opinion

A Naive Letter From Fledging House Democrats
Politicians play their linguistic shell games — and the public loses

Walter Shapiro writes that linguistic sleight of hand is a popular trick on the Hill. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — An enduring Washington truth: When a politician uses multiple clauses in a sentence, the opening words are camouflage soon to be contradicted by what comes later.

Here are a few typical examples of this rhetorical shell game:

A House Race in North Carolina Gets Curiouser and Curiouser
Who knew the background checks for political work were so lax?

For a while it looked like Republican Mark Harris had squeaked out a win in the 9th District. But there’s something rotten in the state of North Carolina, Curtis writes. (John D. Simmons/AP file photo)

OPINION — CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Perhaps North Carolina’s 9th District will have a congressman by January; but maybe not.

You see, there seems to have been a mix-up in the count, distribution and collection of absentee ballots in Bladen and Robeson counties, which make up part of the district — what the state elections board (made up of four Democrats, four Republicans and one independent) called “unfortunate activities” when it first refused to certify the results.

From Bush’s Lips to Our Ears: To Heck With Campaign Promises
His fateful tax deal should inspire us to do what’s right, not what’s re-electable

George H.W. Bush went from “no new taxes” to just the opposite. But his willingness to change course was proof of his unwavering strength, Murphy writes. (Laura Patterson/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — There are two kinds of politicians in Washington when it’s all said and done — the kind who do what they have to do to get re-elected, and the kind who do what they believe they should do because it’s the right thing.

For all of the speeches and sound bites, the campaign ads and polling, it’s really not more complicated than that. Every decision in the capital comes back to that fundamental choice.

Governing ‘Mandates’ Are Usually Phony. This One Is Real
By opting for a divided Congress, voters were sending a clear message

With voters embracing divided government in last month’s elections, congressional leaders have an obligation to work toward a meaningful and realistic policy agenda next Congress, Grumet writes. Above, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony in October 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Over the past several election cycles, political parties, pundits and activists have proclaimed governing “mandates” based on the support of only a slim majority of voters who represent just a small fraction of the actual population. The mandate hyperbole has fueled careening and brittle policy agendas that have undermined economic progress and national cohesion.

In the recent midterms, our divided country has forcefully deprived both parties of the fantasy that they can govern without compromise. The question now is whether congressional leaders can develop a pragmatic agenda to lead a divided nation.

The Youngest Victims of the Opioid Crisis Deserve Better
Policymakers must extend services for infants beyond the first weeks of life

A new law that improves care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome is a step in the right direction, Smith writes. Above, Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden, who introduced the bill, and ranking member Frank Pallone Jr., a co-sponsor, put their heads together in 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — The opioid epidemic has hollowed out communities across the country and touched the lives of Americans of all ages. But we know disturbingly little about the youngest victims of this crisis: babies born with a type of opioid withdrawal called neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS.

One in five pregnant women fills a prescription for opioids, and while not all their babies will be born with the syndrome, all are at an increased risk. Just how prevalent is NAS? One government fact sheet noted that more than 21,000 babies were born with it in 2012 alone, and a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found the incidence of the condition spiked dramatically between 2000 and 2012. But from there the trail seems to go cold.

Not Even Lame Duckery Can Break the Lockstep of the GOP
It is hard to find evidence that congressional Republicans feel chastened by the midterm verdict

Defeat left Rep. Mia Love feeling “unleashed.” If only other lame-duck Republicans felt the same, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — In theory (and the emphasis here is on the word “theory”), the lame-duck session of Congress after a cataclysmic midterm election should be a fruitful time for bipartisanship.

With nearly 90 members of the House and eight senators not returning for the 116th Congress, old rigidities might give way to last-gasp attempts at legislating. The nothing-left-to-lose freedom of the defeated was best expressed by Mia Love, who said at her concession news conference, “Now, I am unleashed, I am untethered and I am unshackled, and I can say exactly what’s on my mind.”

Cue the ‘Jaws’ Soundtrack, Pelosi Is Hunting for Votes
California Democrat has long displayed a knack for winning tough votes

When it comes to counting votes in Congress, Nancy Pelosi has repeatedly shown she has few equals, Murphy writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — When Nancy Pelosi’s supporters talk about her strengths for the job of speaker, “counting votes” is usually right at the top of the list. But counting hardly describes the process that Pelosi has deployed for the last 16 years as the Democratic leader in the House to pass more landmark pieces of legislation than any other sitting member of Congress.

Part kindly godmother (think baby gifts and handwritten notes), part mentor, part shark, part party boss, Pelosi’s uncanny ability to move legislation may be the most important, yet least discussed, aspect of the Democrats’ internal debate about who should lead them into the future.

The Cabinet Secretary Who Should Have Known Better
Nielsen’s loyalty, harsh immigration policies were apparently not enough for Trump

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will be mostly remembered as the smiling public face of the heartless family-separation policy at the border, Shapiro writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — As a result of the natural tumult of politics along the corridors of power, Washington has always been filled with ambitious men and women plotting their next career move. This is Cinderella City where a few adroit steps can propel an anonymous staffer to the Cabinet in a golden coach.

At first glance, that is the story of 46-year-old Kirstjen Nielsen, who is nearing her first anniversary as secretary of Homeland Security. Championed by Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly — for whom she had worked at DHS and in the White House — Nielsen was put in charge in late 2017 of a sprawling Cabinet department with nearly a quarter of a million employees.

Too Soon? Divining Democrats With the ‘It’ Factor for 2020
Democrats are gravitating toward ‘star’ personalities to eclipse the president, but his ego already blocks out the sun

Neither the racist tropes of being “angry” nor her elite Ivy League credentials defined Michelle Obama. No wonder Democrats are dreaming of her name on the ticket, right next to Oprah Winfrey’s, Curtis writes. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

OPINION — A die-hard Democrat said to me at the gym, “Somebody has to MAKE Michelle Obama run for president.” This was after Obama’s appearance in a television interview, in which she reminded the world what it’s been missing.

Sorry to let that educated, suburban woman in workout clothes down, but in the former first lady’s own words, she has no wish to be president. Besides, she has already done her time under the microscope, making history along with her husband. It’s someone else’s turn now.

Thank you, Dan Crenshaw
Injured Navy SEAL an example of humor, forgiveness and leadership

That Dan Crenshaw survived his injuries to eventually run for Congress must feel like a miracle, Patricia Murphy writes. (Courtesy Crenshaw for Congress)

OPINION — As a political columnist, the hardest part isn’t finding something to write about, it’s narrowing your focus to just one topic. For today’s column, I could have written about the election mess in Florida, President Trump’s non-attendance at a Veterans Day parade in France, the fact that Nancy Pelosi could soon be second-in-line to the presidency (it could happen), or my complaint that 2020 speculation is the new Christmas decorating (too much too soon).

But after I saw Dan Crenshaw on Saturday Night Live, everything else seemed small in comparison. If you don’t know his name, you will. If you don’t know the story, here it is.