On Wednesday April 24, The Daily Caller spent a whole day with Louie Gohmert, the rib-making, baseball-playing, red-meat slinging former Texas judge who now represents Texas’ 1st Congressional District. From the baseball field, to a car ride with he and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, to a couple of television hits, I shadowed him. Here’s an hour-by-hour breakdown of what I saw:
6:30 a.m.: Baseball Practice
It’s Wednesday and Louie Gohmert is at Simpson Stadium in Alexandria, Va. — “Home of the Titans” — for the GOP’s first practice for the summer baseball game against congressional Democrats.
Gohmert has played in every baseball clash between Democrats and Republicans since he joined Congress in 2005 with the exception of one, due to injury. During one of those games, Gohmert says he tore his ACL when he collided with former Democratic California Rep. Joe Baca at home plate in an effort to score.
He says he has also had surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, which has affected his throwing arm. That makes it more difficult for him to play his natural position in the outfield. Nonetheless, Gohmert spent most of practice in right field. TheDC suspects he feels most comfortable when he is on the right.
A team player, Gohmert also played catcher for one of the GOP’s would-be pitchers in the batting cage.
Word at the field is that the GOP lost last year because of poor infield play so infield players are asked to arrive earlier to practices so they can work on their defense. There is excitement surrounding freshman Florida Rep. Ron DeSantis. Some believe he could be the GOP’s secret weapon this year. The 34-year-old congressman captained Yale’s baseball team.
7:30: Off to the Hill
After practice, TheDC tags along with Gohmert back to Capitol Hill. It turns out Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake will be joining us for the ride.
TheDC gets in the back of Gohmert’s black Ford Explorer, which provides a nice view of the congressman’s boots. He will later put those puppies on. He’s from Texas, remember.
Gohmert and Flake, who until January served in the House with Gohmert, catch up. Gohmert laments that John Boehner “is still speaker so I’m still not chairman” of a committee.
Gohmert and Boehner don’t get along all too well. Instead of voting for Boehner for speaker in January, Gohmert voted for Allen West, who is no longer even a congressman.
Flake says he is still trying to get used to the Senate culture.
Flake is a member of the Senate “Gang of Eight” that recently unveiled its immigration reform bill. Gohmert has not spoken positively about the bill. Naturally, this seemed like a good topic to bring up.
“I don’t think the Senate bill will pass the House,” Gohmert says.
“I don’t think it will pass with Republican votes,” Flake proffers.
Gohmert says he is trying to get the Hastert Rule, an informal rule that stipulates that House leadership will not move to pass a bill that doesn’t have a majority of the GOP caucus, enacted as an actual rule. But so far he says he only has six or seven co-sponsors because people don’t want to put their name on something that will upset Boehner.
But back to immigration. Gohmert says that Flake’s “views differ a little on immigration,” but adds, “He’s always been a man of his word.”
Gohmert, who is known for being somewhat of a conservative firebrand, says he has no problem befriending fellow legislators who disagree with him as long as they’re honest.
“I’ve got a lot of good friends who are really liberal Democrats that will shock people,” he said, naming as examples former Democratic Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Democratic Ohio Rep. Marcy Kaptur and Democratic Guam Delegate Madeleine Bordallo.
“She’s a sweetheart,” he says of Kaptur.
But Gohmert wants to make clear he respects Flake because he has seen Flake stand alone on principle in a similar way he has.
“If you ever stand alone and make people mad like I have, you have tremendous respect for people who do that,” he says.
Gohmert also talks about his rib-making, which he says he is legendary for. People love his ribs, he exclaims — even vegetarians. Apparently Democratic New York Rep. Louise Slaughter loved them so much, she brought some home, only to have her vegetarian husband eat them. Or that’s at least what she apparently told Gohmert.
But the rib BBQs don’t happen as often anymore. He used to make them on the balcony of his office but the Architect of the Capitol shut down his barbecues, he said. Michigan Republican Rep. Fred Upton allows him to cook them on his office balcony, which apparently doesn’t violate the codes that concerned the Architect of the Capitol, Gohmert says. But he doesn’t like to inconvenience Upton so he doesn’t do it as often.
8:45 a.m.: Immigration briefing
Gohmert changes out of his baseball clothes and meets me in the Cannon House Office Building for the Conservative Opportunity Society Breakfast with “Gang of Eight” bill opponent Mark Kirkorian of the Center for Immigration Studies.
Gohmert is late for the meeting, largely due to baseball practice and talking to TheDC. The meeting is off the record.
9:15 a.m. GOP Conference Meeting
The meeting, unfortunately, is not for reporters.
10:00 a.m.: CBN Interview
From the conference meeting, we head outside the Capitol for the congressman’s CBN interview.
As we walk, we talk about Oregon Republican Rep. Greg Walden’s comments attacking the president’s Social Security reform proposal in his budget as a “shocking attack on seniors.” Some GOP leaders criticized Walden for his comments, but Gohmert says he agrees with them.
“We need to reform Social Security, but it needs to be done in such a way that we don’t hurt people 55 and older who counted on it and had lived with that assurance it would be there,” he says. “And for those under 55, we got to make some big changes and that way we can make sure young people have a Social Security when they get there. But we weren’t supposed to hurt anybody that’s over 55.”
We also talk about Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul’s comments the day before on drones, which some thought contradicted his previous position. Gohmert had gone to the Senate floor to support Paul’s filibuster of President Barack Obama’s position on drones. When TheDC summarized Paul’s new comments on the matter, he says, “I didn’t realize that that was his position.”
“I don’t have any problem with using a drone like a helicopter when you’re in pursuit or trying to make sure American citizens aren’t going to be harmed,” he adds.
“But, again, to use a drone to take out an American citizen on American soil, the president had said it would have to be a very imminent threat previously when Rand filibustered and finally got him to say, but there’s just too much chance in that case that there would be civilian casualties so we would have to make sure there really and truly was an imminent threat and a chance to have him completely isolated so that the president didn’t unintentionally kill innocent people himself.”
Gohmert goes to do his CBN interview, which is on the Boston bombings. Naturally, this being D.C., in the background a man with a cardboard box on his head can be seen playing a guitar.
10:15 a.m.: Natural Resources Committee
Gohmert now has to go to a Natural Resources Committee markup and to meet with a constituent. TheDC is going to meet him afterwards.
But as we walk toward his destination, we talk about immigration again.
“We’ve got to secure the border before we can pass a bill,” Gohmert says of the possibility of voting on the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill.
Asked if there is any way he would support a path to citizenship, he says he is not going to “create this magnet that has been created by talking about amnesty and legal status for people that are here.”
But he seems to suggest that once the border is secure, he would consider somehow regularizing the illegal immigrants in the U.S.
“Well, if the border is secure, that’s why I say we’ll have an agreement done in no time,” he says. “But if I say, Jamie, ‘Yea, we’ll talk about legal status for everybody, then [more immigrants will break the law to come here].’”
11:30 a.m.: Pastor Briefing with David Barton
Gohmert meets up with TheDC again in the Capitol Visitor Center to speak to a group of pastors organized by David Barton. Barton is an evangelical activist and historian who is a favorite of Glenn Beck. Beck has praised him as “the Library of Congress in shoes.” But beyond Beck, historians have been critical of the accuracy of Barton’s books, even conservative Christian historians.
TheDC is told that they aren’t letting reporters in, but at Gohmert’s request, they will make an exception since TheDC says it will only report on Gohmert’s speech. Gohmert is a believing Christian and gives a pro-Israel talk. He also presents what he says is a simple foreign policy theory: “If you’re our friend, it’s beneficial. If you’re not our friend, it’s not beneficial.” He wishes Obama would abide by that formula.
At the end, he asks the pastors gathered in the room to not always trust what the media says about him. He tells them to “leave open the possibility you’re not reading the real truth,” when they hear attacks flung against him.
12:30 p.m.: Republican Study Committee meeting
The meeting is off the record. TheDC may or may not have been snuck in.
1:30 p.m. – 4:30 pm: Constituent meetings
TheDC parted ways with the congressman so he could conduct some constituent meetings in his office.
5:25 p.m.: Fox Business Network hit
TheDC returned to the congressman’s office at 4:30 p.m., but he was still in a meeting.
But when he leaves the meeting, he disappears. His press secretary gets nervous since he has a 5:25 p.m. TV hit in the Cannon House Office Building. Assuming he has walked over there himself, she takes TheDC and hurries over with his earpiece.
At one point, we are literally running down the halls of Cannon. But all is well. We arrive shortly before the interview, which is on the Keystone pipeline.
After the hit, TheDC talks with Gohmert as we walk back to his office. Gohmert gives his take on what the GOP has to do after November’s electoral defeat, says that Obama’s Middle East policy is failing because he is getting advice from members of the Muslim Brotherhood, and explains where he thinks Democrats and Republicans can come together.
TheDC also asks him about the media attacks against him for some of his controversial comments. He responds that no matter what he says, the liberal media will go after him.
“I think it wouldn’t matter what I say, that they are going to take things I’ve said that were accurate and truth, and twist it into something that appears to be less than truth,” he explains. “So, I also am so incredibly flattered that some of these groups feel like that I’m worth all the tremendous amount of time and attention they’re giving me. As I hear from my chief of staff and other staff members, you don’t take flak until you’re over the target, so I must be over the target.”
After we reach his office, Gohmert responds to a few more questions before heading into his private office. He has a couple of more events later, and while TheDC is exhausted and done for the day, Gohmert keeps on trucking.
6:00 p.m.: Reception with a constituent
When TheDC left, there was still a question whether he was going to attend.
7:30 p.m.: Capitol Tour
Every week Congress is in session, Gohmert says he gives a tour of the Capitol to a constituent group. That night he was scheduled to take a visiting Christian school from his district.
“He takes HUGE groups, and is WELL known for these,” his press secretary emailed TheDC.
She said the tours can sometimes last over three hours.
That tour will end his day. But he had to be up bright and early again for baseball practice in the morning.