Sam Ervin took down Nixon. We’re still waiting for his heir
Maybe Nancy Pelosi needs to appoint a small select committee modeled after Watergate

OPINION — It is easy to imagine an undiscovered Samuel Beckett play entitled “Waiting for Mueller.” On stage, faithful Democrats vacillate between stubborn hope (“He should be here”) and fatalistic despair (“He didn’t say for sure that he would come”). In the end, they just wait, day after day.

Whatever Robert Mueller’s internal timetable (seers like Rudy Giuliani have so far been comically wrong in trying to predict it), the investigation will face new pressures with the virtually certain Senate confirmation this week of William Barr. For the first time, Mueller will be supervised by a legitimate attorney general — rather than an acting Donald Trump factotum — who has avoided any promises about releasing the full report.

That might as well have been Trump’s concession speech
What we learned from the State of the Union: the president is still a one-trick pony

OPINION — Donald Trump’s next State of the Union Address will be delivered in the shadow of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It will be a time when the spirited race for Democratic nomination will offer more drama than the president’s tricks and tweets.

And if the Democrats win back the White House, that 2020 speech will have been Trump’s last State of the Union, since defrocked presidents, even ego-mad ones, rarely make the inaugural year trek to Capitol Hill to read their own political obituaries.

The last JFK aide is dead. But the silent generation still has something to say
Three greats are gone. They weren’t exactly flashy

OPINION — It is a futilely human failing to try to find some larger pattern in the groupings of deaths in the obituaries. But I could not help being struck by the juxtaposition of three men — all in their 90s — who died within three days of each other earlier this month.

There is no obvious linkage among them (a former senator, a retired newspaper columnist and a leading sociologist) other than public lives of sufficient prominence to warrant major obits. But taken together, their careers serve as a reminder of some of the democratic values of the late 20th century that have badly eroded in this era of vitriol and venom.

Leave it to Trump to remind voters how much they need government
Demonizing federal workers has been part of the GOP playbook since the New Deal — but suddenly all that is changing

OPINION — Two years ago, during the inaugural address, few imagined that “this American carnage” that Donald Trump was pledging to end would someday extend to the family finances of 800,000 unpaid federal workers.

Equally unfathomable was the idea that January 2019 would morph into “Have You Hugged a TSA Worker?” Month. Once derided as the front-line symbols of ineffective Security Theater, these low-wage federal workers are now rightfully hailed for keeping the planes flying as they work without paychecks and worry about car payments.

Revenge is best served cold on State of the Union night
Nancy Pelosi’s gambit reminds Trump that norms-trampling can cut two ways

OPINION — At last, a welcome burst of creativity as the government shutdown slogs towards the end of its fourth week.

In tactical terms, it was devilishly clever for Nancy Pelosi to write Donald Trump to announce that the House Democrats, in effect, will be at home binge-watching two seasons of “Mrs. Maisel” on State of the Union night.

Youth, anger, impeachment and the 1970s
Strengths of freshman Democrats lie more in dramatizing ignored issues than fleshing out policy details

OPINION — In the 1970s, as a 25-year-old history graduate student at the University of Michigan, I ran for Congress without family money or even owning a car. In my passion (the Vietnam War was raging) and in my belief that college students deserved representation in Washington, I had much in common with the history-making Democratic Class of 2018.

Unlike, say, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, I lost the Democratic primary to the floor leader of the Michigan state House, although I did carry anti-war Ann Arbor by a 5-to-1 margin. (Many more details on request). But I came close enough to nurture a few fantasies about my arrival in Washington as the nation’s youngest congressman.

The most penny-ante government shutdown since, well, ever
In the grand scheme of the budget, $5.6 billion is a rounding error

OPINION — There have been notable examples of persistence in modern politics, from Joe Biden planning to run for president more than three decades after his first attempt to Jerry Brown becoming California governor after a 28-year hiatus.

But ranking right up there is Nancy Pelosi’s return as House speaker eight years after the 2010 tea party uprising confiscated her gavel. Never before in American history has there been more than a four-year gap between terms as speaker.

My Dream 2020 Candidate — Someone to Heal America‘s Wounds

OPINION — As an alumnus of Newsweek and Time in their glory days, I sometimes can’t resist thinking like a news-magazine editor. Any news event — the government shutdown, the withdrawal from Syria, the Brexit mess — can be summarized by that all-purpose cover line, “NOW FOR THE HARD PART.”

Similarly, the obvious cover for next Monday would be a race track starting gate with more than a dozen familiar Democrats (“There’s Bernie, there’s Beto, there’s Biden, there’s Booker...“) leaning forward in their saddles as the cliché-ridden headline proclaims, “AND THEY’RE OFF.”

The Train Is Leaving the Station for the Last Rational Republicans
If they want to save themselves and repudiate Trump, they better do it fast

OPINION — In a classic demonstration of Southern populist oratory at the 1956 Democratic convention, Tennessee Gov. Frank Clement excoriated the misdeeds of the Republican Party by dramatically asking, again and again, “How long, O how long America, shall these things endure?”

As the nation reels towards the end of the second year of Donald Trump’s cataclysmic presidency, Frank Clement’s long-ago question takes on a new urgency. How long, O how long America, will the once-proud Republican Party serve as Trump’s willing enabler?

The President Who Walled Himself Into a Corner
Maybe another president might have gotten away with playing the terrorism card to justify his wailing

OPINION — Walls work. Just ask the East Germans.

Of course, the Berlin Wall, with its 15-foot-high concrete walls topped by barbed wire, only stretched for 28 miles across the divided city. And border guards killed nearly 200 East Germans as they tried to flee to freedom in the West.

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

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:

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

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.”

So You Think You Want to Run for President …
A handy checklist for the 2020 Democratic hopefuls

OPINION — In most over-stuffed and over-sweet-potatoed families during Thanksgiving week, dinner table conversation revolves around new jobs, new children and grandchildren and vacation plans. But this holiday season in maybe two-dozen homes across America, the new-job talk is about someone in the family running for Democratic nomination for president.

Not every would-be presidential candidate is as methodical as Mitt Romneywho presided over a family roll-call vote in December 2010 about the merits of a 2012 presidential campaign. (The verdict was overwhelmingly “no,” but Ann Romney cast the decisive “yes” vote.) But just about everyone contemplating a White House run traditionally spends the weeks after the midterm elections debating the pros and cons with family and longtime friends.

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

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.

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

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.

Tuesday Night’s Wave Came With an Undertow for the GOP
Results were good enough to constrain Trump, and that alone made it the most important midterm since 1930

OPINION — It was the most important midterm election since voters repudiated the unsteady hand of Herbert Hoover in responding to the Great Depression. But unlike 1930 when the Democrats garnered more than 50 House seats and gained effective control of the Senate, the electoral verdict last night was far more equivocal.

As anyone who spent last summer at the beach knows, waves come in all sizes. There are gentle waves made for diving seven-year-olds. There are deceptively strong waves that bring with them an undertow. And there are, of course, fierce storm waves that require a response from FEMA.

Trump’s Secret Pre-Election Tricks, From Puppies to Space Invaders
After promises of a fanciful tax cut, what’s next? A puppy for every kid at Christmas?

OPINION — Absolute truth has always been an endangered species, rarely glimpsed in the wild, during the closing days of an election campaign. But up until now, there have been bipartisan norms governing the taffy-pull stretching of the truth.

Congressional votes can be distorted (an innocuous procedural motion portrayed as a dangerously extreme position), but the vote has to exist. Statements can be wildly ripped out of context, but the actual words had to be spoken.

A Traitor to the Pundit Class, I Enter the No-Predictions Zone
Politics is a little like baseball — stuffed with analysts and rife with meaningless stats

OPINION — To watch the World Series or the baseball playoffs is an invitation to enter the realm of the irrelevant statistic.

When the Red Sox pushed across their first run in the first inning Monday night, a Fox announcer burbled that Boston also scored in the first inning of the opening game when they won the Series in 2004, 2007 and 2013. Of course, no players from 2004 and 2007 are on the active Red Sox roster — and scoring in the second or fifth inning can also be an effective way of winning a ballgame.

The Case of the Missing President — in House Debates
Candidates may want to avoid him, but election is still a referendum on Trump

OPINION — Judging from two House debates this week in hotly contested races on both sides of the country, you would think that the president of the United States was a shadowy, off-stage figure whose personality and politics are barely worth discussing. Even “The Invisible Man” of the 1897 H.G. Wells novel and the 1933 Claude Rains movie had more of a corporal presence than Donald Trump.

During the one-hour debate in Utah’s 4th district in suburban Salt Lake City, the word Trump was not mentioned until the 45-minute mark when the moderator blurted out the president’s name in a question on tariffs.

It Turns Out Democrats Are Really Bad at Getting Mad
They’re doing their best scorched-earth impression of Mitch McConnell. It isn’t working

OPINION — Anger in politics is like the porridge in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” — it has to be just right.

Too little anger breeds a sense of complacency and decreases the urgency of voting. Too much anger produces self-defeating rhetoric that repels the very undecided voters that you are struggling to attract.