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Saturday, November 17 , 2018, 8:56 pm | Fog/Mist 58º


Jamie Stiehm: There Is No Joy in Mudville — and Washington

June 14. Mark it down as the day Donald Trump’s outlandish presidency became too much to bear.

First, violence broke out against lawmakers at a rare moment of play, preparing for a pleasant bipartisan ritual in Washington.

That completely cut the heart of our company town — including the police, news media and pages who work under the Capitol Dome.

At the end of the day, we heard The Washington Post’s earthshaking scoop: Trump is under investigation for obstruction of justice.

But there was no joy in Mudville, or Washington, even for those who saw big trouble coming. Universally, we were grief-stricken and gobsmacked at the turn of events for Congress and the rocky Trump White House — not even 5 months old.

Whaaat? Yes, Robert S. Mueller III, the new special counsel investigating Russian collusion with Trump and his associates, is looking straight at the president, The Post reports.

The Ivy League-educated Mueller is a smart, austere straight arrow respected by all — which is why Trump wants to get rid of him, but (probably) won’t dare. Are the republic’s walls unraveling after the 2016 election’s deeply divided verdict?

To go back to the beginning. On a sun-dappled morning, murderous mayhem took over a baseball diamond at a Republican congressional team practice — across the river in Alexandria, Va.

The tranquil field is a stone’s throw away from where my Washington editor lives. Lurking near the fence was an unkempt white man in his 60s, angry and armed.

Meanwhile, the Republican baseball team members were up early, serious about winning the traditional June Congressional Baseball Game, against a team of determined Democrats.

The game was set for the next day, at the Washington Nationals’ stadium, National Park. Heck, what’s more American than that?

The game meant good clean fun, raising money for charity, and also enjoying a different side to political opponents. In competing in the annual contest, several say, they made friends from the other side of the aisle they never would have otherwise. Such encounters can make a difference to debates and outcomes on the floor.

In an age of heightened partisanship, especially in the boisterous House of Representatives, we need more events where members shed their usual skins and suits.

Not so long ago, members brought their families to live in Washington, so there was more socializing among them. (Now they skip town every Friday.) Simply put, they knew each other better. They liked each other more. They hated each other less in a jovial, collegial culture.

Now House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., is in critical condition, fighting for his life. He is 51. Four are wounded, including two U.S. Capitol police officers and a young staffer for Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas. Those who could went to the Capitol in their baseball uniforms to tell the tale, still in a state of shock.

The anguish across party lines in the “People’s House” silenced the rabble. At noon, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made heartfelt statements about the House as one family, which brought standing ovations. The spirit in the chamber was precious enough to be bottled.

In a show of resolve, players said the game would go on anyway. Whether gun violence hitting close to home will change the tone under the Dome? Let’s live in hope.

Ironically, another light-hearted June tradition, “Will on the Hill,” took place two days before at the Shakespeare Theatre. The British ambassador, Kim Darroch, lent his voice to the send-up of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, featuring a cast of Washington power players in colorful costume. The crowd-pleasing line was, “Lord, what fools these mortals be.”

Or was it “​Lordy,” the word fired FBI Director James Comey famously spoke at a Senate hearing?

Firing Comey over the Russian investigation was the worst thing Trump could have done to himself. Comey and Mueller, each former FBI directors, see the world the same way. By improperly pressing Comey to know if he was being investigated, Trump set himself up to be investigated.

When I moved to Washington, a District police officer said, “Welcome to the insanity.”

I thought he was just kidding.

Jamie Stiehm writes about politics, culture and history as a weekly Creators Syndicate columnist and regular contributor to U.S. News & World Report. Follow her on Twitter: @jamiestiehm. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.

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