Thursday was a strange day in Washington. There was the changing, not of the guard but of half of the Congress, and Nancy Pelosi and House Democrats acted as if she were Franklin D. Roosevelt (in drag) and it was 1932 and “happy days are here again.”
She told The New York Times that the Constitution considers her to be the president’s equal, which was news to everyone else, but, to be fair, Nancy was confused all day long. At the conclusion of what she regarded as her inaugural address before the House of Representatives, she said to herself (caught on an open microphone), “I think I skipped a couple of pages, I’m not sure.”
Such slips of pages, tongue and consciousness have become standard fare with Nancy’s speeches. She’s only 78, but an old 78, and the party’s old folks think she’s entitled to one last hurrah, but someone will have to take Nancy aside to explain that the Constitution’s prescribed equal division of government into executive, congressional and judicial branches does not extend to individual persons, important as they may be, and she is not entitled to a room or sleepover privileges at the White House, nor can she show up at Andrews Air Force Base and expect to hail Air Force One for a weekend trip to San Francisco. It’s still commercial air for the peasants in the House.
Life will only get harder for Nancy and the Democrats as they discover the limits of taking over only one house of Congress, thrilling as Election Night was. The radicals of the left, which is well on the way to control of the Democratic Party, are driven by the know-nothing millennials with their dreams of using the Venezuelan socialist model to transform America into something Fidel Castro could be proud of, and they’re making rude noises about exploiting an opening to do it now. The freshmen are not asking the old folks for permission, and want to impeach the president without further discussion. They should have the votes.
Some of them, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who wore virginal white for her swearing-in as a tribute to her brain being untouched by knowledge of anything that happened before her arrival in Washington, think a vote by the new House of Representatives is all it will take to dispatch Donald Trump to a new job making license plates. If they have heard of the U.S. Senate, they regard it as irrelevant. Nancy’s House is all. Some of them have heard of the Founding Fathers, but can’t spell any of their names. One new Islamic congresswoman was so giddy to learn that Thomas Jefferson was a Muslim that she asked to be sworn in with her hand on his Koran.
Not everyone with a fresh addiction to sugar plums is a goofy Democrat. Mitt Romney, who spectacularly blew a chance to be elected president in 2008, was sworn in as the new Republican senator from Utah. He had the look of a man impatient with the necessity of a stopover in the U.S. Senate en route to the White House.
Mr. Romney arrives in Washington with a ready-made reputation as a tormentor of Donald Trump, which endears him to Democrats and the tattered, decrepit Establishment wing of the Republican Party. These Republican elites of yesteryear, of polished manner and gracious propriety, had spent years learning to lose with grace and dignity, and the bumptious Mr. Trump came on scene with his vulgarity and coarse manner and showed them how to win an election with neither apology nor penitence. A couple of Republican senators, replaced as of Thursday, fled but those still here need a leader and Mr. Romney nominated himself.
He insists he has taken up the cudgel against the president while waiting for someone worthy of his endorsement to arrive, but “I’m not running again.” That’s what they all say. No one pays attention to what politicians say.
For his part, the president says he’s not worried nor even feeling pain from Mr. Romney’s unusual snark and slang. “I won big,” he said Thursday, “and he didn’t.” He observed that Mr. Romney asked for his endorsement last year and “thanked me for it.”
The president is not likely to get serious opposition in the primaries, once bravado is exhausted and everybody gets down to a real campaign. The president’s Republican critics will remember what happens when a president is bitten by snakes within his own party. The memory of what happened to Jimmy Carter is fresh enough. Ted Kennedy, thought to be the giant killer, challenged the hapless Mr. Jimmy in the primaries. “I’ll whip his ass,” said the Georgia Sunday-school teacher, and he did, only to lose to Ronald Reagan. Lightning can strike twice, and sometimes does.
• Wesley Pruden is editor in chief emeritus of The Times.
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