Paul Singer of USAToday wrote an intriguing editorial recently with a very provocative title: “That Day I Became a Democratic Stooge.” Singer was speaking of the recent Democrat tantrum on the floor of the House of Representatives where several of them, in violation of the Rules of Conduct in the House, took over the floor of the House to demand that Speaker Ryan allow votes on a pair of “gun control” bills that had already been defeated in the Senate. While I applaud his willingness to address the matter plainly, I can’t say he grasped the full meaning of his moment of clarity well. Singer starts off well:
The House Democrats’ anti-gun sit-in last week included one of the more embarrassing moments of my journalism career.
The Democrats had grabbed the House floor for what amounted to an impromptu 25-hour filibuster to protest the unwillingness of Republican leadership to call a vote on gun control legislation.
This was a new and unusual tactic, and nobody had any idea how it was going to end. The House doesn’t have a filibuster, so it also doesn’t have a way to end one. That makes it newsworthy.
Fair enough so far, but I would point out that it was a “new and unusual tactic” because actions like these are explicitly prohibited under the rules of conduct for the House. Singer speaks as if this is some new kind of football play or the political equivalent of the introduction of the Fosbury Flop. It was not. It was the political equivalent of using Viking drinking traditions at your neighbor’s dinner party. (Apologies to all those of Norse tradition, of course. But you guys do throw a lot of drinking implements around when you get to the bottom of the cup!) And that reality got pretty much overlooked by the press. Singer continues on and gets to the part that brought on this clarity of which I speak:
At around 9 p.m., as they were girding for House Republicans to return and attempt to re-establish control of the floor, the Democrats were pumping up their energy. They congratulated each other and cheered. The partisans who had packed the public visitors’ gallery cheered with them — a no-no when the House is in session. Visitors are supposed to sit quietly, but by this hour many of the rules of the House floor had long since been thrown out the window.
The lawmakers then turned to the galleries and thanked the visitors for their support, and everybody cheered some more. That was another no-no — lawmakers are prohibited from acknowledging the galleries from the floor.
And then, my moment of shame. Someone on the floor called out thanks to the press, saying our reporting had spread the word and fueled their protest. The 100-or-so Members of Congress on the floor and the several hundred partisans in the gallery cheered for us.
My colleagues and I were mortified.
Oh, were you, now? If I may gently point something out: for a group that was “mortified” you seem to be the only person who was actually mortified enough to actually say something about it.
We are not in this business to help anybody, only to report the story. We certainly do not want credit for helping Democrats perpetrate what Republicans correctly labeled a “stunt.”
I think you aren’t looking very closely at the reporting done by a sizeable portion of your profession if you honestly think your fellow journalists are “not in this business to help anybody.”
Make no mistake: This was a stunt. It was a brazen attempt to make headlines and draw attention to an issue, not an attempt to legislate. Democrats then sent fundraising emails citing the sit-in as a reason to donate, which raises some questions about whether they violated House rules against using the chamber for political purposes.
Does it, really, “raise questions?” Would that not be worthy of investigative reporting? Had the Republicans did this during the votes that authorized ObamaCare in the first place, would there be any question in the minds of the press that rules had been violated? Ah, and about that:
But to be fair, when Republicans voted more than 50 times to repeal Obamacare, that was a “stunt,” too. And of course, they were sending fundraising appeals every time. Congress is legislating less and less, and much of what it does nowadays is a stunt.
There is a significant difference, sir, between undertaking to advance a bill to the floor and then getting a vote on it and what the Democrats did. What the Republicans did is called legislating, which is the job and function of the House and its members. What the Democrats did is most certainly not. You were doing fine right up to here but you just can’t seem to stop yourself from equivalizing things to make this seem like a “both sides do it” moment, and hence justify the actions taken by the Democrats. Actions that led to the moment that “mortified you” as you say. And you wonder why anyone would question your assertion that you and your colleagues aren’t in the business to “help anybody?”
You had a moment of clarity, here, Mr. Singer, and I honestly am appreciative that you chose to write about it at all. That shows that the spark of ethics is, indeed, alive in you. It’s OK, sir, to take that to the next level and be as forthright in calling the actions you witnessed what they are. They are the actions of a group who cares nothing for rules or laws or anything else so long as they get their way.