What’s Going On: Alligators sometimes eat their own

Call it a guilty pleasure.

When the reality TV show “Swamp People” first came out, my wife and I enjoyed it more than we should.

Set in the “swamps of Louisiana,” TV crews followed around groups of hunters during the annual alligator season. Typically, two-men hunting crews decked out in ballcaps, stained shirts and grubby blue jeans cruised the swamps in an aluminum boat, catching gators during the month-long season.

The methods used to catch the alligators was pretty universal. The hunter would tie a big, baited hook to a dangling tree limb and drop the hook into the water. The next morning, they would return and “check their lines” to see if a gator took the bait which would result in an inevitable tussle with the animal as they tried to pull it near the boat before shooting it between the eyes.

We learned a lot about the swamp in general and alligators specifically, such as that shot had to hit a spot the size of a quarter to do any damage, otherwise, it would deflect and just make the thrashing animal madder.

Another interesting fact about alligators: they can be cannibalistic.

Sometimes, when the hunters returned to their lines, the alligator on the end of it would be missing a foot. Or part of it’s tail. Or its midsection would simply be torn open.

When the hunters would pull in one of these mangled animals, they would frequently lament the monetary loss. A good-size alligator and its accompanying skin would fetch close to $1,000 for the hunters, but a mangled one was worse than worthless as the hunters still had to use one of their limited and costly tags on it.

But, as they would remark in their southern drawl, “that’s just the way of the swamp.”

***

I remember during President Donald Trump’s campaign him promising to “drain the swamp.” Obviously, he was being metaphorical, promising to get rid of all the nasty characters who had taken up permanent residency in Washington D.C. either in the form of lifelong politicians or lobbyists.

When he first started voicing this mantra during the primaries, attacking both Republicans and Democrats, I couldn’t but wonder how many people realized Washington D.C. was built on an actual swamp. I don’t think it was an intentional play on words, but I found it amusing nonetheless.

Draining the swamp is one of those campaign promises that, while amusing, is kind of hard to measure. However, I couldn’t help but think of those swamps down in the bayou and the cannibalistic alligators earlier this week.

Between the government reopening, the Super Bowl and of course, the Polar Vortex, there’s been a lot going on this week. So, it’s understandable how a seemingly meaningless vote in D.C. could be overlooked.

With Democrats in control of the House now, it should be no surprise an amendment rebuking President Trump’s controversial decision to withdraw American forces from Syria was passed by a near 3-1 margin. The amendment was attached to a broader Middle East policy bill and really doesn’t mean much other than expressing a united opinion that is in contrast to Trump’s.

Again, no surprise with Democrats running the House and we can probably expect many more like it.

However, this wasn’t from The House, or the Democrats. This public chastisement came from the Republican-controlled Senate and was authored by what was previously believed to be Trump’s biggest advocate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

In addition to McConnell authoring the amendment, what was even more amazing is how the 68-23 vote broke down; of the 46 Republicans who voted, 43 voted yes while only 24 of 43 Democrats supported it (the two independents split).

Think about that for a minute: not only did a vast majority of the Senators who disagreed with Trump come from his own party, but 20 of the ones who apparently supported him are either Democrats or Bernie Sanders.

That’s right: a bill came before Chuck Schumer, one of Trump’s favorite targets for public criticism, and he said “no, I don’t want to rebuke the president.”

My mind is blown.

Regardless of the specifics of this amendment and public chastisement, this has the potential of significant larger ramifications as it is one of the first, and most visible signs, that President Trump is losing the support of his own party.

While it may be limited to the scope of foreign policy, one can’t help but wonder if it won’t extend next to his controversial wall demand in relation to shutting down the government again in a couple weeks.

There have also been rumblings of potential challengers in the upcoming primary from former Senators such as Jeff Flake in Arizona or current ones such as Nebraska’s Ben Sasse, along with 2016 candidate John Kasich.

But most importantly, as Robert Mueller’s investigation into possible Russian collusion in the 2016 election continues to ensnare people closer and closer to the president, this vote may be remembered as a precursor of much more impactful ones regarding his future in office.

President Trump is learning you have to be careful in the swamp. You never know who may want to take a bite.

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Gregory Orear is the publisher of The Journal. His award-winning weekly column, “What’s Going On,” has been published in four newspapers in three states for more than 20 years. He can be contacted at gorear@nujournal.com.

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