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Midlands Voices: Capitol assault was unimaginable for this former congressional staffer
Midlands Voices

Midlands Voices: Capitol assault was unimaginable for this former congressional staffer

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Rioters ascend the stairs at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Watching on television the Trump-incited mob rambling through the halls and chambers of the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 seemed a personal affront to me. As a newspaper reporter, staffer for two members of the U.S. House of Representatives and a U.S. senator, and as a lobbyist, I visited and worked in those sacred places many times in my nearly two-decade career in Washington, D.C. I always was in awe.

I walked through the many underground tunnels that connected the House and Senate, had meetings in the tiny hideaways behind unmarked doors, ate bean soup in the Senate dining room, took constituents to meet their member of Congress in the Speakers Gallery.

To see the Confederate flag in Statuary Hall, a thug seated in the vice president’s Senate chair and an insurrectionist with his feet on a desk in House speaker’s office was beyond comprehension. As a journalist, I had a space in the press gallery, the same one where reporters were trapped for a time, fearing for their lives because the word ”Press” was on the door. The rioters had been told many times by the president of the United States that the press were “enemies of the people.”

While living and working in Washington, I was present for several significant events that have altered the course of government in the country, that have threatened our democratic traditions and have changed the way I have looked at our place in the world. But nothing like this.

As a reporter, I wrote stories about the Watergate scandal and later worked for a congressman who was one of the first to call for the resignation of a president who defied the Constitution. There was fear that the rule of law was coming undone, but a bipartisan group in Congress held hearings to expose wrongdoing and fearless reporting by the press forced Richard Nixon to resign.

In the late 1970s, farmers outraged at the lack of action by Congress to raise commodity prices drove their tractors to Washington, D.C., and took over the congressional office in which I worked. There was no violence, but one drove his tractor over the car of one of D.C.’s finest and was jailed. I got him out and hustled him back to Nebraska before he was charged. The farmers left our office peaceably, one taking our Maryland-born receptionist as his bride.

In 1981, I had left Washington, but was there in June on a lobbying trip when President Ronald Reagan was shot by a deranged John Hinckley, Jr. There was panic for a short time, but the ever-genial Reagan calmed the country and the world by supposedly joking to the doctors as he went on the operating table, “Please tell me you’re Republicans.” The incident bullet-proofed him politically for most of his two terms.

Returning to the nation’s capital to live and work in 1999, I was in my office just a few blocks from the White House on 9/11 when terrorists flew a plane into the Pentagon. Was this the beginning of an invasion or the prelude to more terrorism? Heavily armed troops patrolled downtown Washington, armored personnel carriers on street corners, helicopters flying overhead. A surreal environment in which to live and work for many weeks.

Now this. I cannot wrap my head around how after the citadel of democracy had been desecrated by an attempted coup, eight U.S. senators and 139 House members — all Republicans, including Nebraska’s Rep. Adrian Smith — could vote to overthrow the legitimate election of Joe Biden to be the next president. There must be consequences for those who incited and supported this insurrection. They should resign or be removed. It means a lot to me, personally.

Randy Moody of Lincoln was a reporter in the Omaha World-Herald’s Washington bureau, an aide to Rep. John Y. McCollister, Sen. Roman L. Hruska, and Rep. Virginia Smith, all of Nebraska, and chief lobbyist for the National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.

I visited and worked in those sacred places many times in my nearly two-decade career in Washington, D.C. I always was in awe.

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