COMMENTARY: Too bad we can do nothing about the excesses of this president


Boy, it is really awful what the president has said, and I could not denounce it more. I mean, I could denounce it more. I will denounce it more. I wish that there were something else I could do, but I am only a senator.

A senator, as you know, is someone empowered by the Constitution to go on cable news and state opinions. A senator can do nothing to restrain the executive branch. In the system of checks and balances designed by the Founding Fathers, the Senate is neither.

The Senate is an appendix, a vestigial organ whose function no one can determine, so it just sits there and sometimes rumbles ominously after meals. Aside from its traditional role of acting as a rubber-stamp for judicial appointees, it is a kind of cheery bobblehead designed by the Constitution to stare at what the Executive is doing and offer tacit approval. It is decorative, not functional — like a pocket square, or a succulent in a dentist’s waiting room, or the “Share On Facebook” button at the bottom of an article.

It is sort of a VIP box, from which you can view your democracy careening helplessly like a malfunctioning Roomba, screaming but powerless to help. (Not to be confused with a VP box, where you have to sit with an expression of beatific tranquility and see only the good in whatever the president has most recently done, and blink maybe less than the average person should blink?)

Of course, it is an honor to come to the Capitol, which is a beautiful building, very marmoreal, built in the 19th century to serve as a backdrop for people telling a cable-news anchor how distressed and helpless they felt watching everything that was going on. You even can see two statues of luminaries from your home state on your way to stand in front of a camera and sadly admit that “it’s not a great moment for America.” When there is an inauguration, you get a nice seat. You can throw literally an infinite number of hearings complaining about unfair advantages that Hillary Clinton has received over the course of her life. And sometimes you get to, I guess, vote?

Also, sometimes when you’re in the Senate, people call you and complain that you are not doing anything, but that is just part of the job. Anyway, please don’t tell me what I should be doing. I am doing all I can: I am going on the television and saying that I am upset. I have also Taken To Twitter to voice this opinion, so you know that I am serious!

If the role of Congress is to be a check and balance on the president, if I could say pass a bill protecting the Robert S. Mueller III investigation, or guaranteeing sanctions in retaliation for further meddling, or even preventing the president from doing this weird arbitrary national security tariff thing he keeps doing — say nothing. I cannot hear you, and I do not want to know. I must go now, and stand in front of a cluster of flags and denounce the president’s abject deed in no uncertain terms.

“I think only the president can rein himself in,” as Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, said. That’s certainly what the founders had in mind.

Alexandra Petri is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Follow her @petridishes.