Senate or Romper Room? Susan Collins Talking Stick Angrily Thrown Across Room by Senator During Shutdown Meeting, Replaced by Rubber Ball

This is our United States Senate, 2018:

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Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) tried and ultimately failed to impose peace and decorum with a colorful Masai talking stick in large group meetings with senators in her office during the recent shutdown.

Media reports state Collins used the stick, a gift from Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), during meetings with about two dozen senators. The stick was handed or tossed to a senator who would then speak without interruption. It worked somewhat until one exasperated senator threw it across the room at another senator who kept talking over him and chipped a glass elephant on a shelf in the office, according to Politico. The talking stick was then replaced with a rubber ball and then a small basketball.

To try and keep the peace, Collins wouldn’t let any senator in the room talk unless they were holding a “talking stick” — which one aide later said was a Maasai leadership stick that Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) gave Collins a few years ago. At one point, Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee forcefully tossed the stick toward Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia after Warner interrupted him, nearly shattering a glass elephant belonging to Collins, according to two people briefed on the throw. After that incident, Collins suggested using a small rubber ball, and Alexander also brought his own basketball “because it’d be safer than a stick,” an aide said.”

CNN’s version made the incident seem lighthearted even though it was violent:


One Republican senator describing the incident told CNN the stick was successful, but on one occasion, one of the other senators was speaking while another asked a question and then turned with another quick, longer, louder question. The member who was holding the stick “forcefully delivered” the stick across the room — but it missed its mark and caused damage to a shelf in Collins’ office.

A glass elephant sitting on a shelf owned by Collins became the casualty, with the stick chipping it a little bit.

“There were no injuries, there were a couple close calls but everything worked out fine,” another Republican senator said about the talking stick and the elephant incident.

The source told CNN all the senators laughed about the incident, and after that, Collins replaced the stick with a small rubber ball.

One of the senators involved in the event brought a little basketball as a joke, and the senators started using it…”

Collins told CNN on Tuesday:

“I think a more accurate word would be that there was — usually, I would pick up the stick and take it from person to person, but sometimes it was tossed,” Collins responded. “And in this case, the toss went slightly amiss.”

She then said a glass elephant on her shelf had been “only chipped,” not entirely broken, by the impact of the talking stick.”

Charles P. Pierce at Esquire had the best take on Collins and her talking stick (albiet from a liberal point of view.)

…Susan Collins’s schoolmarmish insistence that nobody in politics run in the hallways or use their outside voices grates on my last nerve. Her incredible ability to get played for a sucker by her own party is a deadweight on the entire national legislature. But, seriously, a talking stick? What is this, some sort of coed Iron John outing transported from the deep forest to a caucus room in the Capitol?

For years, the endless appeals for “civility” in our politics have rung a little puerile to me—particularly in the context of the way the Republicans in and out of Congress have come to play politics. But this is almost comic. Of course, the use of sticks in the Congress has come a long way from Preston Brooks and Charles Sumner to Lamar Alexander and Mark Warner. That’s progress of a sort, I guess.”

For those who can bear it, here is a nearly six minute interview of Sen. Collins with MSNBC’s Garrett Haake about the talking stick.

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