Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Elijah Cummings

“Mr. Chairman…This has been very interesting because one member on your side, the gentleman, I don’t know his name, said that the man was under investigation…”

—-Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md), ranking Democrat on theHouse Oversight and Government Reform Committee  revealing that he hasn’t bothered to learn the names of his own committee’s members.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, through the eyes of Rep. Cummings.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, through the eyes of Rep. Cummings.

The dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and particularly in Congress, could not have a better or more discouraging  illustration than this. You can argue that not knowing the names of your colleagues is no big deal, but it is. It is proof of a lack of interest in cooperation and collegial relations. It is evidence of the absence of basic civility and respect. It demonstrates that Cummings is not interested in contributing to the mission and objectives of the committee, but rather obstructing them.

In the film “The Paper Chase,” a Harvard law student’s entire first year is dominated by his conflicts and interaction with a legendary professor, the imposing Professor Kingsfield, played with a sneer by John Houseman in an Academy Award-winning performance. The student even has a romantic affair with the professor’s daughter. At the end of the academic year, the student chances to be in an elevator with the professor, and tells him how important his class was to him. The professor responds by asking his name.
The insult that this represents is  material and unforgivable. I would have told that professor on the spot not only my name, but also told him that he was a pompous jerk not to accord me the simple respect of learning it. How do I know this? Because a very similar insult was delivered to me, in college, by another legendary campus figure, and I did respond that way. (We eventually became close friends and associates. ) What Cummings demonstrated isn’t merely bad ethics for a member of Congress. It is bad workplace ethics and bad societal ethics.
Is Cummings the only member of Congressional committees, or his own committee, to breach the duty to at least make the minimum good faith effort to work together toward a common objective—and taking the time to learn the names of those you work with is certainly minimal? I hope so, but I wouldn’t have believed that a single member of Congress would be so rude, arrogant, adversarial, unprofessional and lazy. So maybe he’s not the only one. Maybe there are a lot of Congress members who view their job this way.
How depressing is that?
Pointer and Source: The Daily Caller
Graphic: Sponsume


13 thoughts on “Unethical Quote of the Week: Rep. Elijah Cummings

  1. Pfft, then so be it. Cummings isn’t such an idiot that he doesn’t know the names of everyone else on the committee, he just pretends not to so he can show his disdain for them and the committee. They should just openly mock him back like the UK MPs, who throw insults 5 times as well as we do, at least it will get them some column inches.

    BTW, I also remember a college professor (who shall remain nameless) who pulled almost the same schtick, except he knew everyone’s names, he just mispronounced them. Even if you politely and privately told him the correct pronunciation, he stuck to his guns. Maybe he was just incapable of remembering, but since he was a former ambassador to an Arabic country, where a mispronunciation of a name might cause grave offense, I have a suspicion he just did it to show that the students had nothing to tell him.

  2. How do you know that this isn’t a case like that of the 19th century Irish contingent in Parliament, for whom there was no “duty to at least make the minimum good faith effort to work together toward a common objective” but rather the reverse? For them, in their situation, thwarting everything they could was a large part of their modus operandi and was welcomed by those they were representing. So, why do you think that Cummings has a duty of this sort at all?

    • Huh? Because that’s how representative democracies work, that’s why. It doesn’t matter if it’s “welcome”–as legislators, they are supposed to know better. It’s a collaborative process, and the duty is to be collaborative.

      • But that’s the very point I wanted established; your response is assuming the very thing at issue, that the situation is indeed like that. The British at Westminster could have said the very same thing, as could Mussolini when confronted with a parliamentary boycott early on (the “Aventine Secession”).

        So, again, how do you know that the situation is one in which there is such a duty? Telling me that there is such a duty in a representative democracy is no answer, it is the point at issue. If Cummings sincerely believes that things have degenerated enough, it is actually his ethical obligation to thwart things – even if he is mistaken as to the facts underpinning that.

        • That does not justify the disrespect, which minimizes the chances of success for all concerned. Or should he moon the GOP members too? Obstruction is a self-fulfilling prophesy—it’s irresponsible per se. You have a vote…that allows you to obstruct according to the system. We don’t elect monkey wrenches. When do you give up trying to work with the opposition? NEVER. If you can’t, then get out.

  3. Could it be possible that Cummings is saying that someone said “the man is under investigation” but rather than not knowing the names of the members of his committee, Cummings is trying to say he doesn’t know or can’t remember who said it?

  4. Cummings is one of the most subintelligent cretins ever to denigrate the halls of Congress with his presence. Therefore, I expect nothing less than this sort of thing from him at any given time. I’m just sorry for his colleagues and the unfortunate witnesses that get called in to testify, as they must deal with and show respect for him when far better men are living under highway bridges. Maybe if we can once again delegitimize the practice of gerrymandered districts (for racial or whatever purpose), we can get rid of these insults to our legislatures and get more elected people that are worthy of their office.

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