Cherry tree therapy for the House GOP?

WASHINGTON — Washington’s pink cherry blossoms, a spring sight for sore eyes, are about to be whacked. The Park Service says 150 trees must be cut down to build a new seawall round the Tidal Basin, where the marble Jefferson Monument perches perfectly on the water.

That calls up the legend of young George Washington and his famous line: “Father, I cannot tell a lie. I cut down the cherry tree.”

The legend is almost too apt for the House Republican rabble. They correspond to the cherry trees soon to be chopped down, in a murder of truth and beauty. Nearly 150 challenged the 2020 presidential election results on the House floor even after the mob attacked the Capitol.

But unlike Washington, they never owned up to the big lie.

Walking under the cherry blossoms may be the last free ritual that holds the town together in a hug, never mind race, gender, religion or political party. You see couples courting and families with their little ones; you hear all kind of languages under the sun.

Dreamy trees cast a spell that thousands inhaled one last time before the ax. Tranquility descends upon us.

A mile away, House Republicans seem to be falling, falling, too. They just lost their best, freshest mind and face, Mike Gallagher of Green Bay, Wisconsin. Only in this Congress would a rising star like Gallagher, 40, quit in disgust.

Princeton graduate and former Marine intelligence officer, Gallagher earned respect on both sides. He chaired the House Select committee on China. In any other era, his colleagues would defend him from slings and arrows when he voted his conscience.

They’d tell Mike to stick around, he’ll be Speaker someday.

But no. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., the nonstop scold, dressed down Gallagher to his face when he voted against her pet project, impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

For someone as smart as Gallagher, that scene on the House floor was curtains. There’s little to write home to Green Bay about, except that his party ousted one speaker for another.

It’s hard to see a party eating its talent young.

A rookie Speaker, Mike Johnson, R-La., is now left holding the bag of a party that can barely govern — or keep the peace within its own raucous ranks.

Gallagher is taking a rare step, leaving the House before the next election cycle. Lawmaker Ken Buck, R-Colo., just did the same.

These voices of dissent narrow the Republican majority to one vote, come April 19, when Gallagher goes. They reflect a broad loss of faith in institutions.

How long can a House Divided stand?

Fissures within the House Republicans go beyond Gallagher and Buck.

Before spring break, in order to keep the government open and pass six spending bills (six months late), Johnson relied on Democratic votes. He did not even win over the majority of his own party, a heap of humble pie.

That’s how his predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., lost the speakership.

Johnson, 52, is a lawyer from Shreveport with strong evangelical Christian beliefs. He speaks of himself as a Moses figure.

His soft-spoken, sober demeanor belies his faith in — and fear of — Donald Trump. His approach to the Thane of Mar-a-Lago: “My name is Mike, and I’ll be your server tonight, tomorrow and the next day.”

In other words, Trump’s odor still hangs heavy in the House. On the other side of the Capitol, Republican senators mostly endorsed Trump. Two exceptions are Utah’s Mitt Romney and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, known for independence.

Also, the Senate acted as a Senate should on Ukraine military aid. The upper chamber approved a bipartisan package (with 70 votes) for the beleaguered country fighting with everything it has against Russia.

It’s no secret; Ukraine’s need for arms is desperate at this very moment. If we’re a superpower and the last best light to the world, let’s rush to brave Ukraine’s side with support, supplies and ammunition.

It’s maddening to think a little-known lawyer from Shreveport holds Ukraine’s freedom in his hands. On orders from Trump, Johnson so far resists holding a floor vote.

A clarifying walk under the cherry blossoms would do Speaker Johnson good.

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The author may be reached at JamieStiehm.com To find out more about Jamie Stiehm and other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, please visit Creators.com.


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