Kudos to Dem congresswoman who stood above partisanship
I don’t know U.S. Rep. Kathleen Rice, a former prosecutor and Democrat of New York.
But I would like to give her a gift. Why?
Because she’s been extremely impressive, taking a stand on Democratic sexual predators in Congress, having the guts to call out members of her own Democratic Party.
Rice has even defied the boss Democrat, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. And any time a member of Congress takes such a stand, we should all take notice.
And Rice has also been adept at ridiculing a bad habit among members of Congress. They’re talkers. And they talk and talk and talk and do nothing.
Congress loves to talk and talk about how we should all be treated equally. But Congress has a multimillion-dollar secret slush fund to pay settlements in Capitol Hill workplace disputes that include sexual harassment. The victims have to sign nondisclosure agreements to protect the identities of those accused of assault.
Rice and a few others, on both sides of the aisle, find this abhorrent and are offering legislation to change it.
Yet Democrats U.S. Rep. John “Shorts” Conyers is still in office. Sen. Al “Fish Lips” Franken is still in office. Both are alleged assaulters of women.
Franken won’t quit. Conyers won’t quit, and the Congressional Black Caucus that he helped found is defending him.
Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who allegedly trolled shopping malls for high school girls when he was in his 30s, is still viable in his campaign.
And Congress talks and talks.
All the talking brings to mind someone dear to me, my late grandfather, Papou Pete. He left me something when he died. It wasn’t money. So it’s probably all right if I offer it to Rep. Rice.
He had a favorite bipartisan saying about politicians that applies especially today: “When they speak, the donkeys break wind.”
I don’t have the time to engrave it on anything, so if you see Congresswoman Rice, please give her this column as a token for standing up for Americans who are sick of all the talking.
Rice gives me some small hope that on issues that matter, tribalism isn’t everything. And sexual harassment in the workplace matters to Democratic women and Republican women and men who love them.
She has publicly demanded the resignations of Franken and Conyers. And she’s part of a bipartisan effort pushing a bill to release the names of the sexual predators who use the slush fund.
The other day, Rice had been in a Democratic caucus meeting chaired by Pelosi — who stupidly defended Conyers and called him an “icon” — and finally Rice had enough.
She walked out. All they were doing in there was talking.
“Let’s talk about the big elephant in the room,” Rice told reporters. “And that’s why I was done with the meeting. I don’t have time for conversations that are not real.”
I wonder if her Irish grandfather had a similar saying.
Rice pointed out that in the real world — not Congress — sexual predators are dealt with differently. In the show-biz-heavy environment of celebrity broadcast journalism, people get fired.
NBC, for example, fired “Today Show” anchor Matt Lauer for a history of sexually preying on female subordinates. CBS and PBS fired the old liberal open bathrobe himself, Charlie Rose. Fox News fired boss Roger Ailes and family values anchor Bill O’Reilly.
And Minnesota Public Radio fired its own “icon” — and I use the word advisedly — Garrison Keillor, for inappropriate touching.
Holy liberal Lake Wobegon, is nothing sacred? It almost makes you long for the days when Brian Williams was exiled for making up stories about his heroic exploits.
As she left the Pelosi meeting, Rice talked about how news anchors were punished and that members of Congress were treated with deference.
That discrepancy, she said, breeds cynicism and hurts the nation. Of course she’s right.
Congress makes the laws. There shouldn’t be two sets of standards, one for congressmen with a tax-subsidized sexual harassment slush fund, and another for the rest of us.
“We show no moral authority whatsoever as a body,” Rice said. “This is why only 6 percent of Americans think that Congress is doing a good job.
“You see the actions that CBS and NBC take when there are allegations of very well-known men in positions of power. And we don’t do the same. And I think it’s a disgrace.”
Of course it is a disgrace. All of it is disgraceful.
Many Democrats want Conyers and Franken to stay right where they are to keep supporting liberal policies.
And many Republicans — including President Donald Trump — would rather have teen-trolling Republican Moore in the Senate than seat a liberal Democrat who’d vote in support of abortions and against a tax cut.
Didn’t character count, once?
So how did we get to this disgraceful place where character doesn’t count?
It goes back to President Bill Clinton, a Democrat who lied under oath in a sexual harassment case.
By today’s Democratic political standards, Clinton was a sexual predator. But he was supported, vigorously, with much Democratic tribal outrage, and his female accusers were defamed and trashed by the cultural elites.
On Dec. 19, 1998, the day Clinton was impeached, congressional Democrats went in droves to the White House. They stood in a large group in a great show of partisan support.
Character didn’t count. But tribalism sure counted.
So they talked and they talked and talked some more.
And the donkeys? They weren’t in the news photos. But America knew they were there.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @john_kass.