It was a helluva week for big news stories in Political World, with some of the more noteworthy ones being Hunter Biden’s courthouse/plea deal saga, the Ron DeSantis vs. Byron Donalds drama, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s impeachment inquiry teaser, the UFO hearing, and everything else in between.
Another one that’s gotten a lot of attention this week has been the story of Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.), who reportedly went into a profanity-laced tirade when he found some of them laying on the floor taking pictures of the Rotunda ceiling Thursday night:
According to a transcript written by a page minutes after the incident and obtained by The Hill, Van Orden called the pages “jackasses” and “pieces of s‑‑‑,” and told them he didn’t “give a f‑‑‑ who you are.”
The pages are a group of 16- and 17-year-olds who assist Senate operations, and when the Senate works late — as it did Wednesday night on National Defense Authorization Act amendments — pages generally rest nearby in the rotunda.
“Wake the f‑‑‑ up you little s‑‑‑‑. … What the f‑‑‑ are you all doing? Get the f‑‑‑ out of here. You are defiling the space you [pieces of s‑‑‑],” Van Orden said, according to the account provided by the page.
“Who the f‑‑‑ are you?” Van Orden asked, to which one person said they were Senate pages. “I don’t give a f‑‑‑ who you are, get out.”
“You jackasses, get out,” he added.
The incident, which occurred just after midnight, outraged members of the upper chamber, with one calling the string of remarks “horrible.”
In an interview done the next day, Van Orden didn’t dispute what happened, and attempted to explain his actions, invoking the integrity of the building and suggesting it was about respect:
“I’m not going to apologize for making sure that anybody — I don’t care who you are and who you’re related to — defiles this House,” Van Orden said on “The Dan O’Donnell Show.” “It’s not going to happen on my watch, man.”
Van Orden said he was protecting the integrity of the Capitol Rotunda because it served as a field hospital during the Civil War and it’s where presidents have lain in state upon their deaths. He said the young people he confronted were “goofing off” and that Democrats were making it an issue.
“Would this be an issue if those young people did not have political connections?” Van Orden said on “The Jay Weber Show.” “Why do you think this is an issue, pal?”
Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have already condemned Van Orden’s behavior on behalf of their respective colleagues as well as the pages.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) tried to lighten the mood in coming to the pages’ defense, posting these pictures Friday to Twitter:
— Chip Roy (@chiproytx) July 28, 2023
Complicating Van Orden’s story about respecting the integrity of the building was a picture taken just hours before his rant, where bottles of alcohol were seen on a desk and beer cans were in trash bags in his office:
NEW …. a look inside Van Orden’s office last night.
Alcohol on the table. Beer in the trash bins.
Last night, Van Orden cursed out a group of high-school aged pages who were taking photos in the Capitol Rotunda on their last week in D.C. https://t.co/5qd8063fYh
— Jake Sherman (@JakeSherman) July 27, 2023
Here’s a report Wisconsin’s WQOW did about the incident, where they noted there were “reports” that Van Orden might have had too much to drink the night this was said to have happened:
Maybe drinking in Congressional offices is allowed? I don’t know, but what I do know is that even though I agree that respect should be displayed for these places, there is allegedly a “tradition” of sorts where pages do this so apparently it was something they thought based on precedent was okay to do.
I also know there was also a better way to handle the situation. As a Congressman, all Van Orden had to do was to calmly but firmly suggest that the pages get up and they probably would have. No harm done.
“Come on, guys. You’ve had your fun. Let’s get up off the floor now, though. You know better.” That would have probably worked just fine.
But what happened instead was Van Orden gave the pages a lasting negative impression of people in power and how they can sometimes resort to sounding and acting like a bully, which in fairness was probably not their first experience with it – and unfortunately it won’t be the last.
I’ve seen people suggest that this story is not a big deal in the scheme of things considering everything else that’s going on, but I disagree. It is the interns, pages, staffers, and aides who are the heartbeat of making the wheels turn in Washington, D.C., as slow as those wheels turn. Instead of lecturing about respect, maybe Van Orden could have tried earning it instead by showing a little grace instead of attitude to impressionable young folks. Just my .02.
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