What the Republicans delivered: Some speeches to remember

Al Kamen
Columnist October 21, 2013

The Great Shutdown of 2013 has ended, and some folks are saying it was all for naught, since it failed to rid the nation of Obamacare.

But at least it left us with some great speeches attempting to rally the troops to battle the administration’s health insurance program.

The comments, especially by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), may not have rivaled the spectacular oration by John “Bluto” Blutarsky to his disconsolate fraternity brothers in “Animal House,” with the classic question: “Over? Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?”

But they were pretty good.

In one interview, Cruz invoked the battle against Nazi Germany, saying: “I guarantee you one thing, Mike [Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah)] and I are going to fight with every breath in our body. As Churchill said, we will fight on the beaches, we will fight in the streets, we will fight at every step to stop the biggest job killer in America.”

In his sorta-filibuster last month on the Senate floor, he said: “If we go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany — look, we saw it in Britain. Neville Chamberlain told the British people: Accept the Nazis. Yes, they will dominate the continent of Europe, but that is not our problem. Let’s appease them. Why? Because it can’t be done. We cannot possibly stand against them.”

Cruz also recalled the Civil War. “A time of enormous pain, anguish, and bloodshed in the United States. There were a lot of voices then who said the Union cannot be saved. It cannot be done. Accept defeat. I suspect those same pundits, had they been around in the mid-19th century, would have written the same columns: This cannot be done.”

Then there was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on the House floor in March, with perhaps the most memorable call to arms: “The American people, especially vulnerable women, vulnerable children, vulnerable senior citizens, now get to pay more and they get less.

“That’s why we’re here,” she explained, “because we’re saying let’s repeal this failure before it literally kills women, kills children, kills senior citizens. Let’s not do that. Let’s love people. Let’s care about people.”

So it was not for naught.

A walk down Jeh Street

You’ll hear a lot about Jeh Johnson, President Obama’s pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, in the coming weeks. Drones (he’s defended them) and “don’t ask, don’t tell” (he’s against), mostly.

But here are a few things about the Pentagon lawyer you might not know:

●His name is pronounced “Jay.”

●He and his wife, Susan DiMarco, met as children but started dating only after Johnson visited her dental practice. He “endured three years of dental work before she agreed to a date with him,” according to their wedding announcement in the New York Times.

●An uncle of his, 2nd Lt. Robert B. Johnson, was one of the famed Tuskegee Airmen.

●During his freshman year at Morehouse College, his grade-point average was a “dismal 1.8.”

● His grandfather Charles S. Johnson, a prominent sociologist and a participant in the Harlem Renaissance, was the president of Fisk University.

●He was once a law partner of the late Ted Sorensen, John F. Kennedy’s speechwriter. Johnson called him “one of my personal heroes.”

●He once said in an interview that in his next life, he’d like to be an “NYC subway motorman, preferably the Number 7 Flushing line.”

●His birthday is Sept. 11.

The road to Riyadh?

We’re hearing that Army Undersecretary Joseph Westphal, the second-ranking Army civilian, is the front-runner to be the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

Westphal, a former chancellor of the University of Maine system, served as acting secretary of the Army in 2001 and assistant secretary of the Army for civil works from 1998 to 2001.

The Santiago, Chile-born Westphal also has congressional experience, having worked as an aide on the House Budget Committee. He has also worked at the Environmental Protection Agency and the Interior Department.

If nominated to the Riyadh post to replace retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Jim Smith , Westphal would be involved in a key country that’s deeply embroiled in the Syrian civil war — and whose loyalties on that front have been questioned — as well as managing the complicated Saudi role during a potential thaw in U.S. relations with Iran.

Reshaping a career

Pentagon press secretary George Little says his military-mouthpiece days are done.

“I have reached the difficult decision, after long consultation with my wonderful wife and two young sons, to step away from the podium and return to private life and the private sector,” he wrote in a recent e-mail to colleagues and reporters. Little joined the Defense Department in 2011 after working as the CIA’s spokesman.

His last day is Nov. 15, he says, and a search for his replacement is underway.

In the e-mail, Little says he’s hoping for a “a BlackBerry-free Thanksgiving dinner for the first time in several years.” Which shouldn’t be too hard, since most of us civilians use other smartphones.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop
. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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