Republicans have continually claimed to be the party of fiscal responsibility and smaller government while labeling Democrats as “tax and spend.” But Donald Trump hoisted Republicans on their own petard last week when he not only struck a deal with Democrat congressional leaders for a three-month extension of the debt ceiling, but suggested eliminating the debt limit altogether. In the meantime, he’s pushing for massive tax cuts and vastly increased military spending which will make paying those debts even more difficult, if not impossible, for future generations.

Trump’s actions left Republican congressional leaders in shock and gasping for air like fish out of water since, as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan had said only hours before Trump stabbed him in the back, such a short-term debt extension was “ridiculous.”

Indeed, the smug smiles on House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke volumes about how they thought they outfoxed the politically naïve president and their Republican congressional foes. But that’s only because both major political parties see governance as a clash of two sports teams rather than an extremely complex task to bring long-term stability and security to the 325 million Americans whose interests they’re actually supposed to be serving.

The reason Demo leaders are dancing in the streets is because they will now be able to tie in the proposed tax cuts — that largely benefit the wealthy and corporations — with the need to either raise the debt limit again in December or face default. That bumps the conflicting issues to 2018 and the mid-term elections, which Republicans face with increasing fear since Trump’s approval ratings area at all-time lows for a first-year president and the party’s inability to enact the changes they promised voters due to savage infighting.

In the meantime, the “natural” disasters continue to pound the nation. Right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey, which has already pulled $15 billion in relief funds out of the Treasury, comes Hurricane Irma, the most potent hurricane ever recorded, which has already devastated the Caribbean and is predicted to inflict incredible damage on Florida and the East Coast.

Cutting government and taxes at the very time they are most needed by the citizens obviously makes no sense. Then again, nor does it make sense to continue to deny the effect global warming is having on the disasters wracking the nation.

Here in Montana, our science-challenged Congressional Republicans continue to blame environmentalists for the wildfires that have scorched a million acres so far. But of course it was the environmentalists who have long been warning of catastrophic effects of continuing to pollute the atmosphere with ever-increasing amounts of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Nor should one ignore the fact that both U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte continue to press not only for burning more coal, but for cutting down more forests — and our forests are by far the most efficient means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. How dumb is doing the exactly wrong thing not once, but twice?

Make no mistake, the GOP is now firmly hooked on the horns of its logic-free ideology with no apparent way out. Throw in a backstabbing president, who is supposed to be leading their party, and their dilemma becomes even more severe. If the Republican Party was only hurting itself it wouldn’t much matter — we can get by without Republicans. But that’s simply not the case. Our nation and planet are now at stake thanks to the Republicans’ utter chaos.

George Ochenski's column appears each Monday on the Missoulian's Opinion page. He can be reached by email at oped@missoulian.com.

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