Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

Rep. Taylor quietly earns his stripes in Congress

The media and political pundits have become enamored of the flash and sizzle of a few Democratic rookie members of Congress this year. I refer, for example, to Reps. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, both of whom attained instant celebrity status partly because of their big mouths and radical points of view.

The young man who represents my congressional district, Texas’s Third District, meanwhile has done something quite different in his first term in the House of Representatives.

Republican Van Taylor has quietly been working with Democrats, crossing the aisle, learning the ropes without making headlines.

I kind of wondered what has become of him since he took office in January. Now I know, according to a Dallas Morning News article.

The Morning News reports that Taylor, from Plano, is trying to govern on Capitol Hill the way he did as a Texas legislator. He has drawn praise from some of those dreaded Democrats who like the way he reaches out. Imagine that, if you can.

He is seeking to become a sort of “Mr. Bipartisan” as he navigates his way around the legislative maze.

Good for him.

I like that the new congressman is a veteran. He served for a decade in the Marine Corps, seeing duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Indeed, he succeeded a legendary congressman, fellow Republican Sam Johnson, who endured hideous torture as a Vietnam War prisoner for more than six years. So the Third Congressional District is being well-represented by another veteran with an understanding of the dangers of sending men and women into harm’s way.

As the Morning News reports, Taylor said military personnel “don’t get to pick your commanders,” nor do you ask what political party your comrades in arms belong to. You just do your job, he said.

So it should be in the halls of the nation’s Capitol.

If only the leaders on both sides of the aisle — and the leader in the White House — would follow Rep. Taylor’s advice.

Trump tempts political fate by ordering witnesses to stay silent

I just have to ask: Is Donald Trump committing an act of potential political suicide by refusing to allow witnesses from his administration to testify before congressional committees?

Another president, Richard Nixon, sought to play the same card in 1974. It cost him bigly. President Nixon told House Judiciary Committee Chairman Peter Rodino he would get nothing more from the administration regarding the Watergate matter.

Rodino wouldn’t accept that. He was able to force the president to turn over pertinent material related to the break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters in June 1972. The rest, as they say, is history. The Judiciary panel approved articles of impeachment and then the president resigned.

Forty-five years later, Donald Trump is seeking to play the same hand. He is telling the current House Judiciary chairman, Jerrold Nadler, that he will withhold information from that panel as it seeks to uncover the truth into allegations of obstruction of justice into the Russia matter that’s been in all the papers of late.

Nadler doesn’t strike me as being any more likely to cave in to this president’s demands than Rodino was in 1974 when Richard Nixon tried to bully him.

I among those Americans who does not favor impeaching Trump. I want the House and the Senate to do their work. Special counsel Robert Mueller appears headed to Capitol Hill eventually to talk to both legislative chambers.

I want Mueller to state on the record whether he believes Trump committed a crime, whether he obstructed justice. If he won’t say it, well, we need to accept what we won’t get. Then again, if he says that president did commit a crime of obstruction, but that Mueller just couldn’t commit to issuing a criminal complaint, well . . . then we have a ballgame.

Richard Nixon’s stonewalling ended badly for his presidency in 1974. Donald Trump’s reprise of that strategy well could doom his own presidency.

Hero emerges from Russia matter . . . honest!

Donald Trump reportedly is seething this weekend, the one in which Christians celebrate Jesus Christ’s joyous triumph over death.

Why is the president so angry during this happy time? He reportedly is fuming over revelations that former White House counsel Don McGahn reportedly saved Trump from committing a “high crime and misdemeanor” by firing special counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump wanted Mueller canned. He wanted McGahn to do it, or to get someone at the Justice Department to do it. McGahn balked. He didn’t follow through. Others did the same thing. McGahn, though, is the one who seems to have caught the president’s attention.

Thus, I believe we have a hero emerging from the Russia probe, the special counsel’s exhaustive look into the Trump campaign’s relationship with Russians who hacked into our electoral system.

Yes, I know. There’s a side of me that might wish that the president’s foolhardy order had been carried out. Canning the special counsel would have ignited a political wildfire that well could have removed Trump from the presidency by now.

That it didn’t is a testament to McGahn’s maturity and smarts as a lawyer. It also is a testament to just how ghastly the president’s instincts are on matters involving the law, the Constitution, governance, public service.

The Dipsh** in Chief doesn’t have a clue about what he’s doing.

Perhaps that is why he’s angry with McGahn. Mueller’s report has revealed the former White House legal eagle to be way smarter than his former boss . . . which, if you think about it isn’t saying all that much.

Moreover, Trump’s anger seems terribly misplaced. Think of it: The president contends that Mueller’s probe has granted him “total exoneration. No collusion, no obstruction!” Why, then, does someone who’s been “exonerated” feel the need to fume publicly via Twitter about an investigation that, according to Trump, has gone nowhere, nor will it go anywhere.

Actually, though, Mueller didn’t exonerate the president of obstructing justice. The collusion matter is off the table. Obstruction remains a live option for Congress to ponder, which is what Mueller has said categorically.

This leads me to believe that Trump knows the score. He well might be frightened at what might be thrown at him from atop Capitol Hill. Fright does have a way of producing anger. At least that’s been what I’ve witnessed over many years of life on this good Earth.

More questions remain. Good luck, Congress, as you start looking for answers to this obstruction of justice matter.

Happy Easter, Mr. President.

This Democratic congresswoman must be a colossus

It is astounding to the max how a young rookie member of Congress can attain superstar status even before she takes her oath of office.

Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez is that particular member. She now has become a chant theme at Republican rallies. Conservatives took great joy in bashing her continually at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Her name is everywhere, along with her face.

She’s a staple on cable news talk shows, late-night comics’ shows. You name the place, she’s there.

AOC, as she now is known, seems to be defying certain laws of physics by managing to be everywhere seemingly at once.

I do not get this.

There once was a time when freshman members of the House and Senate had to blunder and stumble their way around Capitol Hill. We didn’t hear their voices. We didn’t know what they sounded like.

Social media have tossed that truism into the crapper. Now some of these newbies become instant celebrities. AOC is the latest of them. Oh, we’ve got some more congressional rookies, too, but AOC has become the poster child, the whipping girl for Republicans and other conservatives to thrash. She is a socialist; she has pitched a number of interesting ideas, some of which are wacky, others need some attention.

And . . . yes, she’s whiffed on some statements, such as not knowing about the three branches of government. Her critics have pounced like big cats on their prey.

At a rally last night in Grand Rapids, Mich., the chant rang out “AOC sucks!” which caused Don Trump Jr. to stand there with a crap-eatin’ grin on his mug. Oh, I almost forgot: Don Jr. is a know-nothing, so it doesn’t matter a damn bit what he thinks about anything or anyone.

Back to my point, which is that the astounding presence of these congressional rookies on center stage gives them far more influence than they deserve.

Congressional toxicity is flaring to dangerous level

So . . . just how toxic is the atmosphere in Congress, if not in all of Washington, D.C.?

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff provided a critical example.

Committee Republicans today demanded that Schiff resign as chairman of the committee. Donald Trump has called on Schiff to quit Congress altogether. GOP Intelligence Committee member Mike Conaway of Midland said Schiff no longer has the standing to lead the committee and said he should resign immediately.

Schiff has been a stern critic of Donald Trump. He maintains that the president’s campaign did collude with Russians despite special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings to the contrary.

Schiff then took the microphone after Conaway’s lecture and gave it right back to his GOP colleagues. He held firm on his assertion that there was collusion. “You might say that’s all OK,” Schiff said. “You might say that’s just what you need to do to win. But I don’t think it’s OK. I think it is immoral, I think it is unethical, I think it’s unpatriotic and, yes, I think it’s corrupt.”

Yes, it is highly toxic on Capitol Hill. The mood between Congress and the White House is equally toxic.

Why mention it? Because it seems different now than any era I can recall. President Bush 43 managed to maintain working relationships with the likes of Sen. Ted Kennedy; President Reagan famously befriended House Speaker Tip O’Neill, his after-hours drinking buddy; President Bush 41 also maintained strong friendships with House Ways and Means Chairman Dan Rostenkowski; President Clinton managed to work with House Speaker Newt Gingrich to craft a balanced federal budget.

These days we hear Donald Trump calling Adam Schiff “pencil neck.” He is throwing out “traitorous” and “treasonous” terms to describe Democrats behavior during the special counsel’s probe into alleged collusion; and, yes, Democrats have tossed those terms at the White House, too.

Good government requires leaders of both political parties to find common ground. Dear reader, there ain’t a bit of commonality to be found these days. Anywhere!

It is going to get more divisive, more toxic the deeper we plow into the 2020 election season. After that remains anyone’s guess.

It is no fun — none at all — watching these men and women tear each others’ lungs out. Too many important matters are going unresolved because of the outright hatred one senses among politicians across the aisle that divides them.

‘Checks and balances’ principle gets new life

I do not believe it is an overstatement to presume that those of us who watched acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker’s skewering on Capitol Hill has provides us with a harbinger of what Donald Trump can expect for the next two years.

Whitaker spent most of the day today in front of the House Judiciary Committee, which was conducting an “oversight hearing” on the Department of Justice. He got pounded. He stonewalled the committee in return. It was an angry day of recrimination.

Whitaker is leaving the Justice Department soon. William Barr will be confirmed soon as the next attorney general. Whitaker was hardly an inspired choice to fill in for Jeff Sessions, who Trump fired a few weeks ago because the former AG recused himself from anything to do with “The Russia Thing.”

Now that Democrats control the House of Representatives, their caucus has assumed committee chairmanships. I believe that Democrats, who became fed up with Republican resistance to asking difficult questions of the Trump administration, are seeking to release some of that pent-up anger. We saw it on full display today as Whitaker appeared before the Judiciary Committee.

I also want to propose that this is not a bad thing. The U.S. Constitution grants Congress a measure of power that is equal to the presidency; throw in the federal courts and you have three equally powerful government branches.

Democrats challenged Whitaker; Republicans on the Judiciary panel challenged Democrats, who pushed back hard on the “points of order” that their GOP “friends” were asserting.

It wasn’t a pretty thing to watch today as Whitaker and Judiciary panel Democrats clashed openly. We might as well get used to it, though, ladies and gentlemen. Indeed, once the special counsel finishes his probe of alleged collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and the Russian government, there likely is going to be even more rhetorical grenades being tossed.

It won’t be pretty. Then again, representative democracy is a damn ugly form of government. However, as the great Winston Churchill noted, it’s far better than any other governmental system devised.

Watch the body language at the SOTU

I don’t know about you but I plan to try to interpret some body language that will be on full display this evening in front of the entire United States of America when Donald Trump delivers the presidential State of the Union speech.

Sitting over his left shoulder will be a woman with whom he has had, um . . . words. Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited him to the House of Representatives chamber, then uninvited him, then reinvited him.

The president and the speaker aren’t exactly close. They’re fighting over The Wall. Trump wants money to build it along our southern border; Pelosi says it is an “immoral” request and opposes its construction.

Hey, we’ve seen this kind of thing play out many times over many decades. Speaker John Boehner and later Paul Ryan never looked all that thrilled when Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union speeches. The speakers were Republicans, the president was a Democrat.

How about when Speaker Pelosi sat behind GOP President Bush, or when GOP Speaker Newt Gingrich had to listen to Democratic President Clinton deliver the SOTU? Same thing, man. The speaker of a different party than the president usually doesn’t jump to his or her feet to applaud when POTUS delivers a line that suggests he expects some hand claps.

The animus between the current speaker and the president, though, is more visceral. Or so it appears. Sure, Trump said some nice things about Pelosi when House Democrats elected her speaker at the start of this congressional session. Did he mean them? Hah, you figure it out!

Pelosi, meanwhile, has been even less generous in her public comments about Trump. I believe the president knows it and likely will feel the speaker’s icy stare on the back of his neck while he talks about the State of the (dis)Union.

Pass the popcorn.

Teleprompter Trump vs. Twitter Trump

I read a headline today that wondered which version of Donald Trump we’re going to see Tuesday when he stands before a joint congressional session to deliver a State of the Union speech.

Will it be Teleprompter Trump or Twitter Trump?

Oh, brother. Neither version of the president of the United States is particularly appealing to me. Then again, I’m a critic of the president, so he’s got a huge mountain to climb to swing me to his side of the great political divide.

Teleprompter Trump seeks to sound presidential. However, he’s not very good at it. I watch Teleprompter Trump deliver remarks while reading prepared text and I get the feeling I am watching someone who doesn’t believe a single word he is saying. He speaks as if he’s being held hostage. His message sounds like one of those phony confessions one’s captors force a prisoner to make.

Teleprompter Trump is insincere. I don’t believe him when he speaks to us in that fashion. For that matter, I don’t believe anything he says at any time, under any circumstance. Scratch that notion. He is particularly unbelievable when he’s reading from a device that rolls prepared text in front of him.

Twitter Trump is another sort of creature altogether. This is the version of the Donald Trump that speaks from what passes for his heart, or his brain, or whatever source that produces those incoherent ramblings.

Twitter Trump is what we see at those political rallies. We saw that version of Donald Trump throughout the 2016 presidential campaign. He has showed up repeatedly while serving as president. He wails and whines about the “witch hunt,” or the “hoax.” He throws out those goofy and nonsensical nicknames/epithets he hangs on his political adversaries.

If Teleprompter Trump falls short of sounding presidential, Twitter Trump makes no attempt at delivering high-minded rhetoric. Twitter Trump makes me cringe. He embarrasses me, even though I take no responsibility for his winning the 2016 presidential election.

Which of them will show up on Capitol Hill to deliver the SOTU? It doesn’t matter to me. I guess I just consider it a bit of a back story to a larger drama that continues to play out — with a potentially tragic ending yet to come.

So, just how is the ‘state of our Union’?

Donald J. Trump is going to stand in the U.S. House of Representatives next week to deliver his State of the Union speech.

I really am wondering how he’s going to characterize the state of our Union.¬†Will he declare it strong? Is it vibrant? Does our Union reflect his aim to “make America great again”?

Were the president to ask me about how I view the state of our Union, I would have tell him the harsh truth as I see it. The Union is broken. It is damaged badly. It needs repair.

I get that the economy is rocking along. We’re adding tens of thousands of jobs each month. Unemployment is at near-historic lows. The economic improvement has accelerated during the first two years of the president’s term. For that I give him due credit.

However, there is so much more that is fractured.

The president cannot possibly declare, given the state of our federal functionality, declare the Union to be strong. Oh, but he’ll likely seek to do exactly that. He might draw laughter from the Democratic side of the House chamber along with the cheers that will come from the Republicans.

Our federal government is on life support. Congress and the president cannot pay for it to run for longer than weeks at a time. They are haggling over The Wall. Trump is trying to keep a profoundly stupid campaign promise to build the thing; he is trying to foist the cost on you and me while ignoring the pledge he made dozens of times that Mexico would pay for The Wall.

He will declare that there’s a “crisis” on the southern border. There is no crisis. Indeed, the only crisis I can find is within the United States, where gunmen keep killing fellow Americans. Do you remember the president’s pledge that “this American carnage” was going to stop? It hasn’t ended. He will ignore that, too.

Well, I look forward to hearing from the president. I cannot support him or his agenda. I cannot condone the way he berates his national security team, or how he insults his foes and denigrates the media.

How will he frame the state of our Union, which in reality is as divided as it has been for the past two decades? It likely will bear no resemblance to what many millions of Americans perceive.

SOTU speech will produce more drama . . . perhaps

I am willing to admit it: I usually watch presidents of the United States deliver State of the Union speeches.

It’s an annual event and this year I’ll be home the evening of Feb. 5 when Donald Trump will deliver his speech to a joint session of Congress. He will tell them — no doubt about it! — that the “state of the Union is strong!”

He’ll likely get as much laughter as applause, if that’s what he says.

The president was supposed to deliver the SOTU on Tuesday. Then he messed up by shutting down the government. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who is empowered to invite the president into the House of Representatives chamber for these speeches, pulled the invitation back. Open the government, Mr. President, before delivering the speech.

Trump at first looked for an alternate venue. Then he announced he was “proud” to reopen the part of the government he had shuttered.

Those of us who look at matters reasonably and somewhat dispassionately can understand the obvious: The state of our Union is in terrible condition. Six weeks ago, the president could have declared that the nation’s economic condition was good; now it’s teetering just a bit.

As for the political state of our Union, it is as divided as it was when Trump took office more than two years ago. He vowed to be a unifying president. He hasn’t made the grade. He has vowed to get Mexico to build The Wall. Now he’s trying to foist the cost of the monstrosity on you and me.

There’s always the back story that plays out at these speeches. Lawmakers from the president’s party will cheer the head of state; those who serve under the other party banner will sit on their hands. It happens no matter who is delivering the speech.

This speech will attract particular attention to that phenomenon simply because the president happens to be Donald John Trump.

I’ll make this clear: I do not expect to smile and nod at much — if anything! — of what comes from the president’s mouth.

However, I’ll be watching with keen interest.