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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.

Independents Decided This Election. They’ll Decide the Next One Too
Everything depends on the people in the middle — the ones who don’t get up every day breathing fire

Immigration, a party base issue, couldn’t deliver Republicans the independent votes they needed to push competitive House races over the edge, Winston writes. Above, a man demonstrates in front of the Capitol in September. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — There is a lot still to be learned from the midterm elections as analysts pour over incoming data, but one thing we do know is that this was a terribly divisive election, reflecting a growing disunity that isn’t good for either party or the nation.

Voters know it, too. The 2018 exit polls asked voters whether the country, politically, was becoming more or less divided. By a margin of 76 percent to 9 percent, people opted for “more divided,” an ominous sign that something has to change.

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.

Republican Study Committee to Decide Between Mike Johnson, Tom McClintock for Next Chairman
Both candidates want to boost the RSC’s role in developing and communicating conservative policy ideas

Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., is running to be the next chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in the House. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Republicans aren’t shying away from their conservative beliefs after they lost more than 30 seats to Democrats in last week’s midterm election. If anything they’re doubling down and trying to hone in on a more conservative message heading into 2020.

The Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative caucus in Congress, has long wrestled with questions about what it means to be a conservative and how to enact conservative policy in a divided Congress. Even with unified Republican government these past two years, the RSC struggled to enact some of its key priorities, such as pro-life policies and work requirements for government benefits.

Democrats Can’t Check the White House Alone. Neither Can Republicans
An overhaul of oversight is overdue, but partisanship isn’t what the Founders had in mind

Tom Coburn, R-Okla., left, and Carl Levin, D-Mich., ride the Senate subway in 2011, when both were still in Congress. The pair led hearings on the causes of the 2008 financial crisis. (Tom Williams/Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Congress is in desperate need of a course correction. Some may think it’s about to happen, because the Democrats have now taken control of the House. But we’re referring to a different kind of course correction. For the past ten years or so, Congress has largely ignored its constitutional responsibility to serve as a check on the excesses of the executive branch and to do so in a bipartisan manner. That’s what needs to change.

We both served for many years in the Senate, and here’s what we observed: When oversight hearings were held more for political purposes than for real fact-finding purposes, they didn’t work. Hearings like these may have been the exception rather than the rule, but they damaged Congress’ reputation. They didn’t uncover the facts, and they didn’t have the confidence of the American people.

Trump Claims No Mueller Probe Chats With Acting AG Whitaker
Sessions replacement has blasted Russia probe in the past

President Donald Trump says he has never discussed the Russia investigation with Acting Attorny General Matthew Whitaker. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump on Friday claimed he has never discussed special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s 2016 election meddling and possible coordination with his campaign with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

“I didn’t speak to Matt Whitaker” about the ongoing Justice Department probe before naming him to the post, Trump said. 

All the Post-Election Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask
With special guest Professor U.R. Wise, scholar of the later campaigns of Harold Stassen

Aren’t House Democrats taking a political risk by doubling down on Nancy Pelosi? No, says our resident expert. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — To answer your post-election questions, we have retained the services of Professor U.R. Wise, the holder of the Warren G. Harding chair in political philosophy at Flyover University.

A: Pelosi is the great survivor of American politics. Assuming she has the votes, Pelosi will become the first legislator in American history to regain the speaker’s gavel after a gap as long as eight years.

GOP Didn’t Have a Turnout Problem, It Had a Focus Problem
Turnout was high across the board, but Republicans minimized their No. 1 issue

Voters fill out their ballots at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, Va., on Nov. 6. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Did the 2018 midterm electorate break new political ground as the media had predicted for months or was it déjà vu all over again? The answer is both. 

In my last column before the election, I suggested that four key measurements would tell the story of this year’s midterms: party ID, ideology, turnout by unique voter groups (young voters and women), and how independents break.

Did the Politics of Division Work? Yes and No
Though America has always seen progress and pushback, this election threatened to push us back a century or two

When we look back at this election, we’ll remember all the “firsts.” But we’ll also remember that time the president called Andrew Gillum, vying to become Florida’s first African-American governor, “not equipped” and a “stone-cold thief,” Curtis writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Donald Trump is a celebrity president, more interested in declaring a “great victory” after the 2018 midterms than in vowing to bring the country together. As he sparred with the media Wednesday and bragged about outdoing Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and famous folks who stumped for the other side, he did his best Rodney Dangerfield routine, playing the aggrieved president who has all the power but gets no respect.

When asked about the violent episodes that shook America in the weeks before Nov. 6 and whether he should soften his tone, he boasted about the economy, said he was “sad” to see the violence, and then talked about his great relationship with Israel.