I used to work in the Congress for someone who was called many names, including the “meanest” Member of Congress with the “hottest temper” in the House of Representatives. And that was on a nice day. You should’ve heard what they said about Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Calif.) in private. Just this week I commenting with former Hill colleagues about the current shutdown and what would people like Thomas do if he were still up there?
Like him or not, he is one smart fellow. While he would likely not agree with this statement, I think he immensely enjoyed the intellectual jousting, i.e., conflict, whenever he could engage in it. This was especially true with folks on the other side of the aisle and even more so with folks in the GOP Conference. Tenacious, Thomas knew how to move product and knew how ably use the many oversight tools available to committee chairmen.
I really enjoyed working with him. He was a fiercely independent legislator that was not afraid of anything or anyone. Thomas would cross the aisle one day, if needed the votes, but was always mindful of his Congressional District as well as the Conference. You best know the subject matter (arguing off talking points never recommended) and be prepared to defend your position. Reporters enjoyed talking with him because they knew he would explain the policy as well as the process.
Which brings me to a recent story involving Americans for Tax Reform’s (ATR) President, Grover Norquist. He has been very critical lately of Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s parliamentary strategy on ObamaCare. Norquist has made series of specious statements about Cruz as well as Cruz’s efforts to keep his campaign promises to Texans who elected him. I was not going to write a thing about this, but Norquist said something late last week that reminded me of my days on the Hill with Thomas.
During a television interview, Norquist said that Cruz’s efforts to defund ObamaCare were just a “tactic” that were hurting House Republicans reach an agreement on governing by CR. Brietbart reports:
When Carlson asked Norquist how Cruz’s defunding Obamacare push was different from his organization’s famed anti-tax pledge, Norquist said they were not analogous because they are “two very different things, never to be confused.” Norquist claimed his anti-tax pledge was a “principle” and a “written commitment” politicians make to constituents when they run. He mentioned that nearly every politician has “kept that commitment.”
I did not see the interview, but I wonder if Carlson asked if ATR was upset that Cruz would not sign the ATR pledge? Thomas did not believe in these pledges and, at least when I worked with him, he never signed the ATR pledge. It not because he disagreed with them, and he may have on some issues (but I’m not going to air all that here if there was), he just wanted to maintain his independence to follow his conscious. The only people he was accountable to, in the end, were the voters of his Congressional District.
Thomas was legislator more interested in moving product than locking himself into a position that would require him to explain himself to the voters back home. You see if you vote for something that one of these outside groups polices you on, and you signed a pledge that you would or would not vote for x, you risk all sort of political pressure in the form of negative media, mailings, etc. What is even more frustrating about folks like Norquist these days is that they are needlessly providing political fodder to the Left to attack us. They should focus that energy on the opposition.
I’m glad Ted Cruz and others are pursuing their campaign promises with such energy. The Republican Party needed it. The beltway insiders, such as Norquist, have other agendas. We need them in the fight as well; however, they are accountable to donors, Members are accountable to the votes. There is a big and fundamental difference. I’m not saying Cruz is 100% right, however, he is not 100% wrong.
Some of the things Norquist said about Cruz last week are no different than some of the epithets members of our own party, as well as the Left, lob at Members of the Tea Party including words such as crazies, fringe elements, terrorists, to name a few. The thing is, as Thomas would likely say, so what? Let them say what they want, I’m elected, their not (he never really that said this, but I can imagine him saying it someone who pushed one too many buttons). Maybe we need “meaner” Members of Congress to get things done …
P.S., do not believe everything you read in the press about Members of Congress.