While “drain the swamp” originally meant draining water from marshes to rid them of mosquitoes, it has become popular since the 1980s in reference to getting rid of human pests – politicians who have outstayed their welcome. Although the idiom is relatively new, the problem is not. Prior centuries through the present have witnessed politicians serve between 45-50 years. Including President Joe Biden, of the 20 longest serving politicians in U.S. history, 17 were/are Democrats, although one later switched parties.
As we see with Biden, issues arise concerning our most elder statespersons as time takes its toll on them, memory fades and performance deteriorates. History tells us such was evident for one long-serving member in a position of responsibility.
This individual was a senior member of the military who served for 53 years in uniform, spending more than half those years as head of the U.S. Marine Corps (1820-1859) where he lived in a luxurious mansion in Washington, D.C. Having served longer than any other commandant, when Gen. Archibald Henderson died, he bequeathed his quarters to his heirs, forgetting they were the property of the United States government. Thus, he had no ownership rights to do so, although almost 40 years as commandant left him believing his casa was his casa.
This is the kind of osmotic thinking that occurs when public servants serve too long. For many, there is a tendency to transition from the reality of serving the people to embracing the false perception they are there to serve themselves. One who has clearly suffered from this is Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Born into a political family and having served in Congress for 34 years – now as speaker of the House for a second time – Pelosi suffered, somewhere along that timeline, a serious disillusionment that she is royalty. As such, she embraces powers beyond those set forth in the Constitution – the same Constitution she took an oath to protect and defend.
Perhaps her sense of entitlement stems from her $25,000 refrigerator filled with $13 tubs of gourmet ice cream about which she boasted to the media during the initial COVID lockdown, totally unmoved by the fact there are people who have to stand in line just to get food. But this perception of royalty appears to have imbued Pelosi with the false sense she also has the power to seat, or not, members of the House duly elected by those they represent.
Pelosi bizarrely claimed she had the “right” to seat or unseat members of Congress at will – in direct violation of the Constitution. Citing the 2020 election in which Rita Hart, D-Iowa, lost her race by only six votes – in a contest in which 400,000 votes were cast, triggering a protest – Pelosi claimed, “If I wanted to be unfair, I wouldn’t have seated the Republican (Mariannette Miller-Meeks) from Iowa because that was my right as speaker on the opening day. …” Like Gen. Henderson who thought he had power he did not, so too did Pelosi, not recognizing the only authority for such power was in her own mind.
One might try to excuse Pelosi’s unconstitutional claim of power as an isolated incident, but it is not. Just in the last few weeks alone, she has made inappropriate comments for one in her position.
For example, when queried about two incidents recently involving white police officers shooting black suspects – one of which is the subject of an on-going trial, the other still under investigation – she acted as judge and jury, suggesting guilt while also tossing out a self-serving statement on how she personally would have handled the latter incident differently, ignoring important facts in the case by doing so. Pelosi disregards the fact one is innocent until proven guilty.
And, in an act undermining her credibility, Pelosi said of the illegal immigration issue that the U.S. was on a “good path” under Biden’s leadership. How she claims this with a straight face as illegals break monthly record totals crossing our borders for various purposes – both good and bad – including the receipt of unearned stimulus checks, is mind-boggling.
One of the strongest bipartisan partnerships between a Democratic speaker and Republican president was that enjoyed by Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan. While the two men had their political differences, they also greatly respected each other and sought to do what was in America’s best interests. If their relationship represents the gold standard in bipartisan cooperation, Pelosi’s relationship with Republican presidents represents bipartisan politics’ nadir.
Pelosi achieved that nadir during Donald Trump’s presidency, although she managed to set an earlier low point during the George W. Bush presidency. In 2007, she visited Syrian President Bashir al-Assad, defying a Bush request not to reward a bad actor by doing so. She returned proclaiming, contrary to statements by Bush, Assad was someone with whom we could work. Years and hundreds of thousands of Syrian deaths later, her naive proclamation reveals her total lack of understanding about the Middle East. It also explains why she dismissed Trump’s brokering of peace agreements with Israel and three Arab nations as “a distraction.” She said this despite Trump proving wrong former Democratic Secretary of State John Kerry who had claimed such treaties impossible absent first brokering an Israel-Palestine peace deal.
Close scrutiny of Pelosi’s political career reveals power and prestige have been her prize motivators. That is why, despite cities being destroyed by rioters she will not criticize, she does nothing to protect citizens while actively working to budget security for herself and Congress following the Jan. 6 riot targeting the Capitol. It is why she seeks to investigate that riot while not calling for an investigation into hundreds of other riots claiming numerous lives and millions of dollars in property damage.
“The Old Gray Mare” is a traditional folk song that has been around a few more years than the Washington political swamp. One lyric notes the old mare “ain’t what she used to be.” Today, that idiom rarely appears in modern use as it is considered derogatory. However, it is fitting in describing Pelosi’s failure as speaker – a position from which she exercised power purely in the political interests of her party and self – and signaling it is her time to step down, voluntarily or involuntarily.
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Author: Lt. Col. James Zumwalt
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