Ayanna Pressley, The Gals Make A Fine Pie Out Of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy
We know it's Apocalypse Day again, and with the world ending several times each week, it's easy to miss some of the high points. But we'd like to take a moment to point you back to Monday (by our calculations, somewhere during the late Cretaceous) and the House Oversight Committee's hearing on Postal Service Fuckery. Some of the best moments came in the last hour, in which Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Massachusetts) and other first-term women on the committee pinned down Donald Trump's pet Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on what sure as hell looks like a deliberate campaign of slowing down the mail in advance of the election.
As Kathleen Walsh explains in a terrific article, Pressley, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, and Katie Porter, built a pretty good case for DeJoy to resign, not that the slippery bastard is likely to go anywhere. Even if you haven't been following the USPS story closely (what the hell is wrong with you?), go read Walsh's analysis, which is just a very smart, fun read.
And wow, what a terrific five minutes of questions from Pressley:
Pressley started out with a direct condemnation of the Republicans on the committee and their attempts to carry water for Trump and DeJoy, as if nothing weird at all has been going on at the USPS, then got straight to the issue that prompted the hearing:
While some of our colleagues might use this hearing to continue to gaslight and mislead our constituents, I am here to get to the truth. The American people deserve that.
To direct the systemic slowdown of mail delivery during a pandemic within months of a national election is incomprehensible. At best, these actions represent irresponsible leadership from a novice who has absolutely no business leading a government agency. At worst, they are cruel, unethical, and anti-democratic.
Indeed, they are. But while some of her male colleagues, even some very senior House Democrats, used their entire five minutes to rage at DeJoy, Pressley quickly moved to very specific yes-or-no-questions that did the work of advancing her case that DeJoy is presiding over a disaster: Did DeJoy impose a hiring freeze for management? (Yes.) Is he pushing for postal workers to take early retirement? (Yes.) Isn't it true that "40,000 postal workers have had to quarantine, over 6,000 have tested positive, and over 60 have died from COVID-19"? Well, yes, that's true too, but it's 83 who have died now. Says Walsh,
Her interrogation eventually built to the very obvious conclusion:
"A few days ago before the Senate, you said the delays in delivery are attributable to, quote unquote, 'employee availability in many, many parts of the country.' So isn't it true that pursuing a hiring freeze and early retirement when your workforce is already stretched thin by coronavirus would exacerbate delays in the mail? Yes or no?"
I believe it is at this moment DeJoy began silently praying for the rapture.
DeJoy denied that the hiring freeze had anything to do with the service slowdown (not just one "no" but five of 'em), but Pressley had made her point pretty effectively, and efficiently, the logic plain to follow.
As Walsh notes, Pressley's most damaging questions weren't even aimed at DeJoy, but instead went to Robert Duncan, the Trump-appointed chair of the USPS Board of Governors, who had to admit he hadn't been aware of multiple ethical complaints about how DeJoy ran his previous company, including four women who said they'd had miscarriages after the company turned down their requests for lighter duties during pregnancy.
After several such examples, Pressley asked Duncan, "Did you make any attempt to investigate these labor and employment practices before making him the head of one of the largest and most diverse federal workforces?" Duncan tried to escape with an answer about the extensive background checks run on DeJoy, but again, the excuse rang hollow, leaving viewers wondering how anyone could hire this jerk (haha, trick question: He is a well-off white guy who gave Donald Trump's campaign lots of money!)
The play-by-play is fun, but for my Doktor of Rhetoric money (not enough to even get an appointment to the sewer commission) the best part of Walsh's piece is her look at just how Pressley and her end-of-the-hearing colleagues use language in these things. All of 'em have a difficult task: interrogating witnesses who may not want to say anything at all, so they can extract useful information, or at least make plain that the witness isn't being helpful. It's a fraught communication situation for women, especially young women legislators like Pressley or Ocasio-Cortez:
Their voices are soft and so are their smiles. They ask simple, reasonable, fact-based questions. They remain firm but do not attack directly. They are consistently better prepared than the person they're tasked with questioning, and so evade counterattack. They do not allow room for spin or equivocation. They are not looking for excuses or context. They demand the unvarnished truth.
And it works: By having a very clear plan for their five minutes, Pressley and the others get answers, or, barring that, expose prevaricating witnesses whose trousers are experiencing combustion.
The trick of giving their subjects just enough rope to hang themselves by has the dually impressive effect of extracting actual answers and generating memorable sound bites that immediately go viral. They've become progressive icons because, well, they're good at their jobs.
Go read the whole thing — it's good stuff!
Or stay here since it is your OPEN THREAD!
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Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.