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Who’s in Charge Here…Ain’t You?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The movie “Apocalypse Now” came out in August 1979, it was Francis Ford Coppola’s film on the Vietnam War centered on the mission of Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) to assassinate a US Army Colonel gone rogue, played by Marlon Brando. I was beginning my freshman year of college at the University of Tennessee, and as a student enrolled in ROTC, I went to see the movie. Of course, it took me three viewings to really come to grips with the film and understand it. However, everyone remembers the memorable character, and lines, of Robert Duvall who played an eccentric Air Calvary Squadron Commander who said, “Charlie don’t surf” and “I love the smell of napalm in the morning, it smells like victory”. And yes, that scene with the air cavalry attack against the Viet Cong village coming in over the water while Richard Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries was unforgettable.


But there is a different scene, vignette, from that movie that is the subject of this missive. It was when Captain Willard and his Navy riverine boat escort him to the frontlines on the river, the last American outpost at night. It was there Captain Willard was supposed to link up with an Army officer for an intelligence update. Willard walks into the fighting position and asks a black Soldier manning an M60 machine gun the question, “Who’s in charge here?”, to which the Soldier responds, “ain’t you?”

Imagine if you were to walk into Washington, D.C. right now and ask the same rhetorical question, “Who’s in charge here”? It is the month of August and the US House of Representatives, the US Senate, and the president are all on vacation…or as they refer to it, recess. When I was a kid at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Atlanta, recess was a reward. If you had finished your work and were good in class, then you were able to take a recess after lunch. You could not be denied lunch, but doggone Sister Judith had a policy that teachers could deny recess. You did not get playtime unless you had met the requirements, a lesson that needs to be taught in Washington, D.C.

For those of you who do not know, here is the history of August recess. Washington is literally built on a swamp, no joke. The month of August is notorious for being the most unbearable with searing heat and high humidity, with little flowing breeze. Back in the day when there was not any air conditioning, Congress would recess for the month of August. However, recess also meant that these citizen legislators went back to their normal occupations, since it was never the intent of our Founding Fathers to have “career politicians”, but true representatives, servant leaders. Now, recess has come to mean something completely different, and we do have career politicians.


We are told how important it is for these legislators to be in their districts for the entire month of August. The need to meet with their constituents, I would love to see the town hall meeting schedule for every member of the House and Senate for this month. But, ask yourself, is this recess a reward, a time to decompress from a hard and productive legislative session, or just a taxpayer funded 30 day plus vacation? Only someone suffering from massive delusion would believe the former. That is what frustrated me in my term as a U.S. congressman coming from a career in the military. We did not leave until the job, the mission, was done, and we met the expected standard, if not surpassed it.

I learned in my time in uniform that leadership is the ability of one to take a diverse group of individuals and focus them towards the accomplishment of a singular goal. And so I ask again, “who’s in charge?”

There is no reform of our healthcare system, which we must all admit is collapsing. There is no tax reform plan that will ensure the incredible economic growth we have seen in the past six months will be sustained.  We do not have a budget. Show me an everyday citizen and business owner that has the luxury of abdicating the responsibility of having a budget.


Over the past seven to eight years we have had a Republican party that asked to be put in charge. And mind you, I do not ever want the progressive socialists of the Democratic Party to hold the leadership position in the House, Senate, or White House. The left in America fails to grasp a simple maxim, “a free people are not equal, and an equal people are not free”.

What concerns me is that the GOP has achieved that which they asked to attain, via the hard work and efforts of the American people who supported them. Yet, where are they, who’s in charge? Yes, I acknowledge the economic success, growth, we have seen, but we need those two major legislative policy agenda items that were promised by the GOP to their support base. Amazingly, the GOP has members who have betrayed their commitment, promise. Now we learn that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will seek a bipartisan measure to ensure the insurance companies receive a “bailout” in order to reduce the pain of a rate increase. This is nothing more than the implementation of the Obamacare risk corridor, part of that we were told would be repealed.

This means that the GOP failed, and they went home, so the resolution is to just continue with the status quo, business as usual. We were told that the Senate would not recess in August unless they got their work done. Maybe we need to resurrect Sister Judith and her policy when I was in elementary school. There was no doubt in any of our minds who was in charge, it was Sister Judith.


Do I want to see a Chuck Schumer leading the Senate, Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker again, or worse, Maxine Waters, of course not? What I want to see is someone accepting the mantle of leadership and being in charge, fulfilling the commitment made to the American people, and willing to work to that end. I freely admit, if I were still in Congress I would be embarrassed. I also admit that what I am witnessing inspires me to consider a return, the American people deserve better.

Who’s in charge…right now it ain’t the liberty loving American people.

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