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Hartmann: A Woman's Right to Choose an Extortion 

U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner.


U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner.

U.S. Congresswoman Ann Wagner deserves to be heard by the voters as she seeks reelection in Missouri's 2nd Congressional District against Democratic State Senator Jill Schupp.

Through no fault of her own, Wagner's words have been drowned out by the daily deranged rantings of Donald Trump, the commandant before whom she grovels. Sad.

Wagner is hardly to blame for Trump's psychotic narcissism. She's not the one who prescribed him the concoction of steroid-laden drugs that inform his daily drooling.

Only snowflakes believe Wagner should have had the courage to push back when Trump became the first American president to question the legitimacy of an American presidential election. What was she supposed to do, speak out like some radical socialist about the need for an orderly transition of power?

Besides, Wagner might have a conflict of interest. Trump's only hope is to use an army of lawyers to slow-walk the election results and have it resolved by the House of Representatives, where the 50 states each cast one vote by delegation.

In that case, the newly elected Congress would be tasked with choosing the president, likely around January 6 in something called a "contingency election," according to the Congressional Research Service. These are uncharted waters.

If the outcome of the presidency comes to a House vote, it would be cast by state delegation — each getting one — and by that measure, Republicans presently control the House by a margin of 26-to-23 (with Pennsylvania tied). Wagner, part of a 6-to-2 majority in Missouri's delegation, would be part of that process if reelected.

Let's say the Biden-Harris ticket wins Missouri by 1 percent or less, and the results are challenged in court because Trump's lawyers are claiming there's evidence something "urban" took place with mail-in ballots. What do you expect Wagner and her Republican colleagues to do, put the will of the voters over those Republican values for which she's fought so long and hard? I don't think so.

Wagner is hardly alone among Republicans in her slavishness to Trump. Are St. Louis-area voters supposed to hold her to some sexist double standard? We all know that were she to cross Trump, he would punish her with a devastating Tweetstorm for taking a principled stand.

What about a woman's right to choose an extortion?

Patriotism has no place in a congressional election. Can you imagine what sort of horrible message crossing Trump would send to our friends and allies around the globe, men like President Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jinping and Mohammed bin Salman?

In that regard, we must respect Ann Wagner's right to privacy with regard to current events. But that doesn't mean she shouldn't have an opportunity to present her record in office.

Sure, as an enemy of the people, I'd rather present disgusting fake news that is disgraceful, corrupt, totally dishonest, extreme and dangerous, reflecting my Trump Derangement Syndrome and plot to infest our suburbs — like the ones Wagner represents — with low-income Black people.

But let us give Ann Wagner her due. For example, she's entitled to an unedited and unbiased recounting of the bills that she sponsored in the current session of Congress that have been passed into law.

OK, sorry. There aren't any. But I'm sure if she had sponsored something, it would have been bold and decisive like the five bills she has championed that have become law in her eight-year career.

There's her signature achievement from the 2017-18 session, in which Wagner went out on a limb with a law signed by Trump on April 11, 2018, called the "Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act of 2017." It isn't everyone who is willing to stand up so boldly to the powerful sex-traffickers lobby in Washington.

Perhaps the timing was accidental, but it occurred precisely on the thirteenth anniversary of the night that Billy Bush co-hosted the annual Miss USA Pageant Trump owned. That was right around that time in 2005 that celebrity Trump was caught on videotape, with Bush, saying, "When you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy."

Last Friday, October 9, marked four years to the day that Wagner made the following principled stand against Trump less than a month before the 2016 election:

"I have committed my short time in Congress to fighting for the most vulnerable in our society. As a strong and vocal advocate for victims of sex trafficking and assault, I must be true to those survivors and myself and condemn the predatory and reprehensible comments of Donald Trump.

"I withdraw my endorsement (of Trump) and call for Governor Pence to take the lead so we can defeat Hilary Clinton." Wagner was among just a dozen Republicans in Congress willing to go so far as demand Trump's resignation from the ticket.

But I digress. The congresswoman has accomplished so much more than getting a sexual predator to sign a bill targeting sexual predators. This woman has taken on the special interests who oppose naming post offices for good people.

Yes, in just four years, Wagner forced President Barack Obama to sign laws establishing — in our own 2nd District — the Lance Corporal Phillip D. Vinnedge Post Office, the Sgt. Zachary M. Fisher Post Office, the Sgt. Amanda N. Pinson Post Office and the Lt. Daniel P. Riordan Post Office, each with a separate law.

Wow. Let the cynics say it's not a great legislative record in Wagner's "short time in Congress" to have sponsored nothing but four such naming laws and one milquetoast measure most notable for the irony of who signed it.

But look at the bright side. If Wagner was actually doing something, it might not be all that great. For example, one of the things Republicans are buzzing about at the state level — covered in this space last week — is the need to bring fairness and honor to the process of redistricting in the state of Missouri.

Wagner actually has a public record on that subject. Speaking on August 2, 2000, from the Republican National Convention — as chairwoman of the Missouri Republican Party — here's what she promised, out loud, were the GOP to win that November:

"We will absolutely have the upper hand in the congressional redistricting process, and I have our 'dream map' on my desk," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted Wagner saying in its front-page lead story. The paper described "her eyes glistening with anticipation" as she said the following:

"We'll draw Dick Gephardt a district that's 62-63 percent Republican, that starts east at the county line and stretches to Town and Country," Wagner said. "If Jim Talent is governor, it's a done deal. And Dick Gephardt probably won't run for reelection in 2002."

Wagner got part of her wish. President George W. Bush won, but Talent, then a member of Congress, lost narrowly to Democrat Bob Holden for governor. Gephardt won reelection in 2002, his last term in office.

But this rare public insight into Wagner's character perhaps explains why she so effortlessly became an acolyte of the "predatory" guy she opposed in the name of sex-trafficking victims.

It is a shame that voters cannot hear as much this year from Ann Wagner as they heard in 2000 or 2016, were they paying attention. It might be quite revealing.

Let this woman be heard.

Ray Hartmann founded the Riverfront Times in 1977. Contact him at or catch him on Donnybrook at 7 p.m. on Thursdays on the Nine Network and St. Louis In the Know With Ray Hartmann from 9 to 11 p.m. Monday thru Friday on KTRS (550 AM).

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