Every year on Dec. 23, Republican Sen. Rand Paul celebrates the Seinfeld-popularized holiday of Festivus by jumping on Twitter and airing his long list of grievances.
This year was no exception. The Kentucky senator spent the morning harping on everything from government waste to how federally-funded research grants are allocated.
Paul, however, isn’t the only one with complaints and disappointments. As the fictional Frank Constanza bellowed to Jerry, Elaine, Kramer, and his son, George, “I’ve got a lot of problems with you people! Now you’re going to hear about it.” Here we go.
First, can we talk for a moment about how lazy and ineffectual Congress has proven to be on issues of war and peace? The United States has used force in at least eight countries across two continents over the last twenty years, yet the last time lawmakers passed a resolution authorizing the use of military force was 2002, a year when former President George W. Bush had sky-high approval ratings, Ashanti had the No. 1 song on the Billboard hit list, and Frasier was still on the air.
However, when it comes time to withdraw troops from endless conflicts overseas, Congress all of a sudden finds the gumption to get together and assertively push back with blocking provisions. The legislative branch is afraid of voting to send the U.S. military into harm’s way but is more than happy to vote for measures that keep them in harm’s way unnecessarily.
Speaking of Congress, what’s the deal with how it goes about legislating these days? What passes for order is a small group of senior lawmakers crafting agreements among themselves and ordering the docile masses to vote for it. On some of the priciest and (literally and figuratively) weightiest bills that can be drawn up, Congress barely shows any interest in taking the time to debate them.
Instead, congressional leadership in the House and Senate dictate the process by forcing gigantic pieces of legislation on the rank-and-file. Whether you agree or not with the $2.3 trillion omnibus and coronavirus stimulus package, surely we can all agree that dropping a 5,000-plus page bill and then scheduling a floor vote the next day isn’t the way the legislative process is supposed to function.
One of my biggest grievances this year: arrogant senior officials who refuse to accept reality. Take Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who, despite mounting evidence, continues to say with a straight face that the Trump administration’s strategy on Iran is a beacon of success worth building upon. Or consider Jim Jeffrey, Trump’s former Syria envoy who can’t seem to grasp the notion that maintaining a stalemate against the Russians in a small, economically deprived, and politically dysfunctional war-torn nation isn’t worth the cost to the United States.
Consider President Trump himself, whose bids to overturn the 2020 election are so off the deep end that even leading congressional Republicans, such as Sens. Mitch McConnell and John Thune, are distancing themselves from it all.
Naturally, the grievance list wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t mention my utter disgust with how often the “I” word (isolationism) is invoked by pundits and national security correspondents as a shorthand for anyone who dares to question the strategic wisdom of keeping U.S. troops deployed in unending wars. That a truly accurate description of an isolationist foreign policy consists of no free trade, no military alliances, no immigration, and no permanent diplomatic relations is beside the point for the pro-intervention, neoconservative camp. The objective isn’t to make a good-faith argument, but to use the word as a weapon to shut down the conversation and tar your opponents with an emotional pejorative. Unfortunately, this particular grievance isn’t going to vanish any time soon.
I feel better. Now comes the hard part: the feats of strength.
Daniel DePetris (@DanDePetris) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner’s Beltway Confidential blog. His opinions are his own.
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