The Morning Jolt

Politics & Policy

Nancy Pelosi: Term Limits for Thee, but Not for Me

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi in Washington, D.C., November 15, 2018. (Yuri Gripas/REUTERS)

Making the click-through worthwhile: Nancy Pelosi announces her support for term limits for other people, Theresa May announces she’s on her way out, and Hallmark reaches another milestone in made-for-television saccharine.

House Democrats Get Busy Breaking Their Campaign Promises

In November 2002, after Democrats had failed to make gains in midterm elections, Dick Gephardt stepped down as House minority leader — and prepared for an ill-fated, short-lived presidential campaign. He passed the baton to Nancy Pelosi.

After a bit more than 16 years of leading her party in the House — as minority leader and then as speaker again and then minority leader again and now, soon to be speaker again — she says it’s time for term limits!

Rep. Nancy Pelosi all but ensured Wednesday that she will become House speaker next month, quelling a revolt by disgruntled younger Democrats by agreeing to limit her tenure to no more than four additional years in the chamber’s top post.

On Wednesday, she gave in to her opponents’ demands that she limit her service. Under the deal, House Democrats will vote by Feb. 15 to change party rules to limit their top three leaders to no more than four two-year terms, including time they’ve already spent in those jobs.

Everyone after her will be limited to eight years in leadership slots . . . but only after she has served two decades at the top.

You may recall that 58 Democratic House candidates pledged to not vote for Pelosi as speaker on the campaign trail; 15 of them won in November, and we’re still waiting to see how the allegations of voter fraud in North Carolina’s eleventh district shake out. Remember the names Anthony Brindisi, Ben McAdams, Mikie Sherrill, Jared Golden, Max Rose, Jeff Van Drew, Gil Cisneros, Andy Kim, Joe Cunningham, Jason Crow, Abigail Spanberger, Elissa Slotkin, Haley Stevens, Rashida Tlaib, and Jahanna Hayes? All of those new Democratic House members pledged on the campaign trail they wouldn’t vote for Pelosi — and now Pelosi will end up becoming speaker anyway.

Theoretically, these folks can say they kept their promise by not voting or writing in “Mickey Mouse” or whomever, but the fact remains that they attempted to distinguish themselves from the “old Democrats” under Pelosi . . . and now the new House Democrats don’t look all that different from the old House Democrats. Pelosi’s still the speaker, Steny Hoyer’s still majority leader, and Jim Clyburn is still House whip — the same as when they relinquished power back in 2010.

Oh, and House Democrats plan on bringing back earmarks.

A Democratic House leader on Tuesday predicted Congress will bring back earmarks early next year . . .

Incoming House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) made the earmark forecast at a reporter briefing. He said they are a key part of Congress’ constitutional authority to tell the executive branch exactly where federal money should go.

“I am for what the Constitution says: Congress has the authority and responsibility to do: to raise and spend money,” he said.

You’ll notice that Democrats did not run on this in 2018; if fact, they ran on the opposite, signing a letter lamenting, “We hear day in and day out that special interests are drowning out the voices of everyday citizens — to the point where many Americans no longer believe their votes even count” and pledging to “quash the political influence, real or perceived, special interests currently have in our government.”

Just what do these people think earmarks are?

Looking Ahead on the Calendar to the End of May

In recent months, I started to wonder if the only reason Theresa May was prime minister of the United Kingdom is because no one else wanted the burden of responsibility of trying to enact Brexit with a divided public, stubborn European Union, and a pit of vipers in Parliament.

We won’t have her to kick around much longer:

British Prime Minister Theresa May has confirmed that she will step down before the country holds its next scheduled national election in 2022. Arriving at an EU summit in Brussels on Thursday, May said, “I think it is right that another party leader takes us into that general election.”

The editors of National Review conclude that her approach to Brexit has been tried, and it has failed, and it’s time to move on to new leadership:

Mrs. May can unite neither her party nor the country on a Brexit policy, and numerous opinion polls make plain that her own solution is the least popular of those canvassed. If she were to leave or be ousted by an internal Tory vote of confidence as a result, there would follow a contest for the leadership of the Conservative party. In addition to choosing a new leader, that contest would enable a serious discussion of how best — with what mix of policies — the Tories can achieve the Brexit that both the referendum and the 2017 election committed them to achieve. Conservative-party MPs should start that process tomorrow.

As Rich put it in his column, “Presiding over a divided party, facing a pro-Remain British establishment and negotiating with a hostile EU, May never had an easy task. She has nonetheless not only failed to rise to the occasion but been crushed by it.”

Most of my colleagues are impassioned supporters of Brexit, and I’ve heard from friends over in the United Kingdom who think it’s a colossal mistake and that it will reverse the recent enormous economic boom. I’d consider myself a soft supporter, but even more fundamental than whether it’s good economics, if you hold a referendum on a proposal, and the referendum passes — even if it’s just by small a margin of 51.8 percent to 48.1 percent — you have to make a good faith effort to enact that proposal. You can’t just throw up your hands after a while and say, “This is too complicated and too hard.” Even if you think Brexit is a bad idea, sometimes the people need to experience a bad idea to understand why it’s a bad idea. This is how you kill off bad ideas like Prohibition or special taxes on yachts.

A political establishment that says, “We know what we promised before the referendum, but you can’t have this,” is just asking for angry populism to spread. And yet here we are, where the people have voted for a policy that almost no one in the government really wants to enact or is willing to work hard to enact.

As Michael Brendan Dougherty puts it:

The result of the no-confidence vote is to create more uncertainty ahead of a vote on May’s withdrawal agreement. The fact is that Brexit was an attempt to reassert the sovereignty of Parliament. But the balance of power in the U.K. Parliament is against Brexit, whether it be a no-deal crash out, or Theresa May’s negotiated version. Britain is sliding into the constitutional crisis that exists between a sovereign Parliament and government-by-referendum. Has the Tory party even noticed?

The Hallmark-Movie Assembly Line Shifts into a Higher Speed

Hallmark now has . . . 38 different Christmas movies that they’re airing this holiday season.

At least, technically they’re different. Some might say they’ve told the same story with 38 different cosmetic changes.

As I put it last year, at least a few times between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the Mrs. and I check in to see how Candace Cameron is aging. Because they’re so formulaic, you more or less know what every character is going to say and what’s going to happen in every scene before it happens. At least one of the romantic leads will be returning for the first time in many years to a picturesque elaborately decorated small hometown, they’ll face a supremely implausible work deadline right around Christmas, they’ll have a best friend who incessantly mentions the handsome carpenter/Christmas- tree farmer/amnesiac/reindeer veterinarian who’s restoring the town gazebo/volunteering at a new youth center/going to be a last-minute substitute to be Santa in the town parade . . . the contrived misunderstandings, the magic mistletoe, the overwrought declarations of lost Christmas spirit . . . and dear God, so many decorating montages.

Then, after putting up with a Hallmark movie or two, I can suggest re-watching a real Christmas movie featuring Clark Griswold or John McClane.

You could probably make a funny Hallmark movie by just having one character openly express greater incredulity at all of the standard plot points: “Wait, why is this big corporate CEO trying to evict the town’s artisan Christmas ornament workshop? How does that make any financial sense? Why is the deadline for preventing the takeover on Christmas Eve? Who in their right mind writes that into a lease? Why is everyone in town trying to get me under the mistletoe with that hunky widower carpenter, when I just met him? And why is Ed Asner stalking me?”

ADDENDUM: Someone called my attention to the fact that if you tweet out this Publisher’s Weekly review of my 2014 novel The Weed Agency, the first words are “Nonfiction Review.”

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