John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Resistance for resistance’s sake is not a viable governing strategy

Posted on January 28, 2019
All my friends tell me that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was the big winner.

The newspapers said she scored a TKO, that she wiped the floor clean with Donald Trump.

And one poll, post-shutdown, proves that in one sense, she did win big.

The NBC/Wall Street Journal poll now rates her the most unpopular politician in the country.

Only 28 percent of the voters surveyed give her a positive rating, while 47 percent give her the thumbs down, a league-leading 19 percent differential.

So congrats, I guess.

A few more victories like this and Republicans will be in a great position to take back the House.

Politico quoted Mick Mulvaney saying the president didn’t lose the shutdown, a comment that was widely ridiculed inside the Beltway.

My view is that everybody loses when the government shuts down, especially the taxpayers.

We are going to be paying federal workers their back pay, whether they worked during the shutdown or not.

Hopefully, somebody is doing an analysis about who we actually need to keep the government working and who is nonessential. My guess is that we can do without many of the nonessential types, no offense to my friends who might fall into that category.

But for the newly sworn-in Speaker, this is not a great start to the new Congress.

I understand that her political base desperately wants to impeach President Trump and wants her to resist at all costs.

Given her comments over the weekend, where she publicly bought into the conspiracy theory that Russian President Vladimir Putin has something on the president, it is becoming more and more clear that she agrees with her base.

But impeachment is not why Democrats got a new majority in the Congress.

In fact, for most of the campaign, Democratic leaders went out of their way to tamp down impeachment expectations.

Most successful challengers focused more on health care and less on the Manchurian candidate meme during the last election. They rightly assumed that most voters care less about whatever nonsense “Morning Joe” is talking about and care more about their own personal struggles to make ends meet.

When the government is shut down, the national press doesn’t care about health care or political reform or income inequality. Instead, they focus on the negotiations to get the government reopened, or in this latest example, the stunning lack of negotiations.

For the resistance, Pelosi’s refusal to negotiate on border security was a moral imperative. But for the rest of the country, it was irresponsible.

The Speaker of the House is an important job in our system of government, more important than in parliamentary systems. Third in the line of succession, a Speaker plays dual roles as a party leader and as a protector of the House as an institution.

But the Speaker of the House is not a dictator. To be effective, a Speaker must find a way to work with the Senate (which is often very difficult) and then get a presidential signature.

Mrs. Pelosi thinks that she gets to set the terms of the debate. But that’s not how it works. The president proposes and the Congress disposes. And the process of disposing what the president proposes is called negotiation.

The new Democratic majority might think that they have a mandate to govern because they won so big in November. But it is awfully easy to over-read the message sent by the voters.

That is especially true in this last election. Unlike in 1994, 2006 or 2010, Democrats didn’t have any unifying campaign theme. They got their majority because Donald Trump was in the White House and the Democrats were pretty motivated to put a check on the president.

But a check is one thing. Refusing to negotiate is something else entirely.

The Democrats have three weeks to prove they are capable of both serving as a check on the president’s excesses and working to deliver for the American people.

Resistance for resistance’s sake is not a governing strategy.

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