A Naive Letter From Fledging House Democrats
Politicians play their linguistic shell games — and the public loses

OPINION — An enduring Washington truth: When a politician uses multiple clauses in a sentence, the opening words are camouflage soon to be contradicted by what comes later.

Here are a few typical examples of this rhetorical shell game:

Not Even Lame Duckery Can Break the Lockstep of the GOP
It is hard to find evidence that congressional Republicans feel chastened by the midterm verdict

OPINION — In theory (and the emphasis here is on the word “theory”), the lame-duck session of Congress after a cataclysmic midterm election should be a fruitful time for bipartisanship.

With nearly 90 members of the House and eight senators not returning for the 116th Congress, old rigidities might give way to last-gasp attempts at legislating. The nothing-left-to-lose freedom of the defeated was best expressed by Mia Love, who said at her concession news conference, “Now, I am unleashed, I am untethered and I am unshackled, and I can say exactly what’s on my mind.”

So You Think You Want to Run for President …
A handy checklist for the 2020 Democratic hopefuls

OPINION — In most over-stuffed and over-sweet-potatoed families during Thanksgiving week, dinner table conversation revolves around new jobs, new children and grandchildren and vacation plans. But this holiday season in maybe two-dozen homes across America, the new-job talk is about someone in the family running for Democratic nomination for president.

Not every would-be presidential candidate is as methodical as Mitt Romneywho presided over a family roll-call vote in December 2010 about the merits of a 2012 presidential campaign. (The verdict was overwhelmingly “no,” but Ann Romney cast the decisive “yes” vote.) But just about everyone contemplating a White House run traditionally spends the weeks after the midterm elections debating the pros and cons with family and longtime friends.

The Cabinet Secretary Who Should Have Known Better
Nielsen’s loyalty, harsh immigration policies were apparently not enough for Trump

OPINION — As a result of the natural tumult of politics along the corridors of power, Washington has always been filled with ambitious men and women plotting their next career move. This is Cinderella City where a few adroit steps can propel an anonymous staffer to the Cabinet in a golden coach.

At first glance, that is the story of 46-year-old Kirstjen Nielsen, who is nearing her first anniversary as secretary of Homeland Security. Championed by Donald Trump’s chief of staff, John Kelly — for whom she had worked at DHS and in the White House — Nielsen was put in charge in late 2017 of a sprawling Cabinet department with nearly a quarter of a million employees.

All the Post-Election Questions You Were Too Afraid to Ask
With special guest Professor U.R. Wise, scholar of the later campaigns of Harold Stassen

OPINION — To answer your post-election questions, we have retained the services of Professor U.R. Wise, the holder of the Warren G. Harding chair in political philosophy at Flyover University.

A: Pelosi is the great survivor of American politics. Assuming she has the votes, Pelosi will become the first legislator in American history to regain the speaker’s gavel after a gap as long as eight years.

Tuesday Night’s Wave Came With an Undertow for the GOP
Results were good enough to constrain Trump, and that alone made it the most important midterm since 1930

OPINION — It was the most important midterm election since voters repudiated the unsteady hand of Herbert Hoover in responding to the Great Depression. But unlike 1930 when the Democrats garnered more than 50 House seats and gained effective control of the Senate, the electoral verdict last night was far more equivocal.

As anyone who spent last summer at the beach knows, waves come in all sizes. There are gentle waves made for diving seven-year-olds. There are deceptively strong waves that bring with them an undertow. And there are, of course, fierce storm waves that require a response from FEMA.

Trump’s Secret Pre-Election Tricks, From Puppies to Space Invaders
After promises of a fanciful tax cut, what’s next? A puppy for every kid at Christmas?

OPINION — Absolute truth has always been an endangered species, rarely glimpsed in the wild, during the closing days of an election campaign. But up until now, there have been bipartisan norms governing the taffy-pull stretching of the truth.

Congressional votes can be distorted (an innocuous procedural motion portrayed as a dangerously extreme position), but the vote has to exist. Statements can be wildly ripped out of context, but the actual words had to be spoken.

A Traitor to the Pundit Class, I Enter the No-Predictions Zone
Politics is a little like baseball — stuffed with analysts and rife with meaningless stats

OPINION — To watch the World Series or the baseball playoffs is an invitation to enter the realm of the irrelevant statistic.

When the Red Sox pushed across their first run in the first inning Monday night, a Fox announcer burbled that Boston also scored in the first inning of the opening game when they won the Series in 2004, 2007 and 2013. Of course, no players from 2004 and 2007 are on the active Red Sox roster — and scoring in the second or fifth inning can also be an effective way of winning a ballgame.

The Case of the Missing President — in House Debates
Candidates may want to avoid him, but election is still a referendum on Trump

OPINION — Judging from two House debates this week in hotly contested races on both sides of the country, you would think that the president of the United States was a shadowy, off-stage figure whose personality and politics are barely worth discussing. Even “The Invisible Man” of the 1897 H.G. Wells novel and the 1933 Claude Rains movie had more of a corporal presence than Donald Trump.

During the one-hour debate in Utah’s 4th district in suburban Salt Lake City, the word Trump was not mentioned until the 45-minute mark when the moderator blurted out the president’s name in a question on tariffs.

It Turns Out Democrats Are Really Bad at Getting Mad
They’re doing their best scorched-earth impression of Mitch McConnell. It isn’t working

OPINION — Anger in politics is like the porridge in “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” — it has to be just right.

Too little anger breeds a sense of complacency and decreases the urgency of voting. Too much anger produces self-defeating rhetoric that repels the very undecided voters that you are struggling to attract.

Trump Is Giving Pyrrhic Victors a Run For Their Money
He’s angling for a Kavanaugh bump. But Democrats and sexual assault survivors will remember this for many elections to come

OPINION — History is littered with Republican and White House insiders who naively believed that they possessed the hypnotic powers needed to protect Donald Trump from his worst guttersnipe instincts.

In the summer of 2016, Paul Manafort tried to convince the unruly Trump to use teleprompters and speech texts at campaign rallies. Now, of course, Manafort is a long-term guest of the federal government, and Trump is even more out of control than ever at rallies.

Either Kavanaugh Goes Down or the Republicans Do
Women — and many men — will still remember Thursday’s hearing when they vote in 2018 and 2020

OPINION — Watching Christine Blasey Ford’s harrowing testimony, it seemed clear that either Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination goes down or he will take the entire Republican Party with him.

Women of all political persuasions — and a hell of a lot of men — will be remembering this hearing when they go to the polls in 2018 and 2020. And while it is dangerous to overexaggerate the political influence of a single event in our hyper-partisan times, Thursday’s testimony has the potential to be seismic.

The Rush to Judgment on Kavanaugh Is the Ultimate ‘Con Job’
Are there conscience-driven Senate Republicans left to stop the confirmation sprint?

OPINION — In the waning days of his Senate career, Arizona’s Jeff Flake is trying to convince skeptics that, even under Donald Trump, there remain Republicans of good conscience appalled at the tenor of public discourse.

Flake’s latest declaration of independence came in the form of a Wednesday Senate floor speech on the imperiled Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. As Flake put it, “These past two years, we have tested the limits of how low we can go. And my colleagues, I say to you that winning at all costs is too high a cost.”

How the Republicans Fell for Trump’s Overconfidence Game
With the base seeing all criticism as ‘Fake News,’ the GOP could be in for a rough November

OPINION  — The topic never pops up in statistical analyses or pundit roundtables on cable TV, but one of the most underappreciated factors shaping politics is overconfidence.

Historically, second-term presidents have been particularly vulnerable to arrogant overreach. For eight decades, the prime example has been Franklin Roosevelt’s ill-fated plan following his 1936 landslide re-election to pack the Supreme Court with six new justices. (A personal plea: Please don’t mention this scheme to Donald Trump.)

What’s Missing From Bob Woodward’s Book? Ask Ben Sasse
With McCain gone, the Nebraska Republican may be the closest thing left to a never-Trumper

OPINION — Bob Woodward’s book “Fear” — which might better have been called, Hunter Thompson-style, “Fear and Loathing in the White House” — is filled with revealing anecdotes that have gotten overlooked amid the incessant rounds of TV interviews and cable news panels.

One of my favorites comes from the early days of John Kelly’s White House tenure, as the new chief of staff briefly labored under the illusion that he could tame the erratic president.

Kavanaugh’s First Stand Was the Blandest Thing Since White Bread
To say even that is an insult to all the plastic-wrapped loaves on supermarket shelves

OPINION — It was Ben Sasse — the conservative Nebraska Republican who makes a fetish out of seeming like the last rational man in the era of Donald Trump — who crystalized the issues facing the Senate as it began the most consequential hearing on a Supreme Court nominee in decades.

Stressing the independence of the judiciary, Sasse said, “This is the last job interview that Brett Kavanaugh will ever have.”

A Post-McCain Mystery: Why Does the GOP Put Up With Trump’s Graceless Vulgarity?
With lack of respect shown for late senator, president continues to defy norms

OPINION — The adjective “graceless” has been part of the language for more than six centuries. A word frequently deployed by Shakespeare — “What is she but a foul contending rebel, And graceless traitor to her loving lord?” — it has never had a more appropriate use than in describing Donald Trump’s graceless lack of respect for John McCain.

Nothing better symbolizes the cruel vulgarity of the Trump administration than the president’s refusal to offer a public comment for 48 hours on McCain’s death beyond a barebones tweet combined with the White House raising the flag to full staff after midnight on Monday.

Think It’s Bad for the GOP Now? Wait for an October Surprise
A wild Tuesday for Republicans, complete with plea deals and indictments, may be just the tip of the iceberg

OPINION — This is the golden age of political horoscopes — sophisticated projection systems designed to forecast the 2018 elections.

Whether primarily based on the generic ballot (voters currently prefer the Democrats by an 8-point margin) or detailed rundowns of individual races (roughly three dozen GOP-held seats are seriously imperiled), these forecasts all assume that no major external events will upend the political mood before Election Day.

Instead of Oversight, This Congress Believes in Under-Sight
Omarosa saga reminds us that no Trump offense is so big that the GOP can’t ignore it

OPINION — In “Dr. Strangelove,” Stanley Kubrick’s scabrously funny 1964 sendup of nuclear war, a fanatical anti-Communist general starts pummeling the Russian ambassador for taking photographs in the inner sanctum of the Pentagon. The hapless president breaks up the scuffle by saying in an outraged tone, “Gentlemen. You can’t fight in here. This is the War Room!”

If only Kubrick were still around to do justice to Omarosa Manigault Newman taping her own firing by John Kelly in the White House Situation Room. Even the fanatical Gen. Jack D. Ripper couldn’t match the deranged fury of Donald Trump’s Tuesday tweet calling Omarosa “a crazed, crying lowlife” and viciously likening her to a “dog.”

Why the Mueller Investigation Is the Wobble of Neptune
Nixon comparisons may be premature, but things can be anticipated before they are observed

OPINION — It was the summer of “Chinatown” and Elton John’s best-selling album “Caribou.” Top-rated TV shows like “All in the FamilyM*A*S*H” were in rerun season. But August 1974 was not lacking in drama cut with pathos.

On Aug. 8, Richard Nixon spoke to the nation, announcing his surrender in the battle of Watergate because “I no longer have a strong enough political base in the Congress to justify continuing that effort.”