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Bill Straub: Rep. Massie’s reflexive Dr. No act is doing his Fourth District constituents a disservice

WASHINGTON – Aficionados of the James Bond film series undoubtedly recall the presence of one Dr. Julius No, the steel-clawed head of criminal cabal known as SPECTRE who put poor James through the ringer.

Dr. No was a mad scientist playing havoc with the American government. He met his fate at the end of the film but we now find ourselves with a new and different sort of Dr. No, one who is certainly less devious than the character created by Ian Fleming, but one who is technically savvy who loves to play havoc where havoc is neither nice nor necessary.

We’ve visited with Dr. No, aka the Whiz Kid, Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Somewhereorother Lewis County before. Massie just simply feels ecstatic about voting no wherever and whenever, regardless of circumstance. He has said no to two straight speakers of the House, former Rep. John Boehner, R-OH, and the current title holder, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI, in deference to two other contenders so far to the right you can’t even find them with a GPS device.

Rep. Thomas Massie (Photo Provided)

Rep. Thomas Massie (Photo Provided)

Dr. No famously voted against bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal, one of the nation’s highest civilian honors, on Jack Nicklaus, certainly one of the greatest golfers ever and an ambassador of the game. In fact, Massie rushed to the House floor to force a vote on the measure.

And who can forget his no vote against the five-year transportation plan, approved overwhelmingly by Congress, designed behind the scenes to help Northern Kentucky address the never-going-away problems presented by the Brent Spence Bridge connecting Covington with Cincinnati over the Ohio River. The span is smack dab in the middle of Massie’s congressional district, but he ignored the lifeline provided because the same bill revived the Export-Import Bank, which, it’s fair to say, isn’t of any great concern to residents of the 4th Congressional District.

As former Gov. Martha Layne Collins used to say, “I could go on and on.’’ But the record clearly establishes that our Dr. No is a tearer downer, not a builder upper, who, after more than three years in the Capitol, has not a clue on how to serve the people of his district and those in the greater United States.

Well, Whiz Kid has obliged us with yet another example, two, actually, of his skewed governing practices, and this curiosity is even more baffling than his previous mind-boggling sojourns.

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-VA – please carefully note we’re talking about a fellow Republican here – introduced the Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers (INSPIRE) Women Act, calling on NASA to encourage women and girls to study science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, known as the STEM fields, and pursue careers in those areas to advance the nation’s space science and exploration efforts.

It is well established that women outnumber men in obtaining college degrees but few appear to be entering the STEM fields. A report released by the Commerce Department in 2011 found that women hold less than 25 percent of the jobs in the nation’s STEM workforce, although they constitute just about half of the workforce as a whole.

“For the American economy to be successful in the 21st Century, we need to have a skilled labor force that understands innovation and emerging technologies,’’ Comstock said. “The INSPIRE Women Act will help create a climate for young girls and women to be successful in STEM and competitive on the world stage, and be great assets to growing the 21st Century economy.” 

So providing young women with a route into the growing STEM job sector, a sector too many have avoided in the past for various reasons that have nothing to do with their abilities, is something to be embraced. And it should be in Whiz Kid’s wheelhouse — no pushover in the brains department, he left the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and started his own, very successful technology firm, making him a member in good standing in the STEM community.

And, of course, he voted against it. The final tally was 380-3 – Massie, Rep. Justin Amash, R-MI, and Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX, whose presence should always be accompanied with the music from Warner Brothers’ Looney Tunes cartoons playing in the background.

But our tour of Dr. No’s big day doesn’t end there. Lawmakers were further asked to vote on the Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act, sponsored by Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-CN, authorizing the National Science Foundation to use its entrepreneurial programs to recruit women, thus improving federal support for women in STEM fields.

Esty said the bill “makes clear that helping women break into fields where they have long been underrepresented is a priority for our national economy.’’

It passed 383-4. You can probably guess what’s coming next. Massie? No.

Now keep in mind that both proposals carried broad bipartisan support – rarely seen in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives nowadays. One bill was sponsored by a Republican, the other by a Democrat. Neither measure involved any expenditure of funds, so the yada yada yada about deficits and spending are set aside. It involves the STEM field, which Whiz Kid should know something about.

And Dr. No voted no.

We don’t know why. Lorenz Isidro, Massie’s very competent press secretary who is almost always very helpful, said Dr. No “does not have comments to add at the time.’’ Nor did he offer any comment at the time of the vote.

Gohmert did and it’s a pip, a lulu – the bill discriminates based on gender

“There may be some young boy needs encouragement from a tough family situation, but this program is designed to discriminate against that young poverty-stricken boy and to encourage the girl’’ Gohmert explained, further cementing his position as chairman of the House Loon Caucus now that Michelle Bachmann has retired. “Forget the boy, encourage the girl.’’

The soliloquy failed to note that women are graduating in record numbers but are still finding it difficult to break through the wall that continues to make the STEM field a boys club.

The sad thing is Massie is obviously a talented person outside of the DC Beltway. Various individuals commend the great job he did during his short stint as Lewis County Judge/Executive, getting the county’s finances in order and refusing to pay bills for services not rendered

Now let’s give Whiz Kid the benefit of the doubt and decide his votes weren’t based on an elementary school boy versus girl, He-Man Woman Haters Club sort of rationale, although he doesn’t leave much to work with.

The only reasonable explanation is that Massie, to paraphrase political commentator Chris Matthews, gets a thrill up his leg every time he pushes the no button, regardless of how worthwhile the measure he is voting against might be.

It’s no way to serve as a congressman and Dr. No continues his practice in his second fruitless term.

The sad thing is Massie is obviously a talented person outside of the DC Beltway. Various individuals commend the great job he did during his short stint as Lewis County Judge/Executive, getting the county’s finances in order and refusing to pay bills for services not rendered.

But he has proved woefully inadequate as a congressman, compromising the 4th District’s status on a whim and a prayer. It’s not working, and his refusal to support women who need help entering the STEM field just substantiates what everyone already know.

But it appears the district is stuck. There was movement to oppose Dr. No in the Republican primary but the success of Gov. Matt Bevin – a fellow Tea Party traveler who swept through most of Northern Kentucky on his way to Frankfort – apparently has scared off any potential opposition. On the Democratic side the lone contender looks to be political newcomer Calvin Sidle, who only recently relocated into the district.

It was the immortal Dean Vernon Wermer who once told an underclassman that “fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son.’’

Neither is reflexively voting no.


Washington correspondent Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. He currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com.

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  1. Marv Dunn says:

    Northern Kentucky will vote for anybody with an “R” behind there name, tea party or not. I always thought that when we had the Speaker of the House on the other side of the river, that our congressman ought to be able to make some headway on the bridge. Massey chose to dis the Speaker and burn the bridge. That’s our boy.

  2. Nick Bell says:

    “Washington correspondent Bill Straub” — enough said.

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