Hopelessness And Cause For Hope

Like most recent weeks there were plenty of political fireworks in America last week. Today I’d like to focus on two events. Let’s explore.

Perhaps the wisest decision I made last week was not to watch the State of the Union address live. I relaxed with my wife watching HGTV and went to sleep early. News recaps on Wednesday gave me all the information I needed and I was nice and refreshed Wednesday morning when I had a totally enjoyable day of volunteering where I interacted with students at one of the local high schools. This upcoming generation holds great promise!

If I had to sum up President Trump’s State of the Union Address in a single word, that word is: lies. I was among those who criticized George W. Bush for the infamous sixteen words in his 2003 State of the Union Address which contained a single lie. Had Trump limited himself to sixteen lies Tuesday night he would have never been able to go 120 minutes.

Friday I took advantage of being retired and having a light schedule. I watch almost the entirety of Acting Attorney General Mathew Whitaker’s testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. I will sum up his performance with two words: arrogant and inconsistent.

During his brief time in the spotlight one of the most laughable claims to emanate from Whitaker was that he was an academic All-American. (It was proven to be a false claim. Why do Trump and his people continue to lie about easily disprovable things?) Whitaker, like Trump, isn’t even considerably bright. His arrogance proved that early into the hearing. Chairman Jerry Nadler, by virtue of his position opened up the questioning. Whitaker’s initial response to Nadler’s final question was, “Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up.” That is similar to informing a traffic cop who stops you for speeding that you pay his salary. It is neither a smart move nor does it usually end well for the motorist. A good rule of thumb is to respect your superiors; even situational superiors. In Whitaker’s case that means if it walks on two legs consider it to be superior to you.

Whitaker was clearly overmatched by the Committee Democrats. Of course they had a substantial advantage; they were seeking the truth and Whitaker was trying to conceal it. His answers were inconsistent at best, deceptive at worst. He did get considerable help from the Republicans on the Committee most prominently Ranking Member Doug Collins. Collins repeatedly came to Whitaker’s aid with interruptions (all failed to carry) that delayed the proceedings long enough to give Whitaker a break, blunt the impact of the Democrats’ truth seeking probes and disrupt the Democrats’ timing.

When Trump first took the presidency many begged everyone to give him a chance in the hope that he would grow into the job. Asking an egotistical and grossly unqualified man to suddenly mature in his early seventies is irrational and after two years we see it was a fool’s wish. At best Whitaker is a sycophant playing to an audience of one (Donald Trump) in the hope of becoming a right wing hero that can make a decent living off his loyalty and legend (i.e. Sarah Palin and Oliver North). Trump is simply Don Trump – leader of an organized criminal enterprise. If there was any prior doubt, last week they proved themselves to be hopeless.

Now for the bright side and it all revealed itself on Friday afternoon. I’ll sum it up as Hakeem Jeffries and the freshmen.

I supported Nancy Pelosi for the Speakership. I think current House Democratic leadership is too old but there was nobody waiting in the wings to take her place. (Debbie Wasserman Schultz was that person until thinks went sideways in 2016. That is a story in itself.) That being said, I realize it cannot be a long term situation. Jeffries has been elevated into a leadership position and it appears is deservedly being groomed as Pelosi’s successor. I expect that to happen sometime in the 117th or 118th Congress assuming the Democrats retain control of the chamber.

While Jeffries’ probing of Whitaker was neither designed to nor evoked any revelations it was classic leadership, rally the troops stuff. Pelosi is a hall of famer and as in sports, in politics, I’m never sure you really replace people like that. However, Jeffries continues to prove he is capable of “fielding the position”.

When I was coaching basketball at the college level a major part of my job was recruiting. One of the few interesting parts of early season practices was seeing how the freshman faired when matched up against the upperclassmen. Were they really as good as you thought they would be?

I intentionally watched the last questioners. In fact I had anticipated those moments all day. Overall, the freshmen did well. There were plenty of jitters and many needed a few more “reps” to smooth out their performances, but all and all they performed very well. If I had to pick a “star” it was Mary Gay Scanlon. Unlike a lot of her “classmates” she was unknown to me and has not received a lot of publicity. She just handled herself well displaying congressional maturity well beyond her experience of about a month. The laws of large numbers tell me that one of more “stars” will emerge from this class. One committee hearing does not make a legislative career but Scanlon is now on my radar screen.

Trump and his crew are beyond hope which, if last week was any indication, in today’s Washington is represented by the House freshman class.

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