Feehery: No, this is not the worst of times in Washington

Feehery: No, this is not the worst of times in Washington
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“Is this the worst it has ever been?”

I got that question from a freshman congressman, lamenting the state of our democracy and the vitriol that seems the suffuse the body politic.

It’s not great, I reply.


But it was pretty bad during the Clinton impeachment.

I worked for the guy who led the charge against former President Clinton (Tom DeLay) and the guy who had to pick up the pieces after the president was acquitted by the Senate (Dennis HastertJohn (Dennis) Dennis HastertFeehery: The 5 Ways Republicans can channel Trump without Trump Feehery: A possible House Speaker conundrum for Democrats Feehery: The corrupt bargain MORE).

Back then, every two-bit private detective in the country was scouring the past of every Republican member of Congress, trying to collect a million-dollar bounty offered by Hustler publisher Larry Flynt. That was a bad time, especially for House Republicans.

Come to think of it, it was also pretty bad in the aftermath of the closest election in history, when the Supreme Court ordered that George W. Bush be awarded the presidency.

Back then, Bush wasn’t seen as a lovable friend of Michelle ObamaMichelle LeVaughn Robinson ObamaObama: 'Hopeless' to try to sell as many books as Michelle Obama sold record-breaking 1.7 million copies of memoir in first week Media and Hollywood should stop their marching-to-Georgia talk MORE. He was seen as an illegitimate usurper of the throne. Democrats hated his guts and did everything to derail his presidency.

And remember, it really wasn’t that great when Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaFive things to know about Antony Blinken, Biden's pick for State Obama: Republican Party members believe 'white males are victims' Texas warehouse where migrants housed in 'cages' closed for humane renovation MORE became president. The Iraq War was becoming a quagmire, the financial crisis had devastated the nation’s collective 401(k)s and put millions of people out of work.


The Tea Party rose up out of nowhere and made Glenn Beck the face of a new kind of resistance. Glenn Beck? I guess you had to be there.

When Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzO'Brien on 2024 talk: 'There's all kinds of speculation out there' Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation McSally, staff asked to break up maskless photo op inside Capitol MORE (R-Texas) shut down the government for a month, that was pretty bad, too. He was doing it because he believed that it could propel him to the White House, and he was almost successful, and would have been had it not been for Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE.

I have only been in Washington for 30 years, so I haven’t seen all the bad times in Washington.

I got here just after Newt GingrichNewton (Newt) Leroy GingrichMORE brought down House Speaker Jim Wright (D-Texas). That wasn’t a happy moment in Washington. It was soon followed by the House Bank scandal, which exploded on the national scene just as I was securing my internship with House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).

Times were raw, then, but old-timers would tell me, that they were once even worse.

It was in Michel’s office, which is now Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiGovernors take heat for violating their own coronavirus restrictions Spending deal clears obstacle in shutdown fight Ocasio-Cortez, Cruz trade jabs over COVID-19 relief: People 'going hungry as you tweet from' vacation MORE’s office, which was once John Rhodes’s offices, where Rhodes told former President  Nixon that he was losing Republican support in Congress.

That office used to belong to Gerald Ford, who had become the vice president because Spiro Agnew had to resign.

That wasn’t a great time in our nation’s history, either.

Ford would succeed Nixon, and then lose the election to Jimmy CarterJimmy CarterCan Biden vanquish Democrats' old, debilitating ghosts? CNN acquires Joe Biden documentary 'President in Waiting' French radio station mistakenly publishes obituaries of celebrities MORE.

Carter is a nice guy and has been a great post-president, but the Carter years were terrible. Really bad. Those were years of malaise and stagflation. My dad used to say the stress from those four years took 10 years off his life.

By his math, he’d still be alive today if the Carter years didn’t happen. I am not blaming Carter, of course. Things happen.

We have a lot of drama going on in Washington.

Donald Trump is an unconventional president who drives the media, liberals and neo-conservatives completely crazy.

Decades from now, his impeachment and then acquittal will be seen as a curiosity by historians.

Why would the Democrats waste time on a fishing expedition when the American people were so clearly concerned by other issues, such as health care and the high costs of college education, that were so much more favorable to them?

This is not the worst of times in Washington.

The economy is in decent shape, everybody who wants a job can find one, wages are going up, inflation is in check, our enemies are imploding, big stuff is getting done.

The republic is not collapsing. A dictatorship is not rising. Our institutions are as strong as they ever were. Which means not as strong as we would like but not as weak as we fear.

So, to answer the question, this is not the worst I have ever seen. It’s about average.

Feehery is a partner at EFB Advocacy and blogs at www.thefeeherytheory.com. He served as spokesman to former Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), as communications director to former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) when he was majority whip and as a speechwriter to former House Minority Leader Bob Michel (R-Ill.).