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

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.

Dr. Jekyll, Mr. State of the Union
Trump will speak of unity and togetherness. So nice, right?

OPINION — I love a tradition more than anybody, but the modern State of the Union address, which President Trump will deliver again Tuesday night, has descended into the most ridiculous annual hour and a half of nonsense that the country has to endure other than the Super Bowl. Can somebody please put America out of this misery?

The idea of an American president briefing Congress was originally such a practical necessity that it was codified in the Constitution. Without modern communications and with travel into and out of the capital difficult, the Founding Fathers correctly decided that the president should communicate regularly with the representatives of the states about the government they were all a part of.

A ruthless, head-patting grandma finally gets her due
Nancy Pelosi broke all the rules for women in politics — and won

OPINION — There was a time not long ago when women in politics were counseled never to speak about their children, if they were moms. A woman needed to seem strong enough for the job. Especially for the male consultants in the room, being a mom read “too soft,” maybe even too weak.

But among the other bragging rights that Speaker Nancy Pelosi can continue to collect after last week’s schooling of President Donald Trump in the government shutdown fight, Pelosi can claim this too: For the first time in American history, the most powerful person in the country is a woman. And not only did Pelosi not downplay her role as a mother and a grandmother in the process, she made it clear during the shutdown standoff against Trump that raising five children before her career in politics may actually have made her uniquely prepared for the job she holds and the president she’s dealing with.

The shutdown is exactly what voters asked for
Americans demanded a ‘fight,’ and boy did they get one

OPINION — Are you sick of all the fighting in Washington? Are you sure? Because for the last 20 years, with a few hopeful exceptions, Americans have voted for exactly this — fighting, intransigence, and leaders who have made a habit of specifically promising to fight and not back down.

Fighting in American politics is nothing new, of course, especially in a country founded by revolutionaries. But at some point, American leaders went from promising to fight the country’s enemies to believing we are each other’s enemies. The story of that evolution, at least in the last several years, comes down to a single word — “fight.”

Time for Republicans senators to override the shutdown
A genuine national emergency — not the kind you have to declare — is taking root

OPINION — It’s Day 25 of the longest government shutdown in American history and there’s only one end in sight.

It’s not a compromise between Democrats and President Donald Trump. White House aides say the president is “dug in” on his demand for $5.7 billion for a border wall. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called the wall “immoral.” There is very little hope for a breakthrough between “dug in” and “immoral,” especially between two sides that both think they’ve got the moral high ground — and voters — on their side.

As Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez flies high, eyes are rolling on the ground
We all know who she is. But is that good for her agenda?

OPINION — The knives are out for Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the freshman phenom who unseated Rep. Joe Crowley in the summer primary and went on to make history as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress.

Why did I even mention that part? We all know who the congresswoman is, and that is both her biggest asset and her greatest danger as she begins what could be a lifelong career of impact or a two-year experiment in modern, celebrity legislating.

Happy New Year, Republicans! It’s Downhill From Here
Get ready for another no good, very bad year, complete with a looming constitutional crisis

OPINION — 2018 will go in the books as a bad one for most Republicans. They picked up two seats in the Senate, but lost 40 in the House. Their numbers among women in the House shrank from 23 to 13, and President Donald Trump can’t give away his chief of staff job.

Ask anyone who’s been there: The only thing worse than losing the majority in Congress is every day after that, when chairing committees and holding press conferences is replaced by packing boxes and saying goodbye to staff.

Paul Ryan: The Good, the Bad and the Truly Disappointing
He never wanted the job. He never lived up to his potential. But it wasn’t all doom and gloom

OPINION — It’s hard to excel in a job you never wanted in the first place. That seems to be one of the primary takeaways from the three years Paul Ryan served as House speaker since Republicans practically begged him to step into the void they created when they ran John Boehner off from the job in 2015.

Add to Ryan’s burden the fact that he had to work with a president who was his opposite in every measure but party affiliation, and it’s easy to think Ryan’s speakership was doomed from the start. But it wasn’t all bad for the gentleman from Janesville. Let’s review.

From Bush’s Lips to Our Ears: To Heck With Campaign Promises
His fateful tax deal should inspire us to do what’s right, not what’s re-electable

OPINION — There are two kinds of politicians in Washington when it’s all said and done — the kind who do what they have to do to get re-elected, and the kind who do what they believe they should do because it’s the right thing.

For all of the speeches and sound bites, the campaign ads and polling, it’s really not more complicated than that. Every decision in the capital comes back to that fundamental choice.

Nancy Pelosi’s Leadership Lessons for Bossy Girls Everywhere
This week in Washington will matter much more than a TED Talk on how we beat down women who lead

It’s hard to look away when Nancy Pelosi is whipping her caucus in a leadership race. It’s like watching a lion drag down an antelope twice its size or a slow-motion shark attack. Even though you think you know how it ends, the sheer power on display keeps you watching.

Take last week, after 16 Democrats announced that they would oppose Pelosi for speaker — just enough opposition to kill her bid. Within hours, her operation went about knocking the naysayers down one by one, along with Pelosi’s only announced challenger, Rep. Marcia Fudge, who dropped her bid after Pelosi re-started a dormant subcommittee on voting rights and put Fudge in charge of it. There are still murmurings of discontent in this corner or that, but the momentum seems to have shifted perceptibly to a second Pelosi speakership through a combination of Pelosi-sponsored sweeteners, tightening screws, and sheer force of will.

Cue the ‘Jaws’ Soundtrack, Pelosi Is Hunting for Votes
California Democrat has long displayed a knack for winning tough votes

OPINION — When Nancy Pelosi’s supporters talk about her strengths for the job of speaker, “counting votes” is usually right at the top of the list. But counting hardly describes the process that Pelosi has deployed for the last 16 years as the Democratic leader in the House to pass more landmark pieces of legislation than any other sitting member of Congress.

Part kindly godmother (think baby gifts and handwritten notes), part mentor, part shark, part party boss, Pelosi’s uncanny ability to move legislation may be the most important, yet least discussed, aspect of the Democrats’ internal debate about who should lead them into the future.

Thank you, Dan Crenshaw
Injured Navy SEAL an example of humor, forgiveness and leadership

OPINION — As a political columnist, the hardest part isn’t finding something to write about, it’s narrowing your focus to just one topic. For today’s column, I could have written about the election mess in Florida, President Trump’s non-attendance at a Veterans Day parade in France, the fact that Nancy Pelosi could soon be second-in-line to the presidency (it could happen), or my complaint that 2020 speculation is the new Christmas decorating (too much too soon).

But after I saw Dan Crenshaw on Saturday Night Live, everything else seemed small in comparison. If you don’t know his name, you will. If you don’t know the story, here it is.

What Stacey Abrams Will Tell Us About America Tonight
The results out of Georgia will be a fast and clear grade of the Trump presidency

OPINION — Of all of the races to watch Tuesday night, the Georgia governor’s race may be the most important, both for the history it could make (Democrat Stacey Abrams could become the first black female governor in American history) and for what the results in the quickly changing state could tell us about trends in the rest of the country. It’s not exactly Peoria, but Georgia is increasingly representative of the racial, gender, political and business dynamics driving the country itself.

First and foremost, the results in Georgia will be a fast and clear grade of the Trump presidency — period. The Republican nominee, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, has fashioned himself as Donald Trump in a plaid shirt from the beginning of the cycle. Kemp’s first ad introducing himself to Georgia voters featured a gun, a chainsaw, an explosion and Kemp’s pickup — “just in case I need to round up criminal illegals and take ’em home myself. Yep. I just said that!”

Presidents Once Provided Comfort and Leadership in Crises. Now They Tweet and Tongue-Lash
At a time that calls for presidential leadership, it’s nowhere to be found

OPINION — There are times in American history when presidential leadership has made the difference between war and peace, or progress and decline.

Past American presidents have comforted the grieving, steeled the frightened, given courage to the wavering and championed the ideals of equality, liberty, strength and compassion. American presidents’ words across centuries have mattered because American leadership has mattered.

Speaker Pelosi? Maybe. Tea Party Redux? Not if She Can Help It
California Democrat won’t face the same problems Boehner did eight years ago

OPINION — I’m not sure anyone enjoyed John Boehner’s speakership as much as I did covering him and his new majority in 2011 and 2012. What more can you ask for in a storyline than a merlot-loving congressional institutionalist who wins the speaker’s gavel on the wings of a pack of angry rebels?

Fast forward eight years to the Trump-fueled anger on the progressive left, along with projections that Democrats will more than likely win back the House, and you have to wonder if it’s time for Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to switch from chocolate to cigarettes to gird herself for life leading a pack of would-be insurrectionists as Boehner had to do in 2011.

Is Beto O’Rourke the Next Jon Ossoff?
Democrats can’t seem to help falling for white, Southern men in unlikely races

OPINION — There have been so many glowing profiles of Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic Senate hopeful in Texas, that there is a running joke  among journalists about the ingredients for a perfect O’Rourke piece. The short version goes something like this: He looks like a Kennedy! He’s got tons of cash! He’s a Democrat in a Red State! Let’s do this thing!

The one detail that’s almost always missing in those profiles is reality — namely, the fact that O’Rourke could run a perfect race against Sen. Ted Cruz and will still probably lose based solely on the fact that far more Republicans are likely to vote in Texas this November than Democrats. Although twice as many Texans (about 1 million) voted in the Democratic primary this year compared to 2014, 1.5 million votes were cast in the Republican primary. Even as the state’s demographics are changing, the math for Texas Democrats still doesn’t look good.

After the Kavanaugh Trauma, the Senate Needs an MRI
Senators, on both sides, must stop assuming the worst of colleagues’ motives

OPINION — The Brett Kavanaugh confirmation saga is over, but the worry I hear most around the Senate is that the damage done to the institution during his nomination battle may be permanent.

How does the institution go on after a mess like that? How do colleagues, especially on the Judiciary Committee, work together after the accusations, attacks and name-calling that went on? How can they fix a Senate that looks so broken right now?

The Senate Already Went Nuclear. This Must Be Nuclear Plus
Mitch McConnell may have said it best: ‘You’ll regret this, and you may regret this a lot sooner than you think’

OPINION — Of all of the questions left unanswered after the Judiciary Committee hearings for Brett Kavanaugh ended last week, the hardest one to know for sure might also be the most important for the long-term health of the country — can the Senate be saved after everything that happened last week?

Can the Senate function again after Sen. Lindsey Graham looked across the hearing room at his Democratic colleagues on Thursday and yelled in rage, “Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it!”

Don’t Call Mazie Hirono a Badass. Call Her a Leader.
Hawaii Democrat is much more than a meme

OPINION — Sen. Mazie Hirono is a badass, in case you haven’t been following the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. 

Also, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is notorious, like a rapper. And when Rep. Maxine Waters reclaimed her time last year, she suddenly became everybody’s favorite feisty aunt who isn’t putting up with your fresh talk anymore.

Kavanaugh’s Fate Lies in Women’s Hands — As It Should Be
Female voters will also be judging how Republicans treat him and his accuser

OPINION — This was the point. This was always the point of the “Year of the Woman,” in 1992 and every election year since then. To have women at the table, to have women as a part of the process in the government we live by every day. Women still aren’t serving in Congress in the numbers they should be, but it is at moments like this one — with a nominee, an accusation, and a Supreme Court seat in the balance — where electing women to office matters.

When Anita Hill told an all-male panel of senators in 1991 that Clarence Thomas had repeatedly sexually harassed her when she had worked with him years before, the senators on the all-male Judiciary Committee seemed to put Hill on trial instead of Thomas. Why didn’t she quit her job and get another one, they asked. Why did she speak to him again? Why didn’t she come forward and say something about Thomas sooner if he was such a flawed nominee?