Sherwood's Notebook: A 'So-Called' Situation - NBC4 Washington
First Read
Your first stop for politics in D.C., Maryland and Virginia

Sherwood's Notebook: A 'So-Called' Situation



    Top 4 Reasons to Go to ZooLights
    Andrew Harrer - Pool/Getty Images
    U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he meets with county sheriffs during a listening session in the Roosevelt Room of the White House on February 7, 2017 in Washington, DC. The Trump administration will return to court Tuesday to argue it has broad authority over national security and to demand reinstatement of a travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries that stranded refugees and triggered protests.

    This is a so-called column.

    It seems there’s a lot of "so-calling" going around these days. The current president of the United States is the headliner.

    He didn’t like a federal court ruling on his immigration ban. In one of his many tweets — a so-called way to communicate — the president rhetorically dismissed the judge:

    "The opinion of this so-called judge, which essentially takes law enforcement away from our country, is ridiculous and will be overturned!," Trump tweeted.

    As a candidate this current president was both praised and pummeled over his bullying and personal attacks on anyone or anything he viewed as critical of him. It comes as a so-called surprise to your Notebook that he has only ramped up since sitting in the Oval Office.

    On CBS’ “Face the Nation” program Sunday morning, so-called moderator John Dickerson repeatedly pressed Vice President Mike Pence to comment on the "so-called judge” remark. Pence parried at every turn, at one point saying, "Every president has the right to be critical of the other branches of government.”

    Of course, the dictionary definitions of "so-called” make it clear the phrase is not mere criticism but an effort to delegitimize the target of the remark. Cambridge Dictionary says it is “used to show that you think a word that is used to describe someone or something is not suitable or correct.”

    From Merriam-Webster: "falsely or improperly so named," as in "deceived by a so-called friend.”

    There is another, more benign definition that "so-called” simply is declaring something is commonly known. But who among us — or the so-called us — believes “so-called” is used this innocent way in our popular discourse?

    ■ So-called democracy. There is no dispute that the U.S. Constitution reserves “full legislative authority” over the District for Congress. But the so-called 1973 District of Columbia Home Rule Act delegating certain congressional powers to local government also was explicit in its purpose: “to the greatest extent possible, consistent with the constitutional mandate, relieve Congress of the burden of legislating upon essentially local District matters.”

    That act has not been overturned or modified. For Congress to directly undo a city law, both the House and Senate have to pass a disapproval resolution within 30 legislative days and have it signed by the president.

    Mayor Muriel Bowser joined D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton last week to denounce congressional intrusion on local city affairs — specifically the effort by Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, to nullify the city’s “death with dignity” law that passed the D.C. Council 11-2. Bowser had serious misgivings about the law, but still signed it.

    It’s unclear whether the Chaffetz effort will succeed, but it is a sign that Chaffetz as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Governmental Reform will take a narrow view of what constitutes “essentially local District matters.”

    Chaffetz previously has tried to nullify the District’s same-sex marriage equality act and threatened that Mayor Bowser could be imprisoned over the city’s legalization of recreational use of marijuana.

    Bloomberg columnist Al Hunt, a so-called journalist of note, recently wrote Chaffetz has a conservative philosophy that “can be situational” — supporting local and state rights and responsibilities over the federal government unless it can be beneficial to him politically. Hunt specifically mentioned Chaffetz’s opposition to the D.C. assisted-suicide measure.

    ■ So-called challenger. The bottom line is whether supporters of the District will organize to engage in political battle, here and around the nation, even from their weakened position with a Republican Congress and White House.

    The Salt Lake Tribune reported in January that Chaffetz could get a challenger in the 2018 midterms.

    Damien Kidd, an attorney and Republican, contends Chaffetz “is not serving us, but is instead tactically navigating a political path for his own advancement.” All those Democrats in the District might consider putting aside their so-called party labels to see if Kidd is worth a donation or two.

    Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.