Tag Archives: Capitol Hill

‘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.

GOP caucus leaders render Rep. King useless . . . good!

A resignation might not be too far off for U.S. Rep. Steve King, the Iowa Republican with a big mouth but, more importantly, repugnant views about white supremacy and white nationalism.

The House of Representatives GOP leadership has just stripped King of all his committee assignments. He will not serve on a single committee during the 116th Congress, a move that renders him essentially useless. He’ll get to vote on issues that come to a full floor vote, but he will not have any substantial input in crafting legislation that committees prepare prior to that vote.

What prompted this unusual move? King managed to reveal once again that he is no friend of ethnic or racial minorities. He said during a New York Times interview that he couldn’t understand why the terms “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” became “offensive language.”

No kidding? He didn’t understand it? Those terms became “offensive” when groups that carried those labels lynched African-Americans and brutalized other non-white, non-Christian Americans.

This idiocy is not the first time King has been linked to these hideous groups and their beliefs. The GOP House leadership has had enough of their colleague.

Now he ought to take the next logical step, having been stripped of any committee assignments in the People’s House.

Steve King should resign and go home.

How do these politicians rise so quickly?

Call it one of the great mysteries of American political life.

People get elected to a governing body, such as Congress, and some of them — usually just a handful of them — rise immediately to the top of our national attention.

They’re everywhere. They emerge from a crowd of 535 individuals serving in the Senate and the House. They can’t find their way to the restroom, but they sure can find a TV camera and the media attach themselves to these individuals, chronicling their every move, every utterance, everything about them.

And this is before they actually cast any votes!

The Congressional Freshman Class of 2019 is no exception to this rule.

You have the well-known politician, such as Sen. Mitt Romney, the Utah Republican. We all know Mitt. He ran for president and was the GOP nominee in 2012. Mitt took office with an established political profile, lots of name ID. He’s already a heavy hitter. He wrote an op-ed criticizing the president and he made fans among Democrats and a collected a few more critics among Republicans. If he were a no-name, no one would have cared what he said about Donald Trump.

Then you have the pol who jumps out of the tall grass and becomes well-known and over-reported for reasons that don’t quite compute. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the New York Democrat, fits that description. She knocked off an establishment Democrat, Rep. Joe Crowley, in the state primary. Then she breezed to election this past fall. She’s a socialist. She wants to levy huge taxes on rich people.

The media report on everything she says and does. She is, to use the phrase, “telegenic,” meaning that she’s attractive. She is young and energetic.

She’s been in office for all of three days and she’s already a star. Why? Beats the bejabbers out me, man.

Oh, and then you have Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., who dropped an f-bomb while saying she wants to impeach the president. She, too, has made a name for herself — already! Enough on her, for now.

Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz rose quickly to the top of our attention in 2013 when he took office. He took on the posture of an ambitious man who sought higher office. He ran for president in 2016 and was among the last men standing as Donald Trump won the GOP nomination. Again, as with Ocasio-Cortez, I am baffled as to why the Cruz Missile got the publicity he got. But he did.

And so the new Congress begins work. It has its returning “legends in their own minds,” and actual legends. It has its share of those who want to become legendary. Some of them will get there eventually. Some even might actually deserve to attain that lofty status.

Still, we have that great unexplainable: How do some of these individuals manage to insert themselves into every political conversation before they actually do anything?

Yep, some of us do care that she swore

I had to look this guy up before offering a comment on what he had to say. Mikel Jollett, I learned, is a musician and author, who is best known as the front man for an indie rock group called Airborne Toxic Event.

Now with that out of the way, I want to declare that I happen to care that a freshman congresswoman swore when she called for the impeachment of Donald J. Trump. I do not support the president of the United States; I didn’t vote for what he calls a “racist sexual predator.”

The basis for my caring about Rep. Rashida Tlaib’s foul mouth is two-fold.

First, she is a brand new member of Congress who sought to make a name for herself right out of the chute. Mission accomplished. All she had to say was that she believes Democrats are going to “impeach the motherfu***r.” Washington is all abuzz over what she said.

Second, she could have made precisely that point without using the gutter language. I get that Trump has said all of that. He trash talks with the best of ’em. I am acutely aware of his history, of the language he has used to describe how he treats women. I am aware of the misogynistic nature of his comments.

None of that — zero! — justifies the use of the language that a heretofore virtually unknown rookie member of Congress has used to highlight (or lowlight) what she hopes happens within the halls of Congress.

I do not want the newly empowered Democratic Party congressional caucus to slide into the gutter occupied by Donald Trump and so many members of his “base.”

As for Mikel Jollett — whoever he is — the young man should cease assuming that “nobody cares” that an “incoming congresswoman” swore. He is mistaken.

Is there a ‘woodshed’ in Rep. Tlaib’s future?

Wouldn’t you know it? A rookie member of the U.S. House of Representatives blurts out a profane declaration, about how House Democrats are going to “impeach the mother***er” and fellow Democrats start expressing their anger at this upstart.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Michigan has made her mark immediately. It’s not a pretty mark. She was seeking to fire up a crowd of progressive activists when she offered the foul-mouthed pledge to impeach Donald J. Trump.

Democrats getting angry

Other Democrats are upset that Tlaib has overturned their efforts to orchestrate an orderly transition to power in the House, now that they are in the majority. They don’t want to rush into what might turn out to be a foolish act if they seek impeachment before knowing all the facts related to the myriad issues at hand.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is expected to file his report soon on his probe into “The Russia Thing.” Loudmouths like Tlaib are getting way ahead of themselves.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — who calls impeachment a “last resort” — might need to escort the young freshman lawmaker to the proverbial “woodshed” for a woman-to-woman chat about how things get done in the People’s House. She ought to rethink her hands-off approach to Democratic caucus members’ fiery rhetoric.

It reminds of a time many years ago when a whipper-snapper U.S. senator named Rick Santorum sought to challenge one of the Senate’s elders about legislating.

The late Sen. Mark Hatfield, an Oregon Republican, chaired the Senate Appropriations Committee. He decided to vote against a defense bill to pay for a new nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Corpus Christi. Why the objection? Hatfield was a deeply religious man and he didn’t like the idea of a weapon of war carrying a name that translated from the Latin means “Body of Christ.” Santorum, a newly elected Republican from Pennsylvania, raised a stink about it and sought to have Hatfield removed from his key committee chairmanship.

One of the GOP Senate elders, Bob Dole of Kansas, took Santorum aside and said, in effect, “Young man, don’t even think about challenging Mark Hatfield.”

Santorum backed off.

There ought to be a similar scolding in Rep. Tlaib’s future as well.

That’s no way to talk, Rep. Potty Mouth

Consider this blog post an addendum to the previous post I wrote on High Plains Blogger. I had counseled the freshman Democratic House class about rushing to impeach Donald J. Trump, imploring them to wait for special counsel Robert Mueller to release the findings of his investigation into “The Russia Thing.”

Then this item emerged overnight.

Newly sworn in U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat, exhorted her followers by declaring the House Democratic caucus intends to “impeach the motherfu**er!”

The epithet is aimed at the president of the United States of America.

Do I really need to inform this young, newly minted U.S. lawmaker about “decorum” and “dignity”? I don’t . . . but I will!

The tone and tenor of our political discourse has gotten pretty ugly in recent years. The nation does not need to hear filthy epithets spewed from members of Congress, especially newbies who don’t know their way around the halls of the Capitol Building, let alone around the halls of power within that grand and noble structure.

Tlaib already has made history by becoming one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and by being the first Palestinian-American to win a seat there.

However, my advice to the young lawmaker is this: Knock off the tough talk, settle down, set up your office and get to work on  your constituents’ needs, wants and demands. They sent you there to do their work, not to make an a** of yourself.