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Hot Excerpts From Robert Draper’s New Book About The Idiot House of Representatives

HeroesYour Wonkette is nearly finished with the hot politics book of the week, Robert Draper’s Do Not Ask What Good We Do, and unlike most hot politics books of the week, this one’s pretty great in most ways: thorough reporting, readability, legislative detail, and, most importantly for your Wonkette, a page tally below 300. It is a book about how terrible the 112th Congress is. Draper frames his narrative through the eyes of ~15 individual House members — primarily Tea Party freshmen, but also super old people like John Dingell and Walter Jones. You should buy the book! But since you are all poor scum who blow all of your welfare checks on pay-porn subscriptions, here are a few delightful excerpts to skim over instead.

We’ll always share anything that involves ol’ Walnuts McCain hollering at people. Here he is yelling at Gabby Giffords (before she was shot, however, so it’s “all good.”)

Giffords herself was more of a survivor than a warrior. She navigated the fault line between her conservative voters and her party’s progressive agenda with acrobatic expertise — which did not mean that her footwork escaped notice. The Republicans in the Arizona delegation felt that her efforts to secure her district’s porous border lagged behind her tough talk. During one breakfast with her Arizona colleagues, Giffords described a recent trip she had taken to get to know ranchers along the border and then chidingly added, “All of you were invited, too. How come you weren’t there?

“Listen, young lady,” growled Senator John McCain. “We know a little bit about the border, and I won’t be lectured by you about it!”

It appears Sheila Jackson Lee has a reputation for constantly calling attention to Sheila Jackson Lee:

The tradition of the jar dated back to the mid-1990s, during Sheila Jackson Lee’s early days in the House. Its precise origins were forgotten, but it began with a congressional aide who brought a jar to work and put a quarter in it once Jackson Lee made a speech on the House floor that day. The jar would then rotate the following day to an adjacent desk. If Jackson Lee spoke, the staffer was obliged to drop a quarter in the jar and move it to another staffer’s desk. On the rare day that the Houston congresswoman did not speak, the staffer who had the jar that day was rewarded with all its contents. The Jackson Lee jar concept began to spread with multiple jars springing up in numerous offices on the Hill, both Republican and Democrat…

The jar-passing carried over into the next decade. In John Dingell’s office, a fanciful staffer ornamented their Jackson Lee jar with felt embroidery. In Tennessee Congressman Joe Knollenberg’s office at some point in 2006, the jar’s contents became so heavy and the aides so sick of lugging it from desk to desk that they finally broke down and used all the money to pay for lunch for the entire staff. Rumors, most likely apocryphal, began to spread of hundred-dollar payouts.

Remember how Paul Ryan’s budget strangely omitted destroying Social Security as one of the glorious steps on the Path to Prosperity? It wasn’t because Paul Ryan suddenly fell in love with Social Security, or anything.

At least one senior member’s major concern was addressed. Said NRCC chairman Pete Sessions during a conference, “Please–take on Medicare or take on Social Security. But not both.” And so despite Paul Ryan’s urgent cry that by 2017 America would “no longer have enough money coming in to pay off all the benefits” for Social Security, the Path to Prosperity left the latter matter largely unaddressed.”

Some of you will recall how last year the four South Carolina GOP freshmen, who argued forcefully and successfully for their conference to ban appropriations earmarks (the Greatest Evil of All Time), realized shortly thereafter that they would then have no money to deepen the Charleston port that was foundational to the state’s economy. We hadn’t known how that ended until now, and, unsurprisingly, it involved calling a grown-up who actually knew how to do his fucking job:

They went as well to Chairman Hal Rogers of the House Appropriations Committee and pressed for him to insert it into a funding bill. With a straight face — but, it was believed, with barely disguised glee — the wily lawmaker once known as the Prince of Pork lamented that, alas, their request appeared to be an earmark, and alas, earmarks were banned.

On the House floor, [Trey] Gowdy said to Rogers, “I don’t know who you’re trying to punish — if you want my seat, I’ll go back to being a DA!”

It seemed abundantly clear that the old bulls were making the young turks pay for the beliefs they shared with their political godfather DeMint. Meanwhile, Lindsay Graham was staging press conferences, drafting legislation, and threatening to hold up all White House appointments. All to no avail — until he reached out to the lone South Carolina Democrat, seventy-year-old, nine-term congressman Jim Clyburn.

Clyburn called the White House Office of Management and Budget. An OMB official contacted the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund. The money was procured. It was not an earmark. Rather, the telephone request was direct and paperless, a so-called phone-mark — the way most such funding request historically took place, so long as you knew someone to call, and as long as that someone would take your calls, perhaps because they owed you a favor or knew that they could count on you for a favor down the line.

And finally, John Dingell learns about teabagging.

Tea-baggers, he preferred to call them. Over time it became clear to his (significantly younger) staff that Mr. Dingell (as they called him) was unaware of the term’s alternate meaning. This had been a source of private hilarity, until March 2010, when Dingell was invited to be a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to discuss the recent passage of the Democrats’ landmark health care legislation, which had been Dingell’s legislative raison d’être not only throughout his career, but also throughout that of his father, John Dingell Sr., whose congressional seat the son was elected to after the elder died in office in 1955. To say “tea-bagger” on the comedian Stewart’s much-viewed show would… well, no one on his staff could envision an upside to it.

Dingell was surprisingly nervous about going on the show as it was. The congressman had been studying past episodes as if preparing for a confirmation hearing–relishing the way Stewart had verbally undressed TV stock tipster Jim Cramer, yet dreading such a fate himself. Staffers took turns playing the host in mock Q&A sessions with the boss. After maybe the third or fourth mention of “tea-baggers,” Michael Robbins — Dingell’s chief of staff at the time — finally spoke up.

“Sir,” he said carefully, “do you know what that actually means?”

By the look on Mr. Dingell’s face, it was clear that he did not.

Because Mr. Dingell was hard of hearing, Robbins knew that he would have to speak loudly and enunciate. Well, sir, I guess you could say it’s a kind of sex act, when a man places his testicles onto the face of another person…

One of the four other staffers in the room turned the color of a fire engine.

Then, from the old man: “Hah!”

Followed by: “That’s disgusting.”

Followed by: “But it’s funny, and I’m going to keep using it.”

[Amazon]

About the author

Jim Newell is Wonkette's beloved Capitol Hill Typing Demon. He joined Wonkette.com in 2007, left for some other dumb job in 2010, and proudly returned in 2012 as our "Senior Editor at Large." He lives in Washington and also writes for things such as The Guardian, the Manchester paper of liberals.

View all articles by Jim Newell
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80 comments

  1. Oblios_Cap

    Well, sir, I guess you could say it’s a kind of sex act, when a man places his testicles onto the face of another person…

    One of the four other staffers in the room turned the color of a fire engine.

    Then, from the old man: “Hah!”

    Followed by: “That’s disgusting.”

    Followed by: “But it’s funny, and I’m going to keep using it.”

    I guess we know what he really thinks about those numskulls!

    1. CommieLibunatic

      Did you see that? We just smiled a genuine smile.

      All in favor of putting Mr. Dingell's face on the $15 bill?

    2. Callyson

      “But it’s funny, and I’m going to keep using it.”

      Not to mention that it's accurate, also, too.

  2. WhatTheHeck

    Mark Twain has already covered everything there is to say about Congress.
    Any comment I would have, would be inadequate compared to his.

    1. Puffperney

      Well said. My favorite: "Congress is a strange place, a man gets up to speak, says nothing, no one listens, then everyone disagrees."

    2. Callyson

      Will Rogers fleshes out Twain's observations:

      The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets.

      This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.

      If I studied all my life, I couldn't think up half the number of funny things passed in one session of congress.

      http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/congre

  3. SorosBot

    “Listen, young lady,”

    Gee, who would have thought old McCain, the man who thought he could get women's votes by picking a woman for his VP even though she was clearly an unqualified idiot who was opposed to women's rights, could be a condescending misogynist asshat?

    1. emmelemm

      Boy howdy, does that piss me off.

      Gabby Giffords has more strength, dignity and integrity in her little finger than McCain ever had.

  4. widestanceromance

    So very sad that a man could become that old and not know what teabagging is, even by some other term. I could cry if I really cared.

      1. widestanceromance

        Who would bother with foreplay with a page? It was just heave-ho and don't forget to shovel more coal in the stove before you go home, son.

        1. actor212

          Well, yes, but you know, pages talk amongst themselves when they're standing under the red light in the corridors, waiting to be summoned.

  5. JustPixelz

    “Listen, young lady,” growled Senator John McCain.

    First, who isn't younger than McCain? Second, he only talks in a growl. Like when he told those punks to get off his lawn. So this isn't very informative. But he goes on to say

    “We know a little bit about the border, and I won’t be lectured by you about it!”

    So it's possible he was talking to Grandma Sarah Palin™. (Who actual might be older than McCain.)

      1. Ann_ObeyMe_Money

        No, sorry to disappoint, I'm just venting sotto voce about my obsessive-compulsive habits and my acquisitive hoarding of books (thank god it wasn't, I dunno, diamonds or china figurines). I make out a yearly reading list and try to read and then dispose of the books on that list. I've been getting carried away lately. This year's list has 233 books on it — I'll NEVAH get through that many no matter how fast I read — and I already have the book lists planned through 2015.

        Time to smoke some weed and chill on these OCD habits. Sheesh.

        1. Designer_Rants

          So you're saying you actually read some of them? My wife told me to stop using the Amazon Rewards Points (or whatever) to order books that I just put on the shelf and never read because I lost ALL attention span with the advent of the combination of laptops+internet+couch.

          The best I can do is scroll through my Google Reader RSS updates. Even a long New Yorker article sometimes takes 3 days to read (sad but not exaggerated).

          1. Ann_ObeyMe_Money

            Aha! I see you have the same problem I used to. I have a real thing about books (See. Vant. Must Haz.), and the house had turned into an obstacle course a few years ago, since both my partners are avid book buyers and collectors. So I made a deal with them that I would not ask for, buy, or borrow any more books until the current stacks around the house were GONE. Every year I post my little list and we bet on how many I can get through and I get sushi afterwards, so everyone's happy and the house is now navigable. Of course, I just went in my office to look for something and I see books stacked all OVER the shelves there, so, yeah, maybe I could help you out with YOUR books, now that I can see the floor again?

  6. BerkeleyBear

    John Dingell – the anti-McCain/Grassley. Seriously, that reaction is like the "cool grandpa" you wish you had, right?

  7. chascates

    If no one else is willing to confront McCain I will. Why don't you see a psychiatrist, you bastard? I don't care what you went through! Anyone with your anger issues and your choice in running mates is a FUCKING BASKET CASE!!!!!

    1. Wile E. Quixote

      Oh, and as far as what McCain went through perhaps if he hadn't been such a shitty pilot, and a total fucking glory hog as well who was trying to make up for the fact that he had destroyed more US planes than enemy planes, he would have followed tactical doctrine and broken off his engagement as soon as the Vietnamese air defense radar acquired a lock on his plane instead of trying to complete the engagement and ending up shot down and in a prison camp for seven years.

    2. BaldarTFlagass

      It must be an 'old man' thing. My dad's about a year younger than McCain, and he seems to have the same issues as he gets older. He's great and a funny guy, up until the 4th martini, then he turns into this horrible hate machine. Hates on the Republicans, the Christians, the Muslims, and everybody else you can name. OK dad, we get it. It's got to the point where I will only go visit for the day and head home by the time of the 2nd or 3rd martini. No point in suggesting he seek counseling (his older sister has the same problem, I think they got if from granddad, and she DID get help, and suggested pops do the same; now he hates her too), he thinks it's everyone else that's fucked up. I really feel bad for my mother.

      1. Designer_Rants

        I usually feel like your dad, and I haven't had more than a six-pack in 2 years. Maybe I should look into that — Hell, I actually have health insurance.

  8. BaldarTFlagass

    Unfortunately, the people that most need to read this book will never even know that it exists.

  9. SayItWithWookies

    So Jim DeMint and the SC teabaggers almost destroyed South Carolina's economy, and it had to be saved by the one Democrat in their delegation — that's the stuff of ironic beauty right there. Not to mention that that's why sensible people don't embrace a tactic and call it a principle.

  10. Mumbletypeg

    First they came for the jar of jeers — but I said nothing — which meant the last wiseguy it got passed along to, got to take the whole booty home w/ 'em.

  11. Chow Yun Flat

    “I don’t know who you’re trying to punish — if you want my seat, I’ll go back to being a DA!”

    I wonder what that means in a language intelligible to humans?

  12. Oblios_Cap

    On the House floor, [Trey] Gowdy said to Rogers, “I don’t know who you’re trying to punish — if you want my seat, I’ll go back to being a DA!”

    Another reason to hate DAs – they really aspire to being Teatard Congressmen.

  13. Terry

    "Because Mr. Dingell was hard of hearing, Robbins knew that he would have to speak loudly and enunciate. Well, sir, I guess you could say it’s a kind of sex act, when a man places his testicles onto the face of another person…
    One of the four other staffers in the room turned the color of a fire engine.
    Then, from the old man: “Hah!”
    Followed by: “That’s disgusting.”
    Followed by: “But it’s funny, and I’m going to keep using it.”"

    This is EXACTLY the reaction my 80+ yr old father had when I explained to him what tea bagging is. Dad still calls them Tea Baggers and smiles or chuckles each time.

    1. Tahoe99

      I watched in horror as one of my 70+ female legislators explained "teabagging" to the 75+ female legislator sitting next to her. She turned bright red, chuckled, and said "in my day we called it something different". Never judge an old lady by her conservative pants suit and orthopedic shoes! :p

  14. Designer_Rants

    But since you are all poor scum who blow all of your welfare checks on pay-porn subscriptions…

    Porn subscriptions!? WHO CAN AFFORD PORN SUBSCRIPTIONS!!!? I guess what Reagan said about Welfare Queens was true.

  15. Callyson

    If I had a quarter for every time someone in the 112th Congress said something stupid, I could retire…

  16. Chichikovovich

    I would have liked the "Dingell saves the day" story better if the administration had named the funding the "Charleston Bay Dredging Earmark" and made it a condition of the funding that the entire SC delegation would join with him in a press conference celebrating the "Charleston Bay Dredging Earmark". With "Charleston Bay Dredging Earmark" written prominently on the podium, as a background, etc.

    Oh, and also the Administration should have said they wouldn't do it unless Jim DeMint ate a worm.

    1. Jim Newell

      I know, Dems should have gotten something out of it (maybe they did and we don't know). Because now these SC R's will all publicly attack Jim Clyburn for getting an earmark, to show how Democrats are irresponsible.

    2. GeneralLerong

      "…unless Jim DeMint ate a worm."

      I never learn. Don't eat or drink whilst at the keyboard.

  17. elviouslyqueer

    The tradition of the jar dated back to the mid-1990s, during Sheila Jackson Lee’s early days in the House. Its precise origins were forgotten, but it began with a congressional aide who brought a jar to work and put a quarter in it once Jackson Lee made a speech on the House floor that day.

    That's no jar. It's a Snap Cup.

  18. Slim_Pickins

    Boy, I wish I had thought of the quarter-in-a-jar idea for Justice Thomas. Only it would be a quarter every time he didn't speak during a open session. When the jar got too heavy to move, I would have swiped the quarters and retired, leaving only an IOU behind.

  19. ttommyunger

    Wow! Here's a formula for success: write a book about an inherently boring institution full of ignorant hacks saying and doing dumb shit. Who would read this pap if the book were GIVEN to them?

  20. What0Now0Toons

    The party of NO's agenda that we all saw unfold these past three years revealed as a conspiracy that makes it all the more subversive, and the callousness in regard to the people their actions have hurt should make people run away from these economic saboteurs in droves! I had to draw a cartoon about this, it's all too important a topic. It's up now… http://www.whatnowtoons.com
    Left of Center Independent Political Cartoons

  21. Designer_Rants

    I've thought about getting a new Kindle Fire, but the wife's eyerolls would be so fierce as to ruin its value out the box. And then she'd be vindicated when all I used it for was Facebook and Wonkette.

  22. HistoriCat

    I have a first-generation Nook – all it's good for is reading … but that's OK with me!

Comments are closed.