Judd Gregg: The week that was...but should not have been

Judd Gregg: The week that was...but should not have been
© Getty Images

Last week should have set the stage for the coming year.

It did not.

On Monday night, with no football to watch, some stayed up late to learn who had done well, or not so well, in the Iowa caucuses.


This is a gathering of hardy politicos and Iowa activists.

It has virtually no relationship to a real election, but it has for years managed to monopolize the kick-off in the nominating process.

To note that Iowa has been consistently wrong and invariably irrelevant in the actual election of presidents would be an understatement.

But this year, Iowa Democrats managed to sink below their own unenviable standard. They were not able to declare where presidential candidates had actually ended up in their byzantine caucus round-up.

President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE, who is known to occasionally exaggerate especially when it involves his own purposes, called the Iowa caucus meltdown an “unmitigated disaster."

A bit of glee could be detected in his analysis. But for once he was actually right — and maybe even a little understated.

Iowa should have been a springboard for one of the Democratic candidates, many of whom had invested months of their time in meetings, barbeque events and forums while campaigning there.

It was not.

Mayor Pete claimed he won. Bernie claimed he won. Elizabeth claimed she did great. Amy said she clearly beat expectations.

Who knows, maybe one of them was right?

Joe was given the opportunity to ignore the results, which did not appear to go his way, because there were no results until the news cycle had come and gone.

Then came the State of the Union.

This is supposed to be an event where the president addresses Congress and the nation, and tries to make us all feel better.

It is typically an upbeat speech, given at the beginning of the year, so that people can say positive things at least for a time.

It is a slight break from the otherwise-unrelenting partisan prattling that absorbs Washington.

It is almost always a speech built on the fact that we are one nation, filled with pride in our accomplishments and optimism about our future.

The president begins the pageant by walking down the center aisle of the House of Representative — the house of the people — led by members from both parties.

He then steps up to the dais at the front of the chamber, and hands a copy of his speech to the Speaker and the President of the Senate (the Vice President of the United States) and shakes their hands.

Hold it.

Trump did not shake Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiNorth Dakota Republican latest House breakthrough COVID-19 case Pelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Cheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump MORE’s (D-Calif.) hand.

In declining to do so, the point was made: The nation could forget about a tone of reconciliation, or even a slight hint of it, from the president.

At the end of Trump’s speech, which actually did meet the traditional standards of positivity, he turned to leave.

Pelosi then ripped up her copy of his speech. It was all filled with misstatements and lies, she later pronounced.

And with that, another point was made: The nation could forget about a tone of reconciliation, or even a slight hint of it, from the Speaker.

The folks who make up the base of support for Pelosi and Trump may have been enthralled at their dismissiveness of each other.

But Americans generally must have simply moaned as they observed the childish antics of our nation’s two most important elected leaders.


The actions starkly defined the present failure of government to govern and our leaders to lead.

Our form of government requires respect and compromise.

Our leaders, in a couple of brief moments, reflected the depth of disrespect and alienation that they have allowed our government to wallow in.

This was an opportunity lost by both the Speaker and president to give pause to their obsessive antagonism and give the people they work for some sense of pride in them and the institutions they lead.

It did not happen.

On Wednesday, the Senate acquitted the president on the charges of impeachment brought against him by House Democrats.

This point should never have been reached.

An elected president should not be removed in an unelected manner when there is no legitimate claim of a “high crime and misdemeanor” — which there was not in this case.

The actual acquittal was a non-event. It was a foregone conclusion from the very start of the impeachment process.

For the Democrats, this was truly a fool’s errand. For the president, it was a reflection of his style of governance that is built on the need to polarize and demonize.

There was literally nothing accomplished.

And neither side seems to have learned anything from it.

The Democrats essentially say they will try again. The president continues to be the great divider.

If there was ever a week that was incoherently inconsistent with our nation’s extraordinary history, last week was it.

New Hampshire will correct the Iowa calamity. There will be a winner there — and a loser or two. Its primary will be followed by South Carolina and other primaries.

But how does the damage caused by the personal animosity between the president and the Speaker get corrected? What might remedy the misuse of the most significant power bestowed by our founders in the Constitution?

It is not clear.

To start, we should all forget last week and move on to a hopefully better, more tolerant and constructive time.

Judd Gregg (R) is a former governor and three-term senator from New Hampshire who served as chairman and ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and as ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Foreign Operations subcommittee.