Fisticuffs in the Senate? No Such Luck

Photograph Source: Staff Sgt. John Wright – Public Domain

The U.S. Congress almost joined the ranks of foreign legislatures on November 14, where opinions regularly become so heated that disputes degenerate into brawls. For those who amuse themselves by watching video clips of European, African or Asian lawmakers pummeling each other, the prospect of one such wrestling match on Capitol Hill was something to savor. Alas, Senator Bernie Sanders, alarmed at the impending mayhem, intervened and reminded his hot-headed colleague that a fistfight with a Teamsters Union president, then testifying, would be unseemly. The Oklahoma GOP senator, Markwayne “Ready to Bite” Mullin, was thus, sadly, spared from making a thoroughly disgraceful spectacle of himself. Legislative watchers the world over groaned in disappointment.

So what was so aggravating in that Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions committee hearing that Mullin had to be restrained from a pugilistic display? He objected to Teamster Sean O’Brien calling him a “greedy CEO,” at a previous hearing. This had led to an exchange of insults on social media – if good for nothing else, always good for name-calling – concluding with Mullin throwing down the gauntlet at the HELP meeting: “Sir, this is a time, this is a place. You wanna run your mouth, we can be two consenting adults; we can finish it here.”

Remember, Mullin is a martial arts pro. But O’Brien wasn’t daunted. He took up the challenge when Mullin blustered, “Well stand your butt up then.” O’Brien replied, “You stand your butt up, big guy.” At this minatory juncture, Sanders stuck his nose in, reminding one of the would-be brawlers that “you’re a United States senator,” to which any sensible bystander would retort, “Well, so what?”

Sanders was concerned about fisticuffs increasing the public’s contempt for Congress. But NOTHING could increase the public’s contempt for Congress. It’s at an unsurpassable maximum. A scuffle would hardly have lowered our esteem for these bought-and-paid-for imbeciles, many of whom routinely resort to insulting each other as communists, thus revealing their single-digit IQs. There was simply no excuse for Sanders to interfere with these two slugging it out. He just proved once again that prissy busybodies do little besides depriving millions of Americans of their well-earned entertainment.

Other countries lack such annoyingly effective party-poopers. Two weeks ago in Senegal’s parliament, lawmakers threw chairs and wrestled after a male MP slapped a female politician. No fussy Budinsky interfered with the fun. Meanwhile, back in July, the Kosovo legislature descended into fisticuffs and a pile-on after some jokester posted a picture on the lectern of the prime minister with a lying Pinocchio nose. Male and female lawmakers were filmed bopping each other over the head, grabbing each other by the collar, hitting, kicking, punching and pouncing on each other in fury. Remember, these are the people that make the laws.

Other famous fights include the opening of South Africa’s parliament, some years back, and the Taiwan legislature, where lawmakers assaulting each other has been called “a way of life.” These imbroglios include everything from throwing eggs to pulling hair to lawmakers ripping off each other’s jackets. Last March, Georgian representatives rumbled, hitting and leaping on each other during a discussion of the controversial foreign agent law.

Also a few years ago, legislators bloodied each other’s noses and threw eggs in the Ukrainian parliament, while South Korean lawmakers used an ax and fire extinguisher to break into a barricaded room, to say nothing of shouting, name-calling and worse. We here in the U.S. have missed out on this sport, thanks to the huffy propriety of senators like Sanders.

Sanders’ interference didn’t stop Mullin from thrusting his chest out and bragging on TV about his bold challenge to a Teamster, boasting to Sean Hannity about how he scared O’Brien. “You should have seen the fear in his eyes when I stood up!” Mullin told Hannity. He did the same on Newsmax. “You know some people are real strong behind a keypad, but when they get called out, it’s completely different,” Mullin was quoted by Mediaite on November 14, then saying of O’Brien: “I think he got called on the carpet and I think he got really nervous. Because when he stood up, the look on his face was a bit different.”

In one interview, according to New York Magazine November 15, “Mullin made clear that when he fights someone, he’s not above biting them…‘And by the way, I’m not afraid of biting. I will bite. I bite 100 percent. In a fight, I’m gonna bite. I’ll do anything. I’m not above it. And I don’t care where I bite by the way.”’ Dang. Sanders deprived us of seeing a sitting senator bite a witness, and maybe in a very sensitive spot. The question is, should we forgive Sanders? I think not.

Let’s not forget that this senatorial eruption occurred within the context of class war. “Too often, big union bosses intimidate, threaten and bully employers and job creators to get their way,” Mullin tweeted. “This might work on some people, but not on me. Yesterday I made it clear: in Oklahoma, you don’t issue a challenge unless you’re going to answer the call.” Mullin not only aimed to prove that he’s a tough guy, he preened that he was tougher than a trade unionist, one who dared to doubt his credentials as a “self-made” businessman.

The question is, how many congresspeople are ready to punch, bite, kick and scratch to defend the ruling class that owns them? My guess is quite a few. They know very well that they’ll suffer no real damage on the Senate floor and the opportunity to bloviate about their “triumphs” over leftists on Fox News and other right-wing TV outlets would probably prove irresistible. It’s easy to picture Dem Senator Joe “Poor People Use Money for Drugs” Manchin pummeling an environmentalist, while senate minority leader Mitch “Democracy’s Grave Digger” McConnell might find that kicking a poor person unfreezes his geriatric “pauses.”

The only problem for these guardians of our plutocratic elites is that their opponents might strike back. But no worries – they can just ask Senator Mullin to bite them.

Eve Ottenberg is a novelist and journalist. Her latest book is Lizard People. She can be reached at her website.