What a year can bring in politics

Robert Houk • Dec 31, 2017 at 12:00 AM

This year ends with news that the richest of the rich got much richer (to the tune of $1 trillion, according to Bloomberg News), the poor will get no help from the GOP’s recently passed “tax cut” law and political discourse is likely to be even more vicious in 2018. Blame much of the latter on President Trump, who flat-out lied to Americans last week about his legislative accomplishments for the year.

Trump — who was allegedly working, not golfing, at his swank Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida — boasted he had signed more bills into law than any other president in history, even besting the record of Harry S. Truman.

“We have signed more legislation than anybody," Trump said.

Wrong. Fact checkers from National Public Radio found Trump had actually signed 96 bills (not the lower 88 he claimed) in 2017, but that number was not even close to the more than 240 Truman signed in one year. It’s not even more than his six recent predecessors. Trump’s claims are just another of the many fake “facts” Trump has uttered during his first year in office. Sad.

What’s also sad is we’ll hear more of this nonsense from the president, as well as from his supporters, in the new year. As I’ve noted in recent columns, 2018 is a very key midterm congressional election year. With Republican incumbent Bob Corker deciding not to seek re-election, Tennessee has a seat in the U.S. Senate in play. And with former Gov. Phil Bredesen in the race, Democrats in Tennessee have a slim, but legitimate, chance of an upset in one of the South’s reddest states.

It certainly didn’t look that way back in the spring when Corker was being coy about his re-election plans. When Tennessee’s junior senator stopped by this newspaper in June, he boasted of the close working relationship he had with the president. Corker, the chairman of the Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee, said he communicated daily with the White House on key issues.

Despite Trump being a Yankee from New York City and Corker a Southern boy from Chattanooga, the senator said he and the president were like-minded on so many things. That closeness began to unravel, however, when Corker noted to reporters that the administration was in a “downward spiral” as a result of insider leaks at the White House. Although his comment gained traction among Trump’s critics, Corker said his statement was not meant to be “destructive, but rather constructive.”

The Corker/Trump feud has baffled many political pundits. It shouldn’t. Never underestimate how low Trump will go when he thinks he’s being attacked. He learned that from the legendary attorney, Roy Cohn.

It’s hard to remember now that Corker was one of the first of Tennessee’s top-ranking politicians to get behind Trump’s presidential bid. While Gov. Bill Haslam and Sen. Lamar Alexander were keeping their distance from Trump, Corker was chiding his fellow Republicans in 2016 to give Trump a chance. He’s not so bad, Corker said.

Oh, what can change in one year’s time.

Robert Houk is Opinion page editor for the Johnson City Press. He can be reached at [email protected]

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