The Associated Press is out with a hot take on Senator John Fetterman’s approach to dressing for his job. The junior Democrat senator from Pennsylvania is wearing hoodies and gym shorts while on he job and the AP reports this makes him very happy. Why, it may have taken care of the clinical depression he was experiencing when he wore a suit to work every day.
There is a dress code for U.S. senators but Fetterman has found a way around it. His colleagues happily go along with it. He wears a suit when he is working in committee or chairing the Senate Committee on Agriculture’s Subcommittee on Food and Nutrition, Specialty Crops, Organics, and Research. That’s right, Fetterman chairs a subcommittee, despite the fact he can’t communicate properly. The workaround he uses to avoid complying with the rule that says a male senator must wear a suit on the Senate floor is that he votes off the floor, technically speaking. He found a loophole.
Male senators are expected to wear a jacket and tie on the Senate floor, but Fetterman has a workaround. He votes from the doorway of the Democratic cloakroom or the side entrance, making sure his “yay” or “nay” is recorded before ducking back out. In between votes this past week, Fetterman’s hoodie stayed on for a news conference with four Democratic colleagues in suits, the 6-foot-8 Fetterman towering over his colleagues.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed how inappropriate Fetterman looked during a press conference last week with a group of other Democrat senators who want Joe Biden to invoke the 14th Amendment to settle the debt ceiling battle between Republicans and Democrats. The legality of that request is unclear. Nonetheless, Joe Biden said in a press conference in Japan during the G7 that he thinks he has the legal right to do it. Progressive Senate Democrats think he does, too. So, there stood Fetterman, looming large over the rest of the men in his white hoodie and his grey gym shorts like nothing was strange about his appearance. His relaxed attire may make him happier but it doesn’t help his ability to communicate.
John Fetterman in shorts and a hoodie can barely read a prepared statement about Biden raising the debt ceiling.
This is embarrassing. pic.twitter.com/IlbYwdImNC
— Tim Young (@TimRunsHisMouth) May 19, 2023
Fetterman has been accommodated as much as humanly possible so that he can do his job.
Last week, Fetterman stood alongside the other senators in suits to urge President Joe Biden to raise the debt ceiling on his own under a clause in the 14th Amendment instead of negotiating with Republicans. He also questioned bank executives at a hearing — dressed in a suit, as he does for committee meetings — and asked whether they should be subject to work requirements like those Republicans have proposed for food aid recipients in the debt ceiling negotiations.
Fetterman’s words are still halting and sometimes hard to understand, due to his stroke. He has auditory processing disorder, which makes it harder to speak fluidly and quickly process spoken conversation into meaning. He uses iPads in conversations, meetings and congressional hearings that transcribe spoken words in real time, and when he speaks publicly he often appears to be reading closely off a sheet of paper. He rarely speaks with reporters in the hallways.
Now he is being accommodated with his wardrobe. The suits were making him depressed. Ever since he started wearing his casual duds to the Senate building, he’s a new man. Gone is the dour-looking and introverted Fetterman. Now he is smiley and outgoing, speaking with colleagues in the hallways and joking around. Well, there was the long term stay in a mental hospital and new drugs that likely had just as much to do with his mood elevation as a change of clothes. Better living through chemicals. I’m not making light of his successful drug treatment. Mental health is a serious subject and anyone suffering should seek health. But the AP’s story with the premise that the clothes have made a new man out of him is just a bit too cute by half. It is their way of providing cover for him as people look at the pictures and ask why the senator dresses like a teenage boy.
“He’s setting a new dress code,” jokes Vermont Sen. Peter Welch, who is the only other newly elected Democrat in the Senate and spent a lot of time with Fetterman during their orientation at the beginning of the year. “He was struggling. And now he’s a joyful person to be around.”
The senator’s staff had originally asked him to always wear suits, which he famously hates. But after a check with the Senate parliamentarian upon his return, it became clear that he could continue wearing the casual clothes that were often his uniform back at home in Pennsylvania, as long as he didn’t walk on to the Senate floor.
Welch said Fetterman was quiet and withdrawn when he first came to Washington, and often sat in the back of closed-door caucus meetings. Now he’s standing up and talking, sometimes joking and ribbing Pennsylvania’s senior senator, Democrat Bob Casey.
It’s a matter of decorum and professionalism. I’m sure some of the women senators would be giddy with happiness if they could show up for work in leggings and t-shirts but that’s not happening. If one man has to be so accommodated, should he be there? I guess he doesn’t have to worry about it. He’s a Democrat and he’s got the AP writing stories to smooth things out for him.
Fetterman’s clothing may have created a buzz but another story barely made a blip on the radar. His office is accused of doctoring several of his quotes from questioning of Silicon Valley Bank ex-CEO Greg Becker. His questions were so incoherent that Becker was rendered speechless. Fetterman’s staff cleaned up Fetterman’s words and then a Washington Post reporter played along with Fetterman’s office by tweeting the cleaned up version. Democrats protect their own.
The issue exploded on Wednesday when Jeff Stein, a Washington Post economics reporter, admitted to amplifying a misquote Fetterman’s office provided to him, which had significantly altered Fetterman’s actual statements.
Stein received backlash for tweeting that Fetterman had asked Silicon Valley Bank ex-CEO Greg Becker, “Shouldn’t you have a working requirement after we bail out your bank? Republicans seem to be more preoccupied with SNAP requirements for hungry people than protecting taxpayers that have to bail out these banks.”
Fetterman, however, was much less clear in his Tuesday comments, which left the witness speechless.
“The Republicans want to give a work requirement for SNAP,” Fetterman said. “You know, for a uh, uh, uh, a hungry family has to have these, this kind of penalties, or these some kinds of word — working uh, require — Shouldn’t you have a working requirement, after we sail your bank, billions of your bank? Because you seem we were preoccupied, uh when, then SNAP requirements for works, for hungry people, but not about protecting the tax, the tax papers, you know, that will bail them out of whatever does about a bank to crash it.”
The reporter scrubbed the tweet and apologized.
Yesterday I tweeted this quote, provided to me by the Senator’s office, without checking it against the video. That was my fault. Though it captured his meaning, I deleted the tweet since some of the words in the quote were inaccurate pic.twitter.com/jkDYYr2EU2
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) May 17, 2023
Democrats don’t care about competence or the ability of elected officials to do their jobs. They just want to hang on to power. It’s why they will re-elect Joe Biden even though most Democrats don’t want him to run. It’s why Fetterman is treated with kid gloves. Is there no one in either man’s lives that will tell him the truth? It’s time to retire.
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