Lee Terry: Bad politician, brilliant unintentional comedian

…and then there was this one time I thought I was going to get in a fist fight with Lee Terry.

This is a true story. The names have not been changed to protect the ignorant.

There are those few stories that define you: the ones you pull out at parties to earn smiles and good-natured chuckles from strangers in mixed company, the ones that you’ve told so many times that your loved ones can repeat them word-for-word (with added eye-rolling), the ones that still make you, the storyteller, giggle when you think of it. Before we get into the politics of Lee Terry and why you should under no circumstances entertain voting for him ever, here is my favorite anecdote to share.

It was a cold December day in ’09 when I met Mr. Terry for the first and only time. I doubt he remembers it, but it is indelibly tattooed on the neurons of my brain. I was sitting in my parked car at a radio station. That sounds creepy, I should explain. I review movies. On Fridays, I do a segment on CD105.9 with the charming and affable Steve King for his morning show. That particular morning, as I was waiting for Steve to come and let me in to the locked station building, who should pull up but Lee Terry. 

If you have forgotten, December of 2009 was a turbulent political time. The Affordable Care Act debate was in full Wrestlemania mode, as rich white people in Washington with great health care coverage debated what should be offered to the American rabble. I was fired up, boy I’ll tell you. Mr. Terry was there to appear on another station, I’m not sure which one. It was just luck that we arrived at the same time. We were as two ships briefly sharing a harbor.

For a political junkie and outspoken human like myself, Mr. Terry’s arrival was an early Christmas present. It was as though the Lord had delivered him unto me! Finally, after wailing and gnashing my teeth on social media, in letters to the editor, and in phone calls to representatives, I had an actual, living, breathing Congressman in my physical space. 

Folks, I was so tickled it’s amazing I didn’t let some pee come out.

Knowing this was my one and only chance to speak my mind to someone of consequence, I quickly prepared. I mumbled some talking points to myself and I reached for the door handle so I could spring out and ambush Mr. Terry with my PERFECT THOUGHTS! He was going to get argued at SO HARD! “Shit!” I thought, “I’d better leave my phone here. How embarrassing would it be for that to go off in the middle of my life-changing, position-altering conversation with my congressional representative?” I awkwardly pulled the phone out of my pocket, leaned over, and threw it in my glove box. When I grabbed for the steering wheel, I sounded the horn on accident.

Folks, that’s when everything went cray-cray.

It just so happened that I acci-honked at the precise moment Lee Terry was standing behind my car. It was timed so impossibly perfectly that I can’t blame Mr. Terry for thinking it was intentional. That’s on me and my stupid, clumsy, bumbling ways. Terry looked frightened. Well, as frightened as he can given his limited range of facial expressions.

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Startled, he whipped his head around like a majestic…gopher? I don’t know. His eyes made immediate contact with my bumper. Plastered with pro-Obama stickers. And right in the center, in GIANT letters, a huge sticker for one Jim Esch, Mr. Terry’s congressional opponent in the previous election. Terry’s face went from “OH MAH GARSH” to “Ugh…seriously?” He concluded, given all the circumstantial evidence, that my endgame was to call his attention to these stickers as if to say “Kiss my bumper, Lee!” 

I swear to you it was an accident and I swear to you I was MORTIFIED. Gone was my opportunity to hold an intellectual demonstration of political superiority. I was now a lame douche who honked at a congressman to be a dick. I was crushed. I settled back in my seat and prayed that whoever was going to let Terry in would do so before my friend Steve reached the door so I could forget his happened. 

That’s not what happened.

What happened was that I saw Steve coming to the door. Reluctantly, I exited and sheepishly approached the front steps, where the target of my accidental honking waited. 

This next part hinges a lot on one word. Actually, it’s an ugly slang term made of parts of other words. “Sup.” As in “What’s up?” If you’re speaking to a friend, “sup” is a totally casual, cool way of saying “hey buddy, how are you?” But if you don’t know the person, if you’ve never spoken to them before, there is a tone you can inflect on the word “sup” to make it sound like a threat. Dudes in barfights will start with “sup!” It’s less a question, less an abbreviation of “What’s up” and more of an invitation, a “You got a problem” in “sup” form. 

Lee Terry “sup”-ped me. 

His hands were shoved deep into his pockets. His body facing the studio, his head cocked towards me over his left shoulder, Terry tilted his chin up and said “Sup” in a way that I will swear to you was code for “you wanna go?” Startled, I looked into his eyes for confirmation. Surely this was him just trying to be cool. He saw a younger guy and thought “sup” was the best greeting he could use to show bro-ship. Oh no, my friends. The accidental honking, bumper sticker shaming had released a rage in Mr. Terry, who looked at me with those doughy hamster eyes as if to say, “Yeah, I’m wearing a silly fur-lined coat, but I’ll legislate physical justice upon you.” 

I don’t know how you would respond. I don’t know how anyone is supposed to respond. This man below gave me the unequivocal tough guy “sup.” 

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I don’t know what you would do. But I burst out into untrollable laughter. I mean the kind of laughter where you entertain the very real possibility of dying from it. It was so cold, I couldn’t suck air into my lungs fast enough to fuel the giggles. I was choking on the comedy. Terry, God bless him, instantly saw the folly of his ways. He pushed his hands even further into his coat, turned his head back, and sighed a sigh that could only be exhaled oxygen’s way of saying “well, it was worth a shot.” 

Steve opened the door at the same moment the DJ arrived to collect Mr. Terry. We went our separate ways, never to speak to each other ever again.

I understand I come off like a dick in this story. I also understand that it seems mean to make fun of Lee Terry for a series of gestures and noises when literally the only word he spoke to me was the one-syllable “sup.” I get it. That doesn’t make it any less funny to me and actually kind of works into the serious point I am now prepared to make.

Why you shouldn’t vote for Lee “Sup” Terry

1.) He lied to us – Without getting too heavily into it, part of the problem with modern politics is the endless election cycle. Nobody governs anymore. They have only two modes: winning an election and preparing to win the next election. Term limits have long been proposed as a possible solution, with the thinking that legislators may be more effective if they didn’t see themselves as career politicians looking to sit in the same seat for a lifetime. It’s a somewhat controversial idea with a few strong supporters.

One of those supporters was Lee Terry

In 1996, in the middle of a fierce Republican primary race, Terry signed the Term Limits Pledge. He committed to serving only 3 terms (6 years) before allowing someone else to run, injecting the stale world of Washington politics with fresh ideas and new blood. If you do the math, you’ll see that he has now served 9 terms. NINE. 

Unlike some campaign promises that rely on cooperation with other legislators and funding, this was a promise Terry could have kept and said “nah.” He makes $174,000 a year and has decided that’s not worth giving up just because you signed something promising you would. 

2.) “Dang straight” – One of the single most cringe-worthy, tone deaf responses in the history of politics and maybe  human interaction in general came on October 4, 2013. Lee “Ruh Roh” Terry was asked about donating any of his annual salary during the government shutdown. Sure, it was just a symbolic gesture, a largely meaningless token from political figures who ground the entire US government to a halt to prove a confusing point. Still, lots of Republicans figured it would look bad to see average federal workers getting zero dollars while they still raked in the dough. So it was fair to ask Terry if he would continue collecting paychecks during the shutdown. “Dang straight” he said. He said that. With his mouth. He didn’t say “We’re working to get the government running” and dodge the question. He didn’t coyly try to deflect attention or even modestly admit he was still making money. He said “Dang straight.”

Shit! He must have thought! I need to clarify this! The reporter asked a follow-up, pointing to the scores of workers not getting paid. So Terry clarified how he felt about his peers in congress donating some of their paychecks. 

“Whatever gets them good press,” Terry said. “That’s all that it’s going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

This will go down as the most embarrassing question and answer segment that didn’t begin and end with fart noises.

And Lee makes a habit of these painful, awkward, dumb-ass moments. Like when he joked about being late due to car trouble at a congressional hearing about car defects THAT KILLED PEOPLE. When gaffe-master-in-chief Joe Biden messes up, it usually reveals his good intentions and affable nature. When Terry does it, it is most often insulting.

3.) He’s a political shill – It’s common to flip-flop in politics. Honestly, it doesn’t really bother me that much. Speaking before you’ve had time to process an issue is pretty much a politician’s primary job. If you go back and look at facts and change your mind, I’m okay with that. Terry will flip depending on what he’s told to do. Here’s the most recent example:

“A grateful nation welcomes the news of the return of Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl,” Terry said in the statement. “I have the pleasure of regularly speaking with our nation’s active duty military and veterans and I know that there is nothing more solemn than the pledge to never leave one of their own behind on the field of battle.”

In response to Bowe Berdahl’s release, Terry issued that statement on Facebook and Twitter. He called Bergdahl “a national hero” on his own site. This is what’s there now:

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Now, I don’t know what’s going on with the Bergdahl situation. I won’t pretend to be an expert. However, if you go around yelling things like “national hero” on your own site, I would imagine you felt pretty confident about your position. Then, when the GOP position shifted to make this look like an episode of Showtime’s “Homeland,” Terry retreated faster than you can say “sup.” 

And that’s just an example. He votes with his party 92% of the time. That’s more than John Boehner. I have very little problem with party loyalty. But Lee Terry is a walking, talking mouthpiece for ideas that aren’t his own.

4.) Because he has no ideas – In his 18 years in Congress, Lee Terry has two bills that have passed. One was to rename a post office. He’s been in Congress for 18 years, and has leadership of ONE subcommittee. What this means is very simple: His peers do not respect him. I am not talking about politicians from the other party. His fellow congresspeople do NOT take him seriously enough to give a friggin 9 term representative more than a pity subcommittee. It’s embarrassing. Not for him, but for us.

I could go on and on…and probably will at some point. I’ll get around to Terry’s opponent, the likable-ish Brad Ashford, soon enough. But the best thing that Ashford has going for him is the way he is consistently not Lee Terry. Ashford wakes up and he is not Lee Terry. And he goes to bed and is still not Lee Terry. At NO POINT has Brad Ashford ever been Lee Terry, nor will he ever be Lee Terry. And his lack of being Lee Terry is literally all I need to know in order to give him a chance.

I realize this was strongly confrontational and very anti-Lee Terry. To that I have but one response:

SUP?

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