The power and the glory

Why, one might wonder, would the positions of whip, majority leader and speaker have been so newsworthy when most of us had been more interested in other things?

Posted on June 28, 2014 at 1:00 p.m.

In Greek mythology, the gods who lived on Mount Olympus were different from those who labored below.

“Politics,” an officeholder once told me, “is the formal practice of a quest to be god-like.” And perhaps, when one breaks it all down, that’s it.

The whip, the majority leader, and the speaker of the U. S. House of Representatives — did you ever wonder what these people do? Did you ever care? If you did, you’re among the very few.

And yet, there has been a lot of news lately about these positions. The surprise defeat of Eric Cantor, who was the heir-apparent to the speaker’s position, mustered a scramble to determine a new hierarchy in that august body, which has now been done. And it was done in record time.

If only most problems in Washington could be solved so quickly. If only most differences could be so quickly resolved.

Why, one might wonder, would the positions of whip, majority leader and speaker have been so newsworthy when most of us had been more interested in other things? For what it’s worth, I herewith offer a brief insight into the positions.

The House whip is primarily responsible for keeping track of party members and being sure that they are in attendance for important votes and events. Whips help enforce party protocol and procedure,

The majority leader typically sets the floor agenda and oversees the various committee chairmen.

The speaker's role is to moderate debate, to keep a lid on it. The speaker often also is the official spokesperson of the body.

Notice there is an undercurrent of extra power in all these positions. That’s what makes them coveted.

Politics, according to Wikipedia, is the practice and theory of influencing other people on a civic or individual level. More narrowly it’s defined as “achieving and exercising positions of organized control over a human community, particularly a state.”

And it is that organized control, the power, that is the honey and mead upon which the gods of Olympian Washington feed and sustain themselves. That being the case, it brings a smile when politicians scramble, twist, and attempt to sculpt themselves to appear as lesser mortals.

Hillary Clinton’s recent statements in her effort to create a “just like you” campaign image are raising chuckles even among liberal-leaning news reporters.

For the record, Hillary and Bill Clinton are worth, depending on which source is reporting, between $50 million and $200 million, not even counting the perks they will be getting ad infinitum.

But Hillary will need to downplay that her worth is in Mitt Romney territory if she is to run for president as a “regular person.” So she’s trying out a few storylines.

She said that she and Bill “were dead broke” when they left the White House. After the statement was roundly snickered at, Bill went on TV to say she was factually correct even though “fact checkers” had said otherwise. I guess it all depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is.

A few days later she was asked whether her considerable wealth would be a problem with voters, and she didn’t seem to think so. She mused, “But they don’t see me as part of the problem, because we pay ordinary income tax, unlike a lot of people who are truly well off.”

Hillary’s not truly well off? The reasoning may make sense to someone. But it’s all Greek to me.

Former Elkhart furniture store owner Richard Leib has served on planning committees in several industries. An avid auto fan, he raced in the 1972 coast-to-coast Cannonball Run. He has written on a wide range of subjects.

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