9 October 2013
My first editor told me long ago that if I wanted to find the deep pockets and hidden movers of any community there were two places to look: patrons of local symphony orchestras and the Boy Scouts. I followed his advice then and recalled it again this morning, as I watched Republican House member Pete Sessions, head of the powerful House Rules committee.
I’ve followed Sessions on CSPAN, noticing his saccharine courtesy, his “Yes Ma’ams,” and his backstabbing, deceitful ways. I’ve worked myself up to a healthy disdain for his person.
More than once, Sessions has mentioned his Eagle Scout status while the CSPAN cameras were rolling. This is the highest award in Scouting and serves as Sessions’ badge of honor, his stamp of approval, a convenient icon of respectability.
I checked the NNDB Profile of Pete Sessions and found both “Eagle Scout” and “Distinguished Eagle Scout Award” listed. The representative also served on the Executive Board of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA).
But I have to wonder: has Pete Sessions dishonored his Boy Scout oath?
The Dishonorable Scout
On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout Law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight.
The BSA keeps a list of Notable Eagle Scouts which includes author Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates of Microsoft, former President Gerald Ford, the 2008 Presidential-hopeful Mike Dukakis and, Tom Foley, the former Speaker of the House, who recently passed away.
Texan Pete Sessions is not on that list.
Perhaps his repeated CSPAN reminders are nothing more than opportunistic campaigning for a spot on the BSA Notables list. Or maybe Sessions is comforting himself as he leads the United States into default and maintains a shutdown of the federal government. After all, the BSA is all about character and civic involvement. Most likely, Sessions is experiencing the conflict called cognitive dissonance – that split between core belief and outward speech or action.
As a good Scout, Pete Sessions cannot justify his deceit; that fails the Trustworthy pledge. He cannot sabotage the government; that fails the Loyalty pledge. And his descent into destructive partisanship has brought him face-to-face with the Bravery pledge, the character to oppose what is inherently wrong.
About all that remains for Eagle Scout Pete Sessions is to show Cheerfulness and Courtesy.
As I mentioned, his politeness reaches an art form. He showed comity to a rightfully angry Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) during a late night House Rules committee meeting on the eve of the government shutdown. Slaughter recognized that the Regular Order House Rules had been changed to forbid a Democratic effort to call for a vote on the Senate bill. The vote might have opened government. Slaughter called the move “an atrocity to the Rules of the House.”
Here’s a piece of that exchange between Sessions and Slaughter; the CSPAN video is here:
Sessions: “There could be a privileged motion at any time.”
Slaughter: “To call for a vote on the Senate resolution?”
Sessions: “I believe that is correct.”
Slaughter: “But I think you have taken that away…”
Sessions: “That’s what I’m saying, we took that away. Because what we’re trying to..”
Slaughter: “Then how can we do it at any time?”
Sessions: “I said, ‘You’re correct.’ We took it away and the reason why is we want to go to conference.”
Slaughter: “Oh mercy! It just gets deeper and deeper.”
What Sessions “took away” was integral to bipartisan action on the House floor – the right of any member to bring forward a resolution when both the House and Senate have reached impasse. What Sessions “took away,” was nothing less than the practice of democracy, as so ably voiced by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) in a televised House floor debate that has since gone viral with over 3 million views.
Pete Sessions has dishonored the fundamental oaths of Scouting. In this, he has failed the country and can rightly be called traitor. His only notable spot is now on the Shit List, joined by his fellow dignitary, Benedict Arnold.