Remember Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff to radical lefty activist/theorist Saul Alinsky’s most famous disciple? Emanuel is the one who, echoing Winston Churchill and others less famous in history, said smart politicians “never let a good crisis go to waste.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) almost certainly became familiar with that maxim long before Emanuel. She has provided since March 2020 a perfect illustration of its application in how she has responded to the Coronavirus Pandemic.
Before March 2020, the U.S. Capitol was a thriving, crowded, beautiful place to be, the very beating heart of the American republic. Citizens from all over the country could come and go, talk to their representatives and their staffs, gaze at the historic artwork and architecture that so distinguish the Capitol, and sit in the Senate and House galleries to watch their legislators conduct the nation’s business.
I first came to the nation’s capital in 1976 and have spent countless hours in and around the U.S. Capitol in the decades since, mostly as a journalist. I confess that I love the Capitol, the history, the sounds and atmosphere of the greatest republic ever. (My favorite part of the Capitol, by the way, is the Old Senate Chamber. Listen closely and you can still hear Webster, Hayne, and Calhoun debating the Compromise of 1850).
But then came the Pandemic. Pelosi closed the U.S. Capitol and the associated office buildings on the House and Senate sides of the campus, the Library of Congress, and other congressional facilities.
She also used the Pandemic to justify a series of restrictions — proxy voting, virtual committee meetings, masks required everywhere, including the House floor, banning the public from entering, etc. — that effectively turned the Capitol into a virtual ghost town.
Now come reports that the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) are preparing to “reopen” the Capitol “in phases.” Here are the key graphs in one such report:
“The first phase would permit limited school tours through Senate and House office buildings, escorted by congressional staff. The second phase, tentatively expected for May 30, would involve a limited reopening of the Capitol Visitor Center.
“For the reopening plan to take effect, the Capitol Police Board has to sign off, and that has not yet happened, according to an aide familiar with the process.
“Tours in the first phase would be limited to no more than four groups of 50 people who would follow a predetermined route and undergo a secondary screening before arriving in the Capitol.”
The key word above is in the first sentence — “permit.” The precedent for permanently requiring prior permission to access the U.S. Capitol is about to be set. Can you guess who, ultimately, controls the permitting process?
And note that the reopening’s first phase involves only student tours of Senate and House office buildings, not the Capitol itself. Unless you work in them, trust me, walking around the Dirksen and Longworth buildings is about as exciting as watching grass grow.
Now let’s check out the other highlighted words. Take, for example, the reference to “secondary screening before arriving.” That’s to establish the permanent precedent of conducting background checks on every individual seeking to access the Capitol.
Remember, before the Pandemic, the only qualification to enter the Capitol was that you could pass through a metal detector without setting off alarms. With this “reopening” process, such freedom of access will be a distant memory.
How long before anybody appearing on the Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) owners database will be barred from entering the Capitol? And it won’t stop there. Non-vaccinated/boosted individuals? People who claim voter fraud is a genuine problem? Pro-life advocates?
Finally, this whole “reopening” charade is being run through the USCP. I have been thanking rank-and-file officers for years for their work protecting the rest of us on the Hill. Six officers have died in the line of duty over the years. There are a few bad apples in the force, but I find the other 99% to be invariably professional and helpful.
But the people at the top of the USCP know they are at the mercy of Pelosi, who appoints two of the three members of the Capitol Police Board that oversees the force. The reality is that Pelosi, or whoever happens to succeed her as Speaker of the House, has the final word on Capitol security and related issues like access.
Assuming voters restore Republicans to the majority in the House of Representatives in November, the odds then will be that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will become Pelosi’s successor with the House gavel, come January 2023.
House Republicans now are increasingly bold in calling for reopening the Capitol to the general public as soon as possible. How McCarthy decides this issue if and when it is in his power to do so will say a great deal about what to expect from him and the rest of the congressional Republicans.