Tag Archives: Congress

Barr faces different Congress in a different era

William Pelham Barr surely knows that he is stepping onto political terrain that is a universe apart from where he once ventured.

President George H.W. Bush nominated him to be attorney general in 1991 and he sailed through confirmation, being approved unanimously by the Senate Judiciary Committee and by the full Senate.

Another president, named Donald Trump, has selected him for the top justice job once again. Will he sail effortlessly to confirmation? Nope. It won’t happen.

This is a different time. We have a different type of man in the Oval Office. The climate in Washington is far more toxic than it was when the AG-designate strode upon the national scene back in the old days.

The government is partially shut down. Questions are swirling all around the president. The previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, got fired because he acted ethically by recusing himself from an investigation into a circumstance in which he was a principal player; he then incurred the president’s wrath for standing up for the rule of law and for DOJ ethics policies.

William Barr is facing tough questioning from Senate committee Democrats. He is handling himself well and I happen to believe he should be confirmed as attorney general, largely because he is now on record as committing himself to ensuring that a key investigation into Trump’s campaign is completed fully and without political pressure or interference.

Yes, there is plenty to concern Americans. I would prefer that Barr commit to letting the public view special counsel Robert Mueller’s report when he issues it. However, he has stated that Mueller — whom he has known for 30 years — is not engaging in a “witch hunt” and has expressed confidence in the integrity of his probe.

And . . . he has told senators that he won’t allow the president to bully him the way he did Jeff Sessions.

This confirmation process is going to be a lot tougher for William Barr than it was the first time. It’s merely a symptom of the era into which we entered upon the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.

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.

Sen. King has it right: No one favors open borders

U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, calls it right.

“There’s no one in Congress that’s for open borders. I am so tired of hearing that you’re either for the wall or open borders. That’s nonsense.”

It’s also demagogic. It is fear-mongering. It is reprehensible.

Yet the president of the United States and his diminishing “base” of supporters keep harping on the lie that those who oppose building The Wall favor “open borders,” which implies a border with no security, no safeguards, no protection of U.S. citizens.

Donald Trump has relegated this discussion to a series of lies and innuendo. It’s old hat for the guy who campaigned for the presidency on a platform built on such lying. Yet he suckered enough voters in just the right states to score an Electoral College victory in 2016, to the surprise of virtually every political “expert” on Earth.

I will continue to harp on this demagoguery for as long as I am able. Trump must be called out for what he is doing. He is fomenting fear where none is deserved.

He’ll go on national TV Tuesday night and possibly tell us whether he’ll declare a phony “national emergency” because of non-existent “terrorists” who he says are “pouring” into the country. They are not. He knows it’s a lie, but none of it matters not one damn bit to the Liar in Chief.

The Wall is a pretext for keeping a ridiculous campaign promise. He said he would build this “big, beautiful wall” to stem illegal immigration. However, he also promised to make Mexico pay for it. Mexico says it won’t spend a nickel. The U.S. president cannot force a sovereign foreign government to do anything. Trump knows that, too — or at least he should know it.

Donald Trump has now resorted to declaring that those who oppose The Wall want “open borders.”

He is lying!

2019 won’t see a return of civility

Civility and Politics Political Cartoon

Only the most naïve Pollyanna who ever lived is going to hold out hope that the new year, the new Congress and the looming presidential election is going to signal a return of political civility.

It ain’t gonna happen, man. You don’t need me to tell you the obvious.

Democrats who took control of the U.S. House of Representatives are loaded for bear. The president of the United States, who has hurled insults the way he might toss pebbles into a pond, has opened himself up to an aura of recrimination. Democrats are in no mood to go easy on Donald Trump. The subpoenas will be flying out of committee chairs’ offices quite soon.

A brand new House member has tossed an f-bomb at Trump, declaring the Democrats’ intent — she says — to impeach him.

The government is partially shut down because Trump wants $5 billion to build The Wall along our southern border. He’s accusing Democrats and the handful of Republicans who oppose The Wall of being for “open borders” and for coddling illegal immigrants at the expense of protecting Americans from the hordes of murderers, rapists, drug dealers and human traffickers he says are pouring into this country.

Is this how you make America great again? Is this how you unify a divided nation? Is this how you reach out to those who voted against you, and in Donald Trump’s case that’s more of them than those who voted for him?

I have tried to hold out a flicker of hope for a return to more civility. That hope is all but extinguished. The flicker has been blown out by all the angry hot air that’s been expelled by politicians who call their opponents “the enemy” or “evil” or any other vicious epithet you can imagine.

My hope once sprang eternal. No more.

Wondering if term limits will return to debate stage

With all the hoo-hah in Washington about the battle of ideologies — conservative vs. liberal — I am wondering about the fate of the debate over term limits.

In 1994, Republicans led by U.S. Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia, campaigned successfully on the Contract With America platform that included a silly proposition: to limit the terms of members of Congress.

Voters seemed to buy into the notion that we ought to place mandatory limits on the time House members and senators can serve. After all, we limit the president to two elected terms, thanks to the 22nd Amendment. Why not demand the same thing of Congress members?

Well, the idea hasn’t gone anywhere. It requires an amendment to the Constitution. Referring an amendment to the states for their ratification requires a two-thirds vote in both congressional chambers. Term limits proposals haven’t made the grade.

Term limits is primarily a Republican-led initiative. Democrats have dug in against the idea, saying correctly that “we already have term limits. We call them ‘elections.'”

I don’t favor mandatory limits. Indeed, there has been a significant churn of House members and senators already without the mandated limits. The new Congress comprises roughly a membership that includes roughly 25 percent of first-time officeholders. That ain’t bad, man!

Sure, there are deep-rooted incumbents from both parties who make legislating their life’s calling. However, I only can refer back to their constituents: If these lawmakers are doing a poor job, their constituents have it within their power to boot them out; if the constituents are happy with their lawmakers’ performance, they are entitled to keep them on the job.

Of course, we don’t hear much from the nation’s Republican in Chief, the president of the United States, about term limits. He’s too busy “making America great again” and fighting for The Wall. He can’t be bothered with anything as mundane and pedestrian as establishing limits for the amount of time lawmakers can serve.

But where are the GOP fire starters? Have they lost their interest? Or their nerve?

I’m fine with the idea remaining dormant. Just wondering whether it’s died a much-needed death.

Should awards shows become political events?

Variety magazine poses a question that is giving me fits, but I have reached a conclusion.

It asks whether televised awards shows that honor entertainers should become a forum for honorees to spout their political views.

I think not.

The Emmys, Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes ceremonies have been most memorable for the political speeches that actors and others in the entertainment industry deliver while accepting their trophies.

Are their opinions of some value? Sure they are. Are these ceremonies the place for them to make those views known to the entire world? I don’t believe so.

I have long believed in the “There’s a time and place for everything” theory. I have this admittedly old-fashioned view that awards ceremonies are intended solely to honor those who get paid lots of money to, um, entertain us. That is why I watch them — on the rare occasion that I do.

Free speech is great, however . . .

You may spare me the rebuttal about “freedom of speech,” and “First Amendment guarantees” and this being a “free country.” Believe me, I get all of that. I understand the argument in favor of those who want entertainers to deliver us their political views on the issues of the day.

I also am acutely aware of the entertainment industry’s left-leaning bias. These folks, to be candid, are preaching to the choir if they are talking to me. I share their bias. Thus, I don’t need to hear points of view that merely affirm what I already believe.

All I want from entertainers is for them to perform up to the standards we all expect of them. Whether they think badly of the president of the United States or of certain members of Congress or of governors of certain states is irrelevant.

Good grief! We’re inundated with opinion 24/7 on cable TV shows, in various publications, and in blogs — such as this one.

Entertainment awards ceremonies need not be a forum to feed me more of the same.

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.

That’s not how you make a name for yourself, young lady

U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib wasted no time in calling serious attention to herself as she took office in the House of Representatives.

She said it’s time to “impeach the motherfu***er,” meaning the president of the United States, Donald J. Trump Sr.

Tlaib isn’t apologizing. She isn’t backing down. Indeed, she seems to be doubling, maybe tripling, down on that ridiculous profanity she shouted to a crowd of supporters.

She issued a Twitter statement declaring her intention to “speak truth to power.”

Good . . . grief! You can do all of that without resorting to the language the rookie Michigan Democratic congresswoman used.

I get that this kind of language is nothing new. Vice President Dick Cheney famously told Sen. Patrick Leahy to “go f*** yourself” on the floor of the Senate. Presidents Johnson and Nixon were known to pepper their language with what my dad used to call “the functional four-letter word.” I’m still reading Bob Woodward’s book “Fear,” and it contains quotes from Trump and his chief aides that are littered with more f-bombs than one can imagine.

Hey, I’m not a prude about this kind of thing. I have been known to utter a profanity on occasion myself.

However, a freshman member of Congress speaking like that on her very first day in office goes a bit beyond what I consider to be acceptable, particularly when she’s referring to what might occur down the road with regard to impeaching the nation’s head of state.

I am left to offer you this statement from a reader of High Plains Blogger, who wrote to me: We’re quickly approaching a Taiwan-style Congress with fistfights on the House floor. Good! Maybe they’ll regain some civility if they know they’ll get a couple teeth knocked out.

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.