Let’s hear it for Elijah Cummings

Let’s hear it for Elijah Cummings

By Ellen Ratner   
House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) died early Thursday morning at age 68 (Photo: Pool feed)

NEW YORK — Last week a congressional committee heard from a former lawyer for President Trump, Michael Cohen. He is due to report to prison soon to serve a three-year sentence. That can be a long time in prison, especially if you are “marked” and your death can be considered a trophy. You can believe former lawyer Cohen or not. That is what we are free to believe as Americans.

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Cummings) chaired the hearing and had some amazing closing remarks. He is the son of sharecropper — an occupation some consider just one step up from slavery, and some consider a more modern form of slavery. Today, Cummings is not only a member of Congress, but a committee chair as well.

Cummings allowed the hearing to take place in a very fair manner, even though a verbal fight broke out between Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) at the end. Cummings handled the confrontation with a mixture of toughness and grace. Then he made a closing speech. It was amazing and very American.

Here are some excerpts on what he said:

“I want to first of all thank you. I know that this has been hard. I know that you face a lot. … I know that you are worried about your family. Destiny, and hopefully this portion of your destiny, will lead to a better Michael Cohen, a better Donald Trump, a better United States of America, and a better world. And I mean that from the depths of my heart. When we’re dancing with the angels, the question will be asked: Did we stand on the sidelines and say nothing to keep our democracy intact?

“I’ve sat here and listened to all of this and it’s very painful. You made a lot of mistakes, Mr. Cohen, and you’ve admitted that. You know that one of the saddest parts of this whole thing is that some innocent people are hurting, too, and that’s your family. … I don’t know where you go from here. … We are better than this. As a country, we are so much better than this. … It sounds like you’re crying out for a new normal, to get back to normal. It sounds to me like you want to make sure that our democracy stays intact. I’m hoping that the things you said today will help us to get back there.

“I want to first of all thank you. I know that this has been hard. I know that you face a lot. I’m tired of statements saying, people coming here saying, oh, this is the first hearing. It is not the first hearing.

“The first hearing was with regard to prescription drugs. Remember a little girl, a lady sat there, her daughter died because she could not get $333 a month in insulin. That was our first hearing. Second hearing, HR1, voting rights, corruption in government. Come on now. We can do more than one thing. And we have got to get back to normal. With that, this meeting is adjourned.”

Representative Cummings swore to uphold the Constitution and still swears by it to this day, even though people were slaves at the time it was written. We should all be grateful a minority congressman believes we need to pay attention and uphold the Constitution.

Whether or not you like Congressman-Chairman Cummings, he handled the Tlaib-Meadows confrontation with remarkable grace by anyone’s standards. What we did not know about Congressman Meadows is that he has family members who are not white. He said, “My nieces and nephews are people of color. Not many people know that.”

You know what, Mr. Chairman? That was great to hear in our multicultural society.

Even Republicans can admit that our country needs to be healed. The Michael Cohen testimony, believe it or not, is an example of what needs to be healed in our country. It is time for everyone, Republicans, Democrats and Independents, to get on board and heal our country and our democracy.

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