity from Portman.

–Kaplan wrote a guest column from Washington, D.C. for the Wisconsin State Journal from 1995 – 2009.

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