Opinion & Analysis

Sam Ervin took down Nixon. We’re still waiting for his heir
Maybe Nancy Pelosi needs to appoint a small select committee modeled after Watergate

Folksy North Carolina Sen. Sam Ervin, center, chaired the committee that destroyed Nixon’s strongest claim to power — his political popularity, Shapiro writes. (CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — It is easy to imagine an undiscovered Samuel Beckett play entitled “Waiting for Mueller.” On stage, faithful Democrats vacillate between stubborn hope (“He should be here”) and fatalistic despair (“He didn’t say for sure that he would come”). In the end, they just wait, day after day.

Whatever Robert Mueller’s internal timetable (seers like Rudy Giuliani have so far been comically wrong in trying to predict it), the investigation will face new pressures with the virtually certain Senate confirmation this week of William Barr. For the first time, Mueller will be supervised by a legitimate attorney general — rather than an acting Donald Trump factotum — who has avoided any promises about releasing the full report.

Capitol Ink | Cupid on ICE

How Ralph Northam is spending his Black History Month
The African-Americans of his state have done a whole lot of forgiving since the first enslaved people were brought there centuries ago

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam has been doing a lot of learning this month — about blackface, apologies and redemption. African-Americans who believe he should stay in his post are used to making political compromises to survive, Curtis writes. (Alex Edelman/Getty Images)

OPINION — The lessons of this February’s Black History Month commemorations have already veered far beyond the usual ones that begin and end by quoting a snippet of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — the part about judging folks not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. A new curriculum is being written in real time, affecting real-life politicians and their constituents. And Virginia is hardly the only state not ready for the big exam.

Of course, the politician in question, Gov. Ralph Northam, has been learning as he goes — about blackface, about apologies and about redemption.

Note to Ocasio-Cortez and Green New Dealers: The economy is not the government
Like old New Deal, plan promises much and will produce little

Massachusetts Sen. Edward J. Markey, center, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others hold a press conference on the Green New Deal outside the Capitol on Feb. 7. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — In the final debate of the 2010 British general election, Conservative Party leader David Cameron told his Labour Party rival, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, that “Labour seem to confuse the economy with the government.” A month later, Cameron had Brown’s job. 

Given the proposals in the Democrats’ Green New Deal — whose bungled release last week made for some sorely needed comic moments in an otherwise grim Washington — their leading economist, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, could learn something important from Cameron’s spot-on observation about what drives a successful economy. A hint: It isn’t government.

Hillary Clinton is running again, sort of
Another double bind for women in 2020? The more of them there are, the less they’ll stand out

It’s not fair to compare female candidates exclusively to one another, Murphy writes. But Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren haven’t exactly distanced themselves from the last woman to run for president. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — Democrats have four qualified, tough, smart, female senators running for president. And that might be a problem, because they just tried that against Donald Trump and it didn’t work in 2016.

It’s not that Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar and Kirsten Gillibrand wouldn’t each make an excellent president. Like Hillary Clinton, it’s clear that they have all put a great deal of thought into how they’ll run and how they would lead.

What the shutdown taught us about paid family leave
What those government employees endured is a sobering reality for many low-wage workers every day

Federal workers and contractors, along with their unions, stage a protest calling for an end to the government shutdown in January. With the fight fresh in the nation’s mind, it’s time to talk about paid family leave. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

OPINION — The recent government shutdown opened the nation’s eyes to what it means to live paycheck to paycheck. Many federal workers and contractors had to make difficult choices between putting food on the table or paying their bills. What these government employees endured is, unfortunately, a sobering reality for many low-wage workers every day.

When you add to this mix a new baby, a seriously ill parent, or a cancer diagnosis requiring time away from work for tests and treatment, you have a recipe for disaster for low-wage workers. Taking time off without pay just isn’t an option — it means no rent, no heat, or no medications.

Capitol Ink | Government shutdown clock

Drug pricing is secretive. Fix that first
If the rebate system is a complex web, consumers are the ones who get caught

By the time patients pull out their wallets at the pharmacy, their drugs have passed through an elaborate rebate system, Hoagland writes. Above, a technician grabs a bottle in Midvale, Utah. (George Frey/Getty Images)

OPINION — Health care economist Uwe Reinhardt once described pricing in the health care sector as “chaos behind a veil of secrecy.” That description aptly applies to the opaque U.S. pharmaceutical market.

To make health care policy that works, we must lift the secret veil on drug pricing. The administration’s recent proposal to fundamentally change the drug rebate process is one step in that direction.

Corporate boardrooms need policy ‘rules of the road’
As the role of businesses in society evolves, a government rethink is critical

Corporate executives are facing decisions on topics — like immigration and gun control — that have traditionally fallen under the government’s purview, Soroushian and Doyle write. (Courtesy iStock)

OPINION — Decisions made in corporate boardrooms can have serious implications for the economy, everyday investors and Americans’ livelihoods.

And those decisions now increasingly extend to issues such as immigration, gun control, and human rights — topics that have traditionally been the domain of government — as reluctant corporate executives and directors face new pressures from their investors, employees and customers.

Capitol Ink | Vandal in Chief

That might as well have been Trump’s concession speech
What we learned from the State of the Union: the president is still a one-trick pony

President Donald Trump’s address on Tuesday wasn’t the opening salvo of his 2020 campaign. It was the beginning of the end, Shapiro writes. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Donald Trump’s next State of the Union Address will be delivered in the shadow of the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It will be a time when the spirited race for Democratic nomination will offer more drama than the president’s tricks and tweets.

And if the Democrats win back the White House, that 2020 speech will have been Trump’s last State of the Union, since defrocked presidents, even ego-mad ones, rarely make the inaugural year trek to Capitol Hill to read their own political obituaries.

Trump was trying to channel Reagan. He sounded more like Nixon
You would think one of the president’s advisers would have warned him

President Donald Trump gestures to House Democrats during his State of the Union address on Tuesday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION  — “The state of our union is strong.” It is the line that is prominently featured in the speech of every president when he (and so far, it’s been a he) stands before Congress for a political ritual that remains impressive. Political theater? Sure, and why not. A country without a monarch craves a little pomp now and again, no matter the partisan sniping that precedes and follows it.

But what does that statement actually mean once the booming chants of “USA, USA” — which are sounding more aggressive than affirming lately — fade?

Capitol Ink | Subpoenas at the Gate

Trump’s audience in the House chamber isn’t the one that matters
Forget the pomp and antics. The electorate is growing increasingly impatient. This State of the Union is for them

House Democrats pose for photos before the State of the Union. They’re not the audience that counts, Winston writes. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

OPINION — Let’s start with the fact that I’m writing this before, not after, the State of the Union. (Deadlines are sometimes inconvenient.) So, with that caveat in place, I’m going to suggest that whatever Donald Trump said in his speech, whatever antics the Democrats planned to distract and disrupt the proceedings, what matters most isn’t the reaction in the House chamber or the post-speech punditry. What matters is whether the president’s words and his vision for the future connect with a decidedly divided American public.

It’s an understatement to say that there isn’t much that partisan America seems to agree on these days. Still, most voters — Republicans, Democrats and independents — would probably agree that State of the Unions are usually long, dull laundry lists of accomplishments and proposals, preceded in the days leading up to them by great expectations, at least inside the Beltway. Ask anyone on the street six months after Barack Obama’s last SOTU or Donald Trump’s first to tell you what either said, and you’ll probably get more blank stares than recollections, good or bad.