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Bill Straub: Thomas ‘Wonderboy’ Massie, darling of far-right fringe, wants to undermine the government

WASHINGTON – It’s fair to say that Rep. Thomas “Wonder Boy” Massie has one of the, well, most unusual voting records in Congress, a claim that even he is unlikely to contradict. 

The Republican from SomewhereorotherLewisCounty has been busy since the outset of the 116th Congress engaging in the foolishness that has made him the darling of the nation’s far-right fringe, the Bluegrass’s answer to Rep. Steve King, R-IA, a universally recognized loon of the first order. He’s even the darling of a revitalized John Birch Society, which is so far out in right field that the father of modern American conservatism, William F. Buckley Jr., dismissed the outfit as consisting of a bunch of crackpots.  

Rep. Thomas Massie

While the nation was focused on the recent partial shutdown of the federal government and Trump’s Wall, the Whiz Kid, who it should be noted here is certainly one of the most intelligent denizens of Capitol Hill, has been lustily attempting to undermine the government he serves. 

Massie has already introduced legislation to abolish the federal Department of Education. He is behind the push to halt U.S. funding for the United Nations and dump the international organization altogether, telling The New American, published by the John Birch Society, that “The best thing that you can say about the United Nations is it’s mostly ineffective and a waste of money,” adding that “I’m glad that they are somewhat ineffective, but I don’t like that we waste the money.” 

Wonder Boy fails to explain what would replace the New York-based organization dedicated to maintaining world peace. 

And there’s his votes. Massie was one of 22 lawmakers who voted against legislation aimed at prohibiting President Trump (OMG!) from exiting NATO, the military alliance essentially created by the U.S. in 1949 to ease potential conflicts in Europe. Massie derisively referred to it as the “Pledge of Allegiance to NATO Act.’’ 

But the real humdinger was his vote in opposition to legislation to make sure that furloughed federal employees, who failed to receive paychecks because of the partial governmental shutdown, ultimately got paid. In a rather odd rationale emailed to the Courier Journal of Louisville, Massie said the bill would “only make it easier for politicians to cause future shutdowns. This is irresponsible and I want to prevent future shutdowns from happening.” 

Just how making sure federal workers don’t starve to death because Massie, his colleagues and a sociopathic president can’t come to an agreement on a spending measure is going to cause future shutdowns went unexplained, especially since the House is working on a package that would assure continued government operations under such circumstances. 

And of course Massie is backing Trumps’ campaign to build his silly wall, as outrageous a boondoggle as you’re likely to ever see, on the southern border even if it requires, perhaps, placing a closed sign on the federal government’s door. 

President Donald J. Trump (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

“President @realDonaldTrump has now made two separate offers so generous that conservatives are queasy about them,’’ Massie wrote on Twitter. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, who kicked The Trumpster around the block in recent wall negotiations, “won’t compromise at all because if she compromises now, she might have to compromise in the future.’’ 

Trump’s offer, of course, was laughably meager, requiring Congress to kick in $5.7 billion to build his wall in return for temporary protection of so-called Dreamers, young folks born outside the U.S. who arrived here illegally as infants and know no other place to call home. It’s hardly a difficult step to permanently protect those individuals but all Trump would do is give them a three-year pass. That a lot of conservatives are “queasy’’ about the offer tells you all you need to know about conservatives. 

Massie, who has represented Northern Kentucky in Washington even though he probably couldn’t pick out Kenton, Campbell and Boone counties on a map, likes to think he is “exposing the swamp,’’ a title given to a keynote speech he made to the John Birch Society at a banquet celebrating the oddball organization’s 60th anniversary in Appleton, WI, back in October. And the American public may soon get a gander at just how serious he is about fulfilling that mission. 

Wonder Boy, along with Rep. James Comer, R-Tompkinsville,  is a member of the newly-named House Committee on Oversight and Reform, which is controlled by Democrats now that the party has reclaimed the majority in the lower chamber. 

Under GOP control, the panel was called the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which engaged in all sorts of mischief during the Obama administration. It sought to undermine the Democratic president with a seemingly never-ending investigation into the Benghazi incident, where members of Ansar al-Sharia attacked the American diplomatic compound resulting in the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and three others in 2012. And it was the forum for GOP attacks on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her emails, a molehill that nonetheless had a hand in undermining her unsuccessful run for president in 2016. 

Now the tables are turned. The committee is ready to focus on Trump. Needless to say, if you’ve been at all conscious over the past two years, there’s plenty on The Donald’s curriculum vitae to carry any investigative panel into the next century. 

Robert Mueller

There is, obviously, the question of whether The Trumpster had any knowledge that his presidential campaign was – here comes that word – colluding with the Kremlin to throw the 2016 election in his direction. Special Counsel Robert Mueller  is hot on the trail of that looming scandal but there’s plenty the House Committee on Oversight and Reform can bring to light – including testimony from the president’s former attorney and fixer Michael Cohn. 

And then there is the question of the emoluments clause in the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits federal officers from accepting gifts from foreign governments. The question has been raised as a result of representatives from some nations making payments to Trump’s privately-owned properties. The government of Saudi Arabia, for instance has spent spectacular sums at the hotel that Trump maintains interest in on Pennsylvania Avenue in DC. 

The Washington Post, for instance reported that lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at said hotel within a month of Trump’s election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights in just three months. While Trump has allegedly turned over operations of his properties to third parties, he still makes money on his holdings. 

Then there’s always the question of the president’s tax returns, which some day may make for interesting reading. And the panel already has announced plans to look into security clearance problems in the White House. Among the issues is the application of Jared Kushner, who happens to be Trump’s son-in-law, for a top-secret clearance that was initially rejected by White House security personnel after an FBI background check raised concerns about potential foreign influence. Somehow, that recommendation was overruled. 

Hmmm. Wonder why. 

If the swamp Massie wished to drain during the Obama administration was the size of a puddle in the middle of the road, the current White House quagmire is big sufficient to cover the Okefenokee, the Great Dismal, the Congaree Bottomlands, the Big Cypress and just about any other property holding a thimble of water. 

If Massie is serious about draining the swamp, the Oversight Committee can provide plenty of buckets to bail with. Of course the process will require him to cross a president who happens to be a member of his political party. Massie likes to make noise about standing up for principles and doing the right thing, yadda yadda yadda. 

Five will get you 10 he bails – in a manner completely different from draining a swamp.  

KyForward’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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