Sunday, September 27, 2015

Donald Trump and Ben Carson: The Winning Ticket?

[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

I have to confess that I do not understand the mentality of the Republican leadership.  It appears that they are more interested in losing the election than supporting Donald Trump.  It also appears that the majority of people who are professionally involved in politics that their real loyalty is to themselves or to people that will benefit them. Professional politics has become a way of life; and all of them are more interested in staying in power, whether as an elected politician, as a political pundit or political commentator. Anything that might disrupt the status quo must be fought.  This, unfortunately, leads to an outcome in which the Republican Party becomes noncompetitive in national elections.
Donald Trump is a businessman – a very good businessman.  He has made a lot of money over the years because he understands the economy, human relationships, commercial and industrial processes as an owner and investor.  He knew he would have to stay on the good side of the politicians on both sides of the aisle; that is why he has such a diverse pattern of contributions to both Democrats and the Republicans.  Now, it seems that they have turned on him. They no longer want to have contact with him because he is gaining traction with the electorate and threatening to do away with “business as usual.”

Voters are tired of candidate bashing. Candidate bashing has always turned out to be deceptive and a way for one individual to get their 15 minutes of fame. I would guess that if each candidate’s focus had been on the common enemy – the Democratic candidates – Trump would never have had the platform that he now has. But instead, they attack each other and lose sight of the brass ring – the White House. The ineptitude of the Congress is also fueling the anger that is now surfacing; if the Republican controlled Congress would only keep their promises, Trump would probably not resonate so clearly with the voters. The media is not creditable in the eyes of most (informed) voters; and the promises of career politicians who only want more power, money, and backroom games and influence are dampening any chance of a Republican victory. The result is that the Republican establishment is going insane trying to derail The Donald!

The RINOs are doing everything they can to take the focus off of Trump. I truly believe that most of the GOP base is looking for reasons to revolt. It is the “same old – same old” because the majority of the candidates are calcified bureaucrats or career politicians being managed by RINOs and consultants who espouse non-winning strategies. Establishment favorites of the politically connected seem to be terrified that they will lose their influence in the decision-making process – and rightly so.  However, many of the conservatives are disgruntled with the Party's officeholders; and they are angry about immigration, trade and a whole lot of other agenda items that the incumbents have pooh-poohed.
And it’s not just Republicans; it is a lot of ordinary Americans who are concerned because regular politicians aren’t addressing the issues they are concerned about. I wrote in a previous blog (2/11/2013): “The more studious historians will, of course, have many explanations of why elections are won and lost: employment or unemployment; interest rates; tax policies; disposable income and voting one's “wallet”; monetary policies; balance of trade; deficit reduction; quantitative easing; wars; the list goes on and on.  And I agree with them: there have got to be logical, motivating factors that drive people to the polls to vote for one candidate or the other. But I also thought about the cyclical swings: today a Republican, tomorrow a Democrat. This mood of the country – the zeitgeist – manifests itself in the actual electoral outcome….”

It appears, statistically, that the electoral outcome is primed for a Republican victory.  All the Republican Party needs to do is stop fighting with each other and herd the cats into the voting booths to pull the lever for whoever the Republican nominee is.  Why the leaders do not recognize the sentiment of the public is unknown – but sad.  Currently, both Trump and Carson are polling in double digits; all of the other candidates – 14 of them - are in single digits and trailing by a wide margin! 

The image of the Republican Party needs to be vastly improved, also; it will never happen in today’s mileau. I am hopeful that the power structure of the Republican Party will recognize that there has been an electoral paradigm shift, and they take that knowledge with them when they do their planning on how to win a national election. Regardless of who the final nominee is, I hope that the voters – conservatives and moderates – coalesce and recognize that the only way to recapture the White House is to put aside their petty differences and vote Republican – any Republican! Period.

Conclusion: “The lessons to be learned: 1) Barring voter registration fraud, stuffing the ballot box, and the Republicans managing to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, political hysteresis smiles favorably upon a Republican Party win in 2016. 2) It appears that voters generally prefer a Republican as President; they just need a Democrat once in a while to remind them why….”


Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Also published at and

The biggest fiasco of the year is about to occur. No, it is not a Presidential debate. It is the travesty of the budget battle for Fiscal 2016.

The budget battle will begin in earnest after Labor Day. Republicans will take things to the brink without a strategy or preparing their case for frugality. This is a recipe for disaster.

Republicans have been in charge of the entire Legislative Branch since their landslide victory on November 4, 2014. When Members of Congress adjourned for their five-week August Recess not one Appropriation Bill had passed. The House had passed only six of the required twelve Appropriation bills. The Senate had not taken one vote. After eight years of telling voters Republicans could govern better than Democrats the budgetary results are actually worse.

When Congress reconvenes on September 8, 2015 it will have only ten legislative days to avoid a government shut down or continuing resolution. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew also formally requested another raise in the Debt Ceiling. What have they been doing for nine months?

So far there has only been posturing about defunding federal support of Planned Parenthood and somehow punishing the Environmental Protection Agency for its obtuse overreach. The collective fiscal impact of these actions is microscopic. No Republican, not even any of the Presidential candidates, is offering real solutions to reining-in rampant government spending and debt.

At the same time, federal agencies are proceeding with their annual rite of spending over a third of their budgets in the last three months of the fiscal year. Each year, potential savings evaporate in an orgy of expedited procurements and questionable spending during the mad dash to spend every penny before midnight on September 30. No efforts at frugality here; agencies would rather guard their budgetary turf than save money for taxpayers.

Even Tony Scott, Obama’s Chief Information Officer for the Executive Branch, has called out his colleagues declaring the year end spending binge, “a mad dash to load up the shopping carts”. No Republican has raised their voice against year-end spending. Holding agencies to spending only 25 percent of their funds in the 4th quarter would save $105 billion a year.

It gets worse – the brinksmanship over spending and raising the debt ceiling ignores a set of mind boggling facts.
  • Nearly a trillion dollars in unobligated funds are hiding in plain sight. Page 11, Table 1, of the Office of Management and Budget’s spreadsheets for assets and balances lists $909,122,000,000 as unspent and unobligated. President Obama is the first President since Lyndon Johnson to not require a “budget sweep” to return these orphaned funds to general use. There is no reason for a debt ceiling increase when they could resolve the matter by a push of a button.
  • There is $650 billion dollars in annual documented waste that could guide budget cuts. The Government Accountability Office (GAO), and 73 Agency and Department Inspector Generals, publish an average of 9,000 reports every year that document this waste to specific accounts and programs. These public reports also provide specific recommendations for how to stop the ongoing hemorrhaging of tax dollars. In 2015, the House Appropriators held 128 hearings relating to agency funding requests. Only four of those hearings included Inspector Generals. None included the GAO. None of these hearings included outside oversight groups who document and publicize government waste.
  • None of the House passed Appropriation bills call for hiring freezes or any slowdown in expanding the number of bureaucrats. Each year the Federal Executive Branch loses over 60,000 employees to retirements or voluntary departures. There was not one single hearing by Republicans to discuss ways to stop the treadmill of filling every vacancy no matter how obsolete or redundant. Federal agencies have 9 to 23 layers of management between front line workers and top officials. Are every one of these layers and every functionary needed? Republicans have never asked this question. An across the board hiring freeze would save $350 billion a year.
Let the games begin!

[Scot Faulkner served as Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives and on President Reagan’s White House Staff.]

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Co-authored with Dr. Jai Ryu

This also appeared at and

August 15, 2015 is the 70th Anniversary of the establishment of modern Korea. It is time for some new thinking about reuniting the two Koreas.

Long before last century's partition, Korea had been a unified people since 676 A.D., and flourished in peace for over twelve hundred years. It was only the Allies' actions at the end World War II that tore this longstanding civilization apart.

On March 24, 2014, President Park Geunhye became the first South Korean leader to make reunification a priority. In her "Dresden Speech", she drew parallels to how the German people benefited from reunification after the fall of the Berlin Wall, "As I ponder on where a united Germany stands today and where the Korean Peninsula seems headed next year — namely 70 years of division — I find myself overwhelmed by the sheer weight of history … the images of one Germany encourage those of us in Korea to cement our hope and our conviction that unification must also come on the Korean Peninsula."

But how can the dream of reunification become reality?

The world needs to embrace a new dialogue about the inevitability and desirability of reuniting the Korean Peninsula. Leaders across the DMZ and the political spectrum need to think more about people instead of power.

Time is critical. Every year, over 3,800 South Korean citizens pass away without knowing the fate of their loved ones in the North. President Park wants family reunification to be the first substantive and humane step towards re-engagement. Even the years of estrangement between the U.S. and Cuba allowed divided families to interact. Reuniting Korean families should be a priority among international organizations, and the nations participating in the Six Party Talks.

Creating co-prosperity is another action transcending ideology for the greater good. China understood this when it established Special Economic Zones in August 1980. North Korea is already reaching out for foreign investment and knowledge. They have established their own version of SEZs. The challenge is whether North Korean SEZs will stimulate real economic reform and openness, as in China, or be a cynical attempt to exploit Western naiveté and steal resources, as with Lenin's New Economic Policy in the USSR during the 1920s.

President Park is willing to take that chance and lead South Korea into an economic partnership with North Korea. South Korean companies could become major employers of North Koreans. These companies could also begin the long process of improving North Korea's infrastructure. Viable roads, rails and bridges are needed to support the supply chains to support successful SEZ factories.

South Korea is realistic about co-prosperity. The Kaeson Industrial Region failed in 2013 because the North Korean government expected South Korean companies to act like parastatals and become another cog in communism. The new North Korean SEZs will be based upon lessons learned from Kaeson.

Another learning curve is occurring with the Choson Exchanges. In this case, North Korea is sending some of their "best and brightest", especially women, to China, Indonesia and other Asian countries to learn about private sector management. They need western companies in the SEZs so they can apply their new knowledge.

The Soviets failed when they tried to append capitalist principles to dysfunctional state-run industries and unrealistic five-year plans. North Korea needs to understand the truism that state-run companies will fail no matter how many outside ideas are introduced. Underlying statist principles absorb and destroy free market ideas like white cells attacking infection. Only through credible and viable SEZs will North Koreans realize the benefits of these early forays into the world beyond their borders.

Beyond SEZs, North Korea should be open to South Korean partnerships to fully realize the potential of its vast natural wealth. North Korea has reserves of more than 200 mineral types distributed over 80% of its territory. Developing these natural resources could dramatically increase the wealth of North Korea. South Korea and China would benefit from access to these minerals. Revenue from mineral exports could fund improvements in the North's agriculture that would bring real nutrition to its people.

The bottom line is that China and South Korea have a vested interest in bringing North Korea into the family of nations. Real economic development will improve the health and well-being of the North Korean people. Reuniting families and opening economic exchange would be the first steps toward reuniting an ancient culture, benefitting the region and the world. Openness and interaction offer North Koreans a better future than living in an isolated pariah state.

Dr. Jai Ryu is the founder of One Dream One Korea and professor emeritus at Loyola University Maryland; Scot Faulkner served as Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Member of the Reagan White House staff. He is Senior Advisor to One Dream One Korea.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Birth of the Electorate Paradigm Shift

[Guest Contributor - Donald G. Mutersbaugh Sr.]

Let’s start here: regular politicians aren’t addressing the issues ordinary Americans are concerned about. Trump is simply saying what a lot of average Americans think; they have had enough of the politically correct advisors telling them what they should and should not think. The level of discontent seems to be bad enough that most Americans are now paying attention before they go to the voting booth and pull the lever.

Donald Trump says it like it is; he doesn't really worry about what the mainstream media says – for that matter, it doesn't really make a difference what the leadership of either the Democratic or the Republican Party says. For this he is castigated: using freedom of speech to express an opinion that is contrary to the stagnant, self-serving, destructive messages of the so-called professional politicians who are trying to get into or stay in power. Can you imagine? Is it any wonder that our country is being destroyed from within when you have so-called “news organizations” saying that they are going to cover Mr. Trump’s run for the presidency in the Entertainment Section instead of the Political Section?

What is happening with Donald Trump is nothing short of miraculous: he is causing a paradigm shift in the electorate. Most true Republicans are dissatisfied, and they are in a “silent majority” revolt. The conservative part of the Republican Party is tired of being lied to; it seems to be happening with increasing frequency. The Republicans have control of the House of Representatives and the Senate; what promises have they fulfilled since the electorate gave them control? Now, with the presidential season upon us, with an unprecedented number of candidates running for the Office of President, why should we, the electorate, believe any of it? It is the “same old – same old” because the majority of the candidates are calcified bureaucrats being managed by RINOs and consultants who espouse non-winning strategies. Establishment favorites of the politically connected seem to be terrified that they will lose their influence in the decision-making process – and rightly so.  

Don't get me wrong; I think that everybody involved in this process is a loyal American who loves God and country. And a large share of the blame belongs to the current two party system which normally would not allow anybody but the favorite of either party to rise to the point that they are the one nominated. Would Mr. Trump run as a third-party, independent? He has threatened to. Could this possibly be a replay of Ross Perot’s run for the Presidency? If that did happen, would the outcome be the same? Maybe the Republicans would get lucky and he would siphon more votes from the marginally satisfied Democrats to allow the Republican nomination to win (wishful thinking, I know, especially if the true conservative part of the Republican Party stays at home and decides not to vote at all)!

Let's go back to the paradigm shift for a little more discussion. One manifestation of this election season is that regardless of what happens to Mr. Trump, he has definitely caused a change in the direction and tone of conversations, interviews, and stump speeches concerning many topics which are of interest to most Americans (not so much politicians – except as it relates to their electability). The message that Mr. Trump brings to the game is resonating with the electorate. Perhaps they see in him somebody who is not a professional politician! Whether you like him or not, he is a winner. He says what he means, and he means what he says. For most of us, this is a refreshing message. I believe that people are tired of candidates that stand before us and bloviate about all of the things that we want to hear – regardless of whether they're true or not. And, because he speaks to issues that are important in his mind, he has indirectly changed the course of many issues that perhaps the other candidates wish to discuss – but in a politically correct manner. In doing this he has changed the course of the election discussion; this also might help explain why the other candidates are attacking him. Of course, being ahead in most of the polls makes him a moving target; but the interesting thing to note is that he is controlling the conversation – and it is resonating with the electorate!

I personally believe that the current debate format should only allow for the top five contenders. Even reducing the number from 16 to 10 will not allow for an intelligent discussion to occur; there are just too many people, too many issues, and not enough time to allow each candidate to really present themselves to the American electorate. And this is a problem because the image of the Republican Party needs to be vastly improved. Further, it would be highly desirable for the Republican “powers to be” to encourage the marginal candidates to withdraw from the race. There is nothing more distressing to me than to see former President Ronald Reagan's eleventh commandment violated: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” By allowing these other losers to continually attack those who might have a chance at winning the nomination – and even the election – only provides rhetorical ammunition to the opponents of the Republican candidate.

I am hopeful that the power structure of the Republican Party will recognize that there has been a paradigm shift, and they take that knowledge with them when they do their planning on how to win a national election. If they do nominate a moderate, establishment candidate, I hope that they at least give him a toolbox with Mr. Trump's candor and leadership dynamics. Perhaps they can capitalize on this phenomenon, “The birth of the electorate paradigm shift.”


Donald G. Mutersbaugh, Sr. earned his Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Maryland and his Master of Business Administration degree from Mary Washington College. He is the former Associate Administrator of Information Resources for the U.S House of Representatives under Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Stopping Obama's Usurpation of Advice & Consent

This also appears at:;

June 28, 2014 is an historic day in thwarting Presidential over-reach. On that day the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled President Obama’s recess appointments unconstitutional. NLRB versus Noel Canning, ET AL was a rare instance when the Judicial Branch acted as referee and reset the balance of power between the Executive and Legislative Branches.

The case centered on Noel Canning challenging a February 8, 2012 National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) decision on the grounds that its quorum only existed with the presence of invalid recess appointments. Noel Canning’s attorney argued that Obama’s ap­pointments were invalid because the 3-day adjournment between Congressional sessions was not long enough to trigger the Recess Ap­pointments Clause.

On January 25, 2013, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck the first blow against President Obama’s over reach by unanimously agreeing with Canning and ruling that the three recess appointments to the NLRB on January 4, 2012 were unconstitutional.

The Appeals Court asserted that the circumstance that would allow a President to make “Recess Appointments” under Article II, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution did not exist, because the Congress was in Pro Forma Session, not in a formal recess.

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 established two coequal chambers within the Legislative Branch.  One aspect of this balance is that:
Neither House, during the Session of Congress, shall, without the Consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days, nor to any other Place than that in which the two Houses shall be sitting. [Article 1, Section 5, Clause 4]

The formal end of a Congress is when the Legislative Branch adjourns “Sine Die” (from the Latin “without day”) meaning “without assigning a day for a further meeting or hearing”.  The Twentieth Amendment to the Constitution also sets a formal start and end time for each Congress.

The most complex consequence of Clause 4 relates to when Congress takes a recess and when it adjourns. A recess is a temporary halt to activity on the floor. Everything stops, and when the recess ends, the chamber resumes from where it left off. A recess might last 10 minutes or it might last weeks. The length of time does not matter. An adjournment is a formal end to business in the chamber, and upon return the chamber does not resume from where it left off. Just like a recess an adjournment can be for one minute or for three weeks.

Any formal break in Legislative Branch activity opens the door for a President to take certain actions. This includes making appointments which require Senate confirmation. Congressional leaders of both parties have devised ways to avoid inadvertently unleashing Presidential activism.

The Congress can take a break from legislative activity, and still avoid a formal recess or adjournment, by meeting in a “pro forma” session. Pro forma means “for the sake of formality”. In recent years pro forma sessions have prevented Presidents from making recess appointments, and in the case of President George W. Bush in 2008, deprived him calling a special session to reauthorize the Protect America Act and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

As long as a Member convenes either the House or Senate to formally open and close a session there is no recess or adjournment. Members sometimes compete to see how fast they can conduct a pro forma session. The record is currently held by Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island who completed the task in 12 seconds.

Obama’s January 2012 appointments were designed to dramatically expand his appointment authority by asserting his recess-appointment power as a “safety valve” against Senatorial “intransigence.” [1]
The Supreme Court unanimously declared the President lacked the authority to make those appointments. [2]

Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court and quoted from the Federal Papers,  ”the need to secure Senate approval provides “an excellent check upon a spirit of favoritism in the President, and would tend greatly to preventing the appointment of unfit characters from State prejudice, from family connection, from personal attachment, or from a view to popularity.” [3]

Breyer further wrote, “If a Sen­ate recess is so short that it does not require the consent of the House, it is too short to trigger the Recess Appoint­ments Clause. See Art. I, §5, cl. 4. And a recess lasting less than 10 days is presumptively too short as well”. [4] He dismissed the counter arguments of Obama’s Solicitor General as not, “either legally or practically appropriate”. [5]

Justice Scalia wrote a Concurrence that went further in assailing Obama’s attempt to nullify the Senate’s role in the appointment process [6].  Scalia exposed Obama’s “untenably broad interpretation” of Presidential power. [7] He also defined the Senate’s role in advice and consent on Presidential appointments “as a critical protection against “‘despotism,’ Freytag, 501 U. S., at 883”. [8]

The Concurrent Opinion was unprecedented in raising serious concerns over President Obama’s “aggrandizing the Presidency beyond its constitutional bounds and undermining respect for the separation of powers”. [9] It also challenged Obama’s rationale, “I can conceive of no sane constitutional theory…requiring us to defer to the views of the Executive Branch”. [10]

Justices Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito stood firm against Obama’s power grab by embracing the founding principles of America, “the limitation upon the President’s appointment power is there not for the benefit of the Senate, but for the protection of the people”. [11]

Scot Faulkner served as Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives and as a Member of the Reagan White House Staff.  He earned a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from American University, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Government from Lawrence University

[1] Tr. of Oral Arg. 21; page 74.
[2] NLRB versus Noel Canning, ET AL; No. 12–1281. Argued January 13, 2014—Decided June 26, 2014; 573 U. S. ____ (2014); 705 F. 3d 490, affirmed; Page 41.
[3] Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 76, p. 513 (J. Cooke ed. 1961).
[4] NLRB versus Noel Canning, ET AL; No. 12–1281. 573 U. S. ____ (2014); page 26.
[5] Ibid; page 43.
[6] Ibid; page 60. Scalia jointed by Justices Thomas, Roberts, and Alito.
[7] Ibid; page 61.
[8] Ibid; page 70.
[9] Ibid; page 108.
[10] Ibid; page 106.
[11] Ibid; page 107.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Why Iraq Matters

Also published in

Why is Iraq relevant? Specifically, why is the decision to fight the second Iraq War relevant to the 2016 Presidential election?

It is about more than just having another Bush running for President.  Ramadi falls, Iraqi military units flee before ISIS, and Iran extends its reach in the region. What a Republican President did back in 2003 has become a crucible on which the next generation of Republican leaders and their advisors must be tested.

The Second Iraq War is relevant because the senior policy advisors who embraced pre-emptive war and led America and the Middle East over a cliff are still around and serving in the inner circles of Jeb Bush and most other Republican Presidential candidates.

This generation of inept, incompetent, policy players did everything except slink away in shame.  They landed high paying and prestigious jobs in think tanks, lobby firms, and corporate boards.  They are the talking heads who kibitz on cable news and write columns second guessing everyone but themselves.  It is the old Washington game of unaccountable power – as long as you make the right friends and go to the right cocktail parties your actual track record is irrelevant.

For America to move forward in the Middle East it must demand that Republican candidates rid themselves of those who ignored intelligence, cherry-picked facts, were oblivious to a millennia of history & culture, bungled the war, bungled the occupation, were complicit in crony capitalist scams that steered nearly a trillion dollars through questionable sole source contracts, dismissed blatant corruption, embraced the wrong factions, and refused to make amends or apologize for what they did.

In early 2003, Bush advisors met with foreign policy experts who served Ronald Reagan.  The strategists who brought down the Soviet Empire unanimously opposed Bush’s plan to invade Iraq.  They listed dozens of reasons.  They correctly reminded the Bush team that Iraq had served as the counter-balance to Iranian aspirations since the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Taking out Saddam Hussein, especially without a clear alternative, would leave chaos and a vacuum.  This would open the door for Iran to challenge Sunni hegemony in the region and lead to a sectarian conflict that would devastate the region.  The Bush team scoffed.

Why was the Bush team so fixated on going back into Iraq no matter the facts or the consequences? The story lies deep within a sequence of largely unreported events that put America and the region on a path to our current predicament.

At 4:00 a.m. “Saudi time” on Sunday, February 24, 1991 the U.S. launched a brilliantly designed and executed ground war into Iraq as part of “Desert Storm”. This end run around Iraqi forces in Kuwait (Operation Deep Strike) stands along side Austerlitz and Chancellorsville as one of the great battle maneuvers in history.

Only a handful of military and intelligence officials admit to what happened next. Several of them have confirmed these details to me and they are verified on a few websites.

Desert Storm’s original plan was to completely encircle and destroy the Iraqi Republican Guard units defending Basra [ ].

On Tuesday, February 26, at 7:00 p.m. “Saudi time” the final armored units required for this encirclement entered Iraq and sped toward Basra. At that same time U.S. air strikes were obliterating retreating Iraqi forces along Route 80 near the town Al Jahra. These strikes destroyed 1,400 vehicles and killed thousands of Iraqi soldiers [ ].

As Wednesday February 27 dawned, CNN and other news organizations ran extensive video of the Route 80 carnage, now christened the “Highway of Death”. Some reporters and commentators began to question whether the “Highway of Death” was a gratuitous killing spree. Colin Powell, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was disturbed by the “shooting gallery” scenes and by the negative turn of news coverage. He shared his concern with President Bush and key White House advisors.

Debates raged in the White House about finishing the job of encircling the Republican Guard at Basra or “cutting losses” regarding negative media coverage. One staffer suggested that a compromise might be to end the ground war the next day (Thursday, February 28) at noon “Saudi time” as that would be exactly the 100-hour mark. This was immediately embraced as a “great number for the history books”. At 9:00 EST that evening a cease fire was announced to take effect nine hours later (4:00 a.m. EST or noon “Saudi time”).

Ground commanders, including Desert Storm commander General Norman Schwarzkopf, were shocked at the news. Lead armor units were less than 20 miles from completing their encirclement of the Republic Guards near Basra. The cease fire halted their advance leaving a strategic gap through which the Guard units resupplied and reformed under the U.S guns. A provisional ceasefire was formally signed three days later on March 3, 1991.

Unfortunately, this provisional ceasefire allowed the Iraqi military immediate use of their airspace and required U.S. forces to begin their withdrawal from Iraqi territory. [ ]

Then matters got worse. On February 15, 1991, President George H. W. Bush issued statements calling on the Iraqi people to overthrow President Saddam Hussein. It was hoped that Iraqi generals and key Sunni leaders would use the war as their opportunity for an uprising.

On March 3, 1991, the same day as a provisional ceasefire was signed, uprisings did occur, but among the Kurds in the north of Iraq, and the Shiites in the south. Bush officials were concerned that the Kurdish uprising might ignite Turkish fears of a greater Kurdistan and the Shiite uprising might trigger Iranian intervention. U.S. officials decided the best policy was to stand by and watch as Iraq brutally suppressed both revolts, killing over 100,000 civilians. Iraqi armored units and supply convoys moved with impunity while Iraqi helicopters flew by U.S. forces on their way to strafe rebelling Shiites.

Bush officials were concerned that the Kurdish uprising might ignite Turkish fears of a greater Kurdistan and the Shiite uprising might trigger Iranian intervention. U.S. officials decided the best policy was to stand by and watch as Iraq brutally suppressed both revolts, killing over 100,000 civilians. Iraqi armored units and supply convoys moved with impunity while Iraqi helicopters flew by U.S. forces on their way to strafe rebelling Shiites.

Many myths arose from the 1991 war including the “big lie” that we considered taking Baghdad. This masks the disastrous decision to arbitrarily end the war and allow the Republican Guard units to be resupplied and reform under U.S. guns. It masks the inane provisional ceasefire that prematurely reopened Iraqi airspace for military operations. And it masks the miscues of the Bush administration encouraging revolt only to watch thousands of civilians get slaughtered

When George W. Bush, entered the White House, many in his inner circle, including Vice President Cheney, wanted a “do over”. Their priority was to find an excuse, any excuse, to finish off Saddam. The attacks on 9-11 gave them the pretext for a return to Iraq.

Americans need to remember these events as Republican candidates grapple with questions about the second Iraq War.

We must remember history and vow to learn from

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Home Alone

This also appears at

The world where House and Senate Chambers are packed with Members attentively listening to their colleagues ended long before films like “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” and “Advise and Consent” paid it homage.

The Legislative Branch was intended to be the shining ideal of ordered debate and civil discourse. 

Thomas Jefferson eloquently spoke of this noble mission, “Congress is the great commanding theater of this nation. It is the place where laws are made.” [1]

Originally, the Chambers themselves were designed to foster the exchange of ideas and the forging of national policy through intellectual inquiry. [2]

Today both Houses of the Legislative Branch are pale reflections of these ideals.  Members of the House of Representatives and Senate trade prepackaged partisan barbs to empty chambers. 

“Congress is changing as an institution, and what you see is more and more members gearing their speeches as sound bites or YouTube clips,” said Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation.  [3]

What happened to the institution where, “members quoted Shakespeare on the floor and really engaged in debate and talked to each other and tried to reason back and forth?” [4]

Blame the size and complexity of the Federal Government.

The conflict between legislative business occurring at center stage versus behind the scenes started in the Continental Congress.  Even during the formative stages of America, there were committees that met away from the Chamber to prepare legislation for consideration.

These committees were temporary in nature.  Ad hoc committees were established within the House and Senate for a particular purpose and ended when they completed their task.  Selecting committee membership was a function of the entire body.  Committee members were usually the sponsors of specific bills and resolutions. These temporary committees were formed with one week deadlines for reporting back to the parent chamber.  Members of the House and Senate actually spent the majority of their time collectively in the “committee of the whole” to conduct legislative business. [5]

The first permanent, or “standing committee”, was the House’s Committee on Ways and Means in 1801. It took until 1816 before the Senate created its first standing committees.  Even with standing committees; committee chairs and members acted as limited adjuncts to the full House and Senate. [6]

The rise of Andrew Jackson and “Jacksonian Democrats” ushered in modern political parties. 

Partisan alignments seeped into the workings of the Legislative Branch.  By 1846 Members began to sit together in the Senate chamber according to party affiliation.  That same year saw the shift to committee assignments based upon recommendations of political party caucuses. [7]

Even with the rise of partisanship and standing committees, legislation was primarily handled by Members conducting learned debate in Chambers packed with colleagues and the public.

Congressional debates mattered and the future of America was being discussed and shaped every day the House and Senate were in session. The leaders of Washington society eagerly attended these sessions. The public filled the Senate’s “Ladies’ Gallery” and even sat on couches along the walls of the Senate Floor. [8]

America was growing and the strategic issue of slavery expanding westward dominated legislative debate. The issues were large and larger than life political leaders rose to voice concerns on behalf of the various regions of the United States.

The years 1810 through 1859, were a period known as the “Golden Age” of the Senate.  During this time three of the greatest senators and orators in American history served there: Henry Clay (Kentucky) articulating the views and concerns of the West, Daniel Webster (Massachusetts) representing the North, and John C. Calhoun (South Carolina) representing the South.

During these years America’s political leaders debated and resolved major issues on the Floors of the House and Senate.  These included the Missouri Compromise of 1820, the nullification debate of 1830 (Haynes-Webster debates), and the Compromise of1850. “Washington's elite gathered to watch the impassioned oratory and the great compromises that took place in this Chamber.” [9]

”On any given day, you’d find most of the senators at their desks in the chamber … writing, listening, debating, laughing, sleeping, franking mail. They were all present. No doubt, this was conducive to debate and resulted in some great discussions and arguments. The crowded Chamber also provided a great show for the visitors in the gallery.” [10]

There was power in oratory. The debates among Clay, Webster, Calhoun, and others mattered. These debates over America’s future became touch stones of our nation’s civic culture. For example, Daniel Webster’s speeches were so famous, “that his reply “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” to Senator Robert Hayne in a debate in 1830 was memorized by schoolboys and was on the lips of Northern soldiers as they charged forward in the Civil War.” [11]

The “Golden Age” made the House and Senate Chambers center stage in the Legislative Branch and in the nation. However, other forces were at work to pull power and attention away from this national forum.

Government was growing slowly, but incessantly. By 1856 the complexities of government, and its legislation, required major committees to hire clerical staff. For another fifty years House and Senate Members made do with cramped quarters in the ever expanding Capitol Building. The House of Representatives met in its new chamber on December 16, 1857, and the Senate first met in its new chamber on January 4, 1859. [12] During this time Members attended full sessions of the House and Senate in part because there was no other place for them to work. [13]

This fundamentally changed in the 20th Century. The Russell Senate Office Building opened in 1909.

The Cannon House Office Building opened in 1908. Members began to spend more time in their offices or attending committee meetings. The role of the House and Senate Chambers diminished to a place for voting instead of debating. Eventually, six office buildings would be filled with Members and their staffs.

Another blow to the stature of Chamber debate was the surge in executive branch activism under the Progressives (Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson), Democrats (Roosevelt, Truman, Kennedy, Johnson), and ultimately Presidents of both parties.

Big government forever changed the role of the Legislative Branch. Members had to confront more than legislation. Their offices became “mini-embassies” representing and advising their constituents on navigating the ever growing morass of government programs and agencies.

Members soon realized that power resided in minutiae rather than big issues. By specializing in niche issues and becoming experts on micro-matters they became brokers for legislative processes.

Unblocking choke points meant cutting deals with their colleagues and special interests. Members helping district and special interests to navigate the increasingly complex government labyrinth were rewarded with votes and donations. The road to power and riches ceased to be in front of the scenes, and settled into the dark recesses behind the scenes.

Efforts were made to reverse this undemocratic trend. In 1946, Congress tried to winnow down and streamline the hundreds of committees that blossomed during the New Deal and World War II. [14] Instead, The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 expanded staffs and institutionalized Member focus away from Floor debate. [15]

The number of committee meetings grew as government grew. During the 85th Congress (1957-1958) there were 3,750 House meetings and 2,748 Senate meetings.  By the 95th Congress (1977-1978) it was 7,896 House meetings and 3,960 Senate meetings. [16] Members had to pick and choose which meetings to attend, trading time for their staff, constituents, lobbyists, and donors.  Hearing rooms became just as empty as their parent Chamber.

Social media and fundraising have joined the competition for Members’ over stretched attention.  Lost in this cacophony is Jefferson’s ideal of civil discourse.  The towering figures of the Golden Age are now just names on statues that Members pass on their way to Chambers where they quickly vote and leave.

[Scot Faulkner served as the first Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives.]

[2] Richard Chenowerth, “The Most Beautiful Room in the World; Latrobe, Jefferson, and the First Capitol”; The Capitol Dome, Fall 2014; p. 24-39.
[4] Ibid
[6] “The Committee System.” Boundless Political Science. Boundless, 25 Jan. 2015. 
[10] Betty K. Koed; “The Ten Most Important Things to Know About the U.S. Senate”; United States Senate Historical Office.
[11] Craig R. Smith, “Daniel Webster and the Oratory of Civil Religion”; January 30, 2005; University of Missouri Press.
[13] Joanna Hallac; “Old Senate Chamber”
[14] The Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (PL 601 79th Congress);
[15] George B. Galloway; “The Operation of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946”; The American Political Science Review, Vol. 45, No. 1, (Mar., 1951), pp. 41-68 American Political Science Association; page 56;
[16] Norman J. Ornstein, Thomas E. Mann, Michael J. Malbin, Andrew Rugg and Raffaela Wakeman Vital Statistics on Congress Data on the U.S. Congress – A Joint Effort from Brookings and the American Enterprise Institute ; July 2013