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kitchen cabinet

“Kitchen cabinet” is a reference to a president’s informal circle of advisers, as opposed to the official members of his cabinet.

The term was first used during the presidency of Andrew Jackson. Jackson took office in 1829, after a bruising and divisive election. The president found his cabinet members ineffectual (some say that the president, in a kind of power play, purposely appointed lackluster men to cabinet positions.) As a result, Jackson turned to his own trusted friends when he wanted advice on politics.

The so-called kitchen cabinet lasted until 1831. In that year, a series of scandals within the administration led to the resignations of both secretary of state Martin van Buren and  secretary of war John Eaton. The president ordered the entire cabinet to resign, and appointed new, more trusted men to fill their places. As a result, the kitchen cabinet declined in importance.

The concept of the “kitchen cabinet” persisted long after Andrew Jackson’s presidency. Abraham Lincoln had his own close circle of advisers, many of whom were not actually political figures. Lincoln corresponded with newspaper editors like Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune; James Gordon Bennett, of the New York Herald; and Henry Raymond, of the New York Times. These men all gave the president counsel and came to be known as Lincoln’s own kitchen cabinet.

Much later, John F. Kennedy had his own kitchen cabinet. JFK’s advisers included members of his own family – notably his brother, Robert Kennedy. Ted Sorensen, a lawyer and speechwriter, was another of the president’s closest advisers, although he did not serve in the cabinet. Years later, Sorensen described his close relationship with Kennedy, which he saw as a friendship and a meeting of minds:

“Despite all our surface differences—he was a millionaire’s son, a Roman Catholic, a war hero, a Harvard graduate—and I was at the opposite end of almost all of those.  Nevertheless, we found that we wanted this to be a better country, we both believed in public service, we both were interested in public policy, and we both wanted to see a peaceful world.”

In the 21st century, many of Donald Trump’s critics grumbled that the president was listening too closely to his “kitchen cabinet” and that he was isolating himself from the kinds of highly experienced policy makers who could have given him better advice.

Writing in Foreign Policy, Dov Zakheim, a one-time deputy director of defense, argued that Trump was relying on “amateurs” rather than on experts. The piece, titled “Beware Trump’s Kitchen Cabinet,” claimed that while other presidents have had kitchen cabinets in the past, the Trump presidency had pushed the executive agencies further away than any previous administration. Zakheim wrote,

“When President Donald Trump has met with, or spoken by phone to, foreign leaders, National Security Advisor Mike Flynn has not always been at hand. But Bannon, the president’s political consigliere; Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law; and Steve Miller, Bannon’s deputy and protégé, have always been present. They are clearly the policy advisors of last resort, and, presumably, are in a position to invalidate, or for that matter block, any other inputs the president might otherwise have received.”

Kingfish

Huey Long

“Kingfish” is the nickname for Huey P. Long, the one-time governor of Louisiana. Long was a divisive figure who played a larger than life role in his state’s politics, and beyond. He continued to loom large even after he was assassinated in 1935.

Long was born on August 30, 1893 in Winnfield, Louisiana, where he family owned a successful farm. He attended Louisiana State University on a scholarship before eventually going to law school. He was admitted to the Louisiana state bar in 1914 but soon went into business, winning a seat on the Louisiana Railroad Commission. There, he used his power to fight monopolies and cultivated a reputation as a friend to the working class.

In 1928, Long ran for governor of Louisiana. It was his second attempt, after a run in which he placed third. Long won the governership in 1928. He ran under the slogan, “Every man a king,” which some say was the origin of his nickname, Kingfish. Others believe that Long took the nickname “Kingfish” from a character on the Amos n Andy show, a minstrel show (in Long’s time, the show was aired on the radio; it later switched to television).

Long has been described as a racist, who gave speeches denigrating African Americans and behaved callously to African Americans he encountered in his own life. As governor, one of his first moves was to segregate the state’s bus system. At the same time, Long’s defenders say that his racial politics were relatively mild for the time and place in which he lived.

As governor, Long was seen as both an authoritarian and a populist figure. He built up the power of the executive, centralized investigative power, and made it easier for police to make arrests. At the same time, Long increased spending on education and on infrastructure. He imposed higher taxes on big businesses, notably on Standard Oil.

After Long had spent less than a year in office, the Louisiana State legislature moved to impeach him. His opponents argued that he had accepted bribes, carried a weapon, and behaved inappropriately in public. The impeachment attempt ultimately failed.

In 1930, Long successfully ran for the US Senate. There, he pushed for a series of economic reforms known as the “Share Our Wealth” plan. “Share Our Wealth” clubs popped up over the country. At Long’s insistence, the clubs were racially segregated.

In 1935, Long was in Baton Rouge when a man named Carl Weiss approached him. Weiss was the son in law of one of Long’s political rivals. Weiss pulled out a gun and shot Long. Long died several days later. His last words, reportedly, were “God, don’t let me die. I have so much to do.”

Long continues to be a controversial figure, decades after his death. He is remembered by many for his love of power and for what some see as demagoguery. Others praise him for his financial reforms and his attacks on big business. In any event, the name, and the fame, of the Kingfish lives on.

kangaroo ticket

A “kangaroo ticket” is a ticket for higher office in which the person at the bottom of the ticket is considered more electable or is more well-known than the person at the top.

The Chicago Tribune defines the term as: “A combination of nominees in which the running mate is more appealing than the presidential candidate (possibly coined to refer to a kangaroo’s propulsion from its hind legs, or to the weight it carries in its bottom half).”

The term dates back to Mississippi politics from the 1840s, as seen in this news clipping from the Vicksburg Whig, which describes the ticket of James K. Polk for President and Silas Wright for Vice President as a “kangaroo ticket,” since Wright was considered more electable. The editor explains his rationale for the term: “A Kangaroo Ticket, by G-d – strongest in the hind legs.”

While so-called “kangaroo tickets” are rare in national politics, there are some notable examples of the term being used throughout history, as on October 23, 1971, when the New York Times reported: “[John Connally would run for Vice President if asked by President Nixon, but] he would insist that the Nixon-Connally partnership be advertised as a ‘kangaroo ticket.’”

In a 1984 New York Post article, the author described one Texas politician’s reaction to FDR’s 1934 nomination as a “kangaroo ticket,” adding: “It’s stronger in the hindquarters than in the front.”

In 1860, during the election that eventually led to the Lincoln presidency, in the lead up to the Civil War, the little-known Constitutional Union Party put forth the ticket of John Bell of Tennessee and Edward Everett of Massachusetts. Everett was an esteemed orator and lecturer from the North and Bell was a more reserved and lesser-known candidate from the South. This unusual combination of candidates earned them the label of “kangaroo ticket,” as reported in Douglas Egerton’s book about the election of 1860 called Year of Meteors.

Perhaps the most notable visible depiction of the concept of a “kangaroo ticket” can be seen here in this political cartoon from Judge Magazine, mocking the ticket of Grover Cleveland and Thomas Hendricks for the Democratic nomination in 1884.

killer amendment

The use of a “killer amendment” is a legislative strategy of using an amendment to severely change a bill’s intent for the purpose of killing a bill that would otherwise pass.

The member proposing the amendment would not vote in favor of the legislation when it came to the final vote, even if the amendment were accepted.

king of the hill

The “king of the hill” is a special rule in the House for sequencing different amendments. If more than one version receives a majority of votes, the last one to win a majority prevails.

An excerpt from The American Congress explains:

“Special rules are highly flexible tools for tailoring floor action to individual bills. Amendments may be limited or prohibited. The order of voting on amendments may be structured. For example, the House frequently adopts a special rule called a king-of-the-hill rule. First used in 1982, a king-of-the-hill rule provides for a sequence of votes on alternative amendments, usually full substitutes for the bill. The last amendment to receive a majority wins, even if it receives fewer votes than some other amendment. This rule allows members to vote for more than one version of the legislation, which gives them freedom both to support a version that is easy to defend at home and to vote for the version preferred by their party’s leaders. Even more important, the procedure advantages the version voted on last, which is usually the proposal favored by the majority party leadership.”

Also see:  Partisanship or Protection: Examining the King of the Hill Rule.

K Street

K Street

K Street refers to the area in downtown Washington, D.C. where many lobbyists, lawyers and advocacy groups have their offices. It’s become a term to refer to the lobbying industry as a whole.

In fact, the Washington Post has noted that most major lobbying firms don’t operate out of K Street any more. Only one of the top twenty lobbying companies still has a K Street address. The move away from K Street started in the 1980s, but the term still retains its original meaning as a shorthand for the lobbying industry.

“K Street” is generally a derogatory term. It’s used as a synonym for influence peddling and for the power of special interests. In fact, the term K Street is widely used as a symbol for the problems that many people see with the federal government.

K Street is widely criticized for the influence it exerts over politicians. Analysts argue that lobbyists working for, say, the pharmaceutical industry are influencing legislation in a way that benefits the industry, rather than ordinary Americans.

In 2019, the top spenders on lobbying included healthcare and insurance companies, tech firms, and broadcasters. Americans of all political stripes tend to distrust lobbyists, seeing them as favoring “special interests” over the good of the broader population.

K Street also comes under widespread criticism because of the so-called “revolving door” between Capitol Hill and the leading lobbying firms. The complaint is that former federal employees get jobs as lobbyists, consultants, and strategists; at the same time, one-time lobbyists get jobs as federal employees. The result, some say, is a permanent ruling class that can easily turn into an echo chamber.

Lobbyists argue that, in fact, they are exercising a key first amendment right. The first amendment protects five key rights and forbids Congress from enacting any laws that would restrict those rights. The fifth right protected by the first amendment is the right of the people to petition their government for redress of grievances.

Lobbyists argue that they are simply the professionals charged with allowing people to exercise their first amendment rights to petition their government and advocate for their cause. As the government grows bigger and more complicated, petitioning the government also becomes more and more complicated. It’s not something that an ordinary citizen can do; in the modern world, petitioning the government needs to be done by a professional lobbyist.

The term “lobbyist” dates back to 18th century England, when men known as “box-lobby loungers” began hanging around in the lobbies of London theaters. The lobby loungers weren’t there to watch a play – they were there to meet the wealthy and powerful Londoners who attended the theater. It wasn’t long before lobby loungers appeared in American theaters too. The term “lobbyist” was first used in a political sense in the 1810s; it was first seen in print when a New York newspaper described a man named William Irving as a “lobby member” of the New York legislature.