From abortion to immigration, endless battles that lead nowhere

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It seems to be all sound and fury these days, with no tangible outcome.

That may be great for the media, which love combat and conflict, and for politicians, who love to decry and declaim. But actual progress? Not so much.

Washington has always been known for gridlock that matches the Beltway traffic, but now it's on steroids. It’s almost as though, while people slam each other on Twitter and Facebook, nobody expects anything to happen.

Let's go down the list.

President Trump unveiled an immigration plan yesterday, and even before the announcement The Washington Post said it's "already is facing skepticism from lawmakers in both political parties, and there appears to be no clear path toward advancing the plan through Congress."

What a shock. And the president probably didn't help its chances by immediately calling Democrats the "open borders" party.

The plan, which would favor legal immigrants with high skills over those with family ties, is "another test of Trump's willingness to stump for a plan that could face opposition from border hawks and his ability to forge bipartisan support at a time when he has inflamed Democrats over unilateral immigration actions, including declaring a national emergency to pay for a border wall."

It's true that his hard-line approach has played mainly to his base. But it’s not all Trump's fault. Barack Obama couldn't solve the immigration mess either, and neither could George W. Bush. Neither side is ever prepared to make the necessary compromises.

Next up is abortion, an issue that has become more politicized than ever. Alabama just adopted a law that would ban almost all abortions in the state, including in cases of rape and incest, and that has hardened the battle lines.


Liberal commentators and the Democratic presidential candidates are all denouncing the measure as an assault on women. Some conservative pundits and Republicans — although there is a split over severity and tactics — are defending the Alabama effort as overdue.

But here, too, we're looking at a long period of inaction. The Alabama statute doesn't take effect for six months and it faces a long legal battle that may well end up at the Supreme Court.


With its extreme provisions — no exceptions for rape and incest, 99-year prison terms for providers — the law seems crafted to trigger a high court review of Roe v. Wade. And even such pro-life advocates as Pat Robertson are predicting it will be struck down, which takes us back to square one (although several states are passing less severe abortion restrictions).

And then there's Iran. The papers are full of details about backstage power struggles after administration officials devised a contingency plan to send up to 120,000 troops to the Middle East.

"President Trump is frustrated with some of his top advisers, who he thinks could rush the United States into a military confrontation with Iran and shatter his long-standing pledge to withdraw from costly foreign wars," says The Washington Post, "according to several U.S. officials."

What’s more, "Trump grew angry last week and over the weekend about what he sees as warlike planning that is getting ahead of his own thinking, said a senior administration official with knowledge of conversations Trump had regarding national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo."

Such infighting occurs in every administration. Trump, having pulled out of the Iran nuke deal, places a high value on confronting that provocative regime, but is also disdainful of endless wars. So we have plenty of behind-the-scenes churning, but no real movement.


And speaking of endless wars, don't get me started on endless investigations. We've been through two years of the Mueller probe and both sides are still fighting about the fallout. Now Bill Barr has tapped a federal prosecutor to look into the origins of the FBI inquiry into the Trump campaign and Russia, which is also being examined by DOJ’s inspector general. More sound and fury.

I think many Americans are just tuning out this daily warfare, along with a presidential campaign that once again has started way too early. And that may be a rational response.