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Cornell Clayton: “The Towering Man from Spokane”

By Cornell W. Clayton, professor of political science and director of the Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service at Washington State University

Cornell Clayton.

Tom Foley would have turned 90 today. What he would have thought about last week’s hearings in the House Oversight Committee? Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, called the president a racist, a con man and a cheat, and acknowledged he had been directed to pay off a porn star during the 2016 election.

No one seemed fazed. No one said “Have you no decency?” Not to Cohen, the president, or misbehaving members of Congress. Foley, who cherished Congress, surely would have agreed with committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, who gaveled the meeting closed saying “we are better than this. We really are. As a country, we are so much better than this.”

Tom Foley devoted his life to public service, starting in the state attorney general’s office, as a staffer to Sen. Henry “Scoop” Jackson, and then for 30 years representing Washington’s 5th Congressional District in the House, followed by service as ambassador to Japan and chair of the Trilateral Commission.

It’s impossible to list all that Foley accomplished while serving the people of Eastern Washington. A master at bipartisan cooperation, he passed legislation for family medical leave, AmeriCorps and food stamp programs, as well as other programs reducing hunger and protecting the elderly. He brought millions of research dollars to the region’s universities, leading to the development of new crops, healthier farming techniques and a burgeoning wine industry in our state. Foley obtained funding to build crucial highways and infrastructure across Eastern Washington, and was a driving force behind many Spokane landmarks such as Riverfront Park and the University District.

Foley was a warm, affable man. But the dignity with which he treated his office was no accident of temperament. It grew from his belief in the nobility of government service itself. He believed Congress could do good, that public service was a privilege, and honoring your office required respecting others, including those with whom you disagreed.

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The Spokesman Review

McMorris Rodgers, Murray oppose Trump’s emergency declaration

When Majority Leader Mitch McConnell made a twofold announcement Thursday that President Donald Trump would approve the budget proposal and declare a national emergency at the southern border, Washington legislators Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Sen. Patty Murray issued statements that this could establish a troubling precedent.

Cornell Clayton.

Cornell Clayton, director of Washington State University’s Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, was not surprised by McMorris Rodgers’ position.

“It’s a consistent position that most conservatives have taken,” Clayton said. “They’ve been very squeamish — in the eight years of the Obama administration, in particular — about the expansive use of executive branch power.”

“I think it’s going to be a very interesting proposition, and there’s a number of conservative senators who are on record as saying they would be opposed to using emergency powers to do this,” Clayton said. “… I think it’s not a done deal in the Senate, and I think it will be a close vote.”

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This American Lie

A WSU professor asks: do facts still matter in the United States?

Stephen Stehr.
Stephen Stehr

Ten years ago, Washington State University political science professor Steven Stehr got involved in a large-scale National Science Foundation project, training doctoral students in the sciences about how their work could affect, or be affected by, public policy. The idea was to create scientists with a toe in the waters of government.

“As an outgrowth,” Stehr says now, “I became interested in the topic of how knowledge gets used in policy debates.”

The timing was right. Stephen Colbert’s The Colbert Report had made “truthiness” — the comedic notion that if a concept feels true, it’s a legitimate foundation for law — into a buzzword, and senior George W. Bush advisor Karl Rove was credited with dismissing journalists and historians as a powerless “reality-based community.” Stehr’s studies grew into “Is Truth Really Dead in America?,” his presentation for the Humanities Washington Speaker’s Bureau. To Stehr’s mind, the devaluation of truth and facts that’s now taking place in American government and media isn’t really a new phenomenon.

“People have strategically used language, for as long as democracy’s been around, to try and make problems look a certain way,” he says. “Because if you can define what the problem is, you have a big leg up on what solution is applied to it.”

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Humanities Washington Blog

Mock Trial team powered by real courtroom experience

From the probing plaintiff’s attorney to the deft defense counsel, students in Mock Trial at Washington State University Pullman play a variety of roles and gain valuable experience in preparing for careers in law.

Adding powerful authenticity to their experience, this year’s Mock Trial team recently got the rare opportunity to practice their skills in an authentic courtroom and to meet with real-life judges, lawyers and other legal professionals where they work.

Aman McLeod.

A generous gift from WSU alumnus Judge John Rossmeissl, of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for Washington’s Eastern District, made it possible for 22 students in Aman McLeod’s “Political Science Issues” class to travel to Yakima to participate in two practice trials and to learn first-hand about courthouse operations and procedures.

“Little is as effective in learning to practice law as actual practice, and what better place to get such practice than an actual courtroom,” said McLeod, faculty instructor for the team.

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WSU Insider

State of the State of the Union: Experts see erosion of decorum in Trump-Pelosi feud

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he would postpone his State of the Union address until the end of the partial government shutdown, yielding to a request by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Pelosi had denied Trump access to the House chamber to deliver the address to a joint session of Congress, expressing it as a security concern.

Though this present instance was atypical, partisanship with the State of the Union is to be expected, said Cornell Clayton, director of Washington State University’s Thomas S. Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service.

“You’ll see this when the president announces his plan for a particular policy or he takes credit for a particular policy that the opposition party doesn’t approve of, then they won’t clap,” Clayton said. “His partisans will clap and stand up, and the other partisans will sit on their hands, and that’s become increasingly more frequent over the last 30 to 40 years as a result of political polarization and prolonged periods of divided government.”

But Clayton said the escalation between Pelosi and Trump is particularly juvenile. What the public sees between Pelosi and Trump is cause for worry, he said, because it signals the bigger problem: the erosion of decorum.

“It’s not just the State of the Union, you see the same thing with the filibuster in the Senate, the use of the ‘advise and consent’ power in the Senate,” Clayton said. Democracy does not rely solely upon constitutional rules, but also rules of decorum and reciprocity, he said.

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