Once upon a time, in the movie classic, A Field of Dreams, we were introduced to a baseball star named Shoeless Joe Jackson. He was the slugger who lost his shirt and a ticket to the Hall of Fame for his presumed involvement in the 1919 World Series Black Sox scandal. Note that Shoeless Joe had a lifetime .356 batting average in his major league career but never made it to Cooperstown.
Today, exactly a century after Shoeless Joe, we are witnessing the spectacle of someone called Jacketless Jim, an Ohio Congressman who apparently lost his jacket somewhere between his last visit to the Ohio State men’s wrestling locker room and his arrival at that fabled, all-consuming endless swamp on the banks of the Potomac.
Let the record show, as they say in Congress, that Mr. Jordan, a peerless purveyor of conspiracy theories and proven practitioner of whataboutism, has a .000 average while at bat in the People’s House.
There is little likelihood that Jacketless Jim, the clownish coatless cur of Congress, has a shot for admission into any imagined future congressional hall of fame. As we watch the impeachment proceedings and his demeanor and performance, it is all too apparent that the former wrestler and assistant coach needs some major assistance and coaching regarding the importance of that lost garment and what it means in being considered a gentleman.
Based on a significant personal experience, let me weigh in about the need for Jacketless Jim, who also answers to the title of Clownish Coatless Cur of Congress, to get to work on the art of acting like a gentleman.
Here’s what happened.
On our honeymoon in the summer of 1985, my wife and I traveled to London to enjoy the sights and catch some theatre in the Covent Garden section of the city. After a few recommendations, we decided to head to the famed Simpson’s in the Strand restaurant, a short distance from the Theatre Drury Lane, where we looked forward to a performance of the iconic musical, 42nd Street.
Upon arrival at Simpson’s, which has been in business since 1828, we headed to the lectern and approached the maître d to request seating. The frown on his face spoke volumes.
As he examined my American attire, as then defined by a summer uniform of khakis, sport shirt, and brown loafers, he matched the frown with a measure tone of disapproval.
“Sir, may I assist you in acquiring a jacket for dinner?” the maître d asked in a proper, clipped British accent.
“Certainly,” this colonial replied.
After donning a jacket supplied by the establishment, we were escorted to a table to start our dining experience. (Last year, while watching a rerun of a Downtown Abbey episode, we laughed when the Dowager Countess mentioned about having a marvelous meal at Simpson’s. The Dowager, of course, was properly dressed. Oh how this fan would love to ring up the lady to also chat about our time there.)
Since the very first time I ever saw Jim Jordan in his customary blue or white shirt, tie and jacketless uniform, I’ve thought from time to time about my dinner in London at Simpson’s and reflected on how social norms are established by institutions or businesses. Yet in thinking about social norms or the lack thereof, there is no other public figure besides Jacketless Jim who better illustrates how a choice of attire telegraphs personal behavior in seeming violation of assumed or established norms.
The mass undifferentiated audience watching the spectacle that is Jim Jordan has now been further polarized by his boorish behavior and lack of respect for what were assumed institutional norms of dress and behavior.
As the nation watched the chief clown of the Republican clown circus go through his antics during the last few weeks, it was interesting to read some of the commentary about his ungentlemanly performance.
Pundit Rick Wilson, who is no diplomat with his prose, draws this sketch of the less than urbane congressman from Urbana and how he appears to some viewers:
Jordan, as always, was without a jacket, an appropriately knotted necktie, or a clue. His gotchas didn’t get anything, his predicates were as thin as his combover, and his belief that he’d save the day by talking louder and faster was a flop. He was rattling off “questions” so fast that he sounded like an auctioneer who had discovered the joy of cocaine.
But while other watchers might add even more irritating behaviors in describing the Ohio congressman, it seems that any supposed dress code that may exist in the Capitol building, whether in committee rooms or on the Senate or House floor itself, is fragmented and differs from office to office – and from one side of the building to the other.
In one review written last year that featured comments from a number of individuals working for members of Congress, one Senate staffer explained about the dress code in the world’s most deliberative body:
….Congress is an institution, and it’s an arcane institution. There are rules about what you can and can’t wear on the senate floor. Men have to be in suit and tie. For women, if you’re wearing a dress, you have to have your shoulders covered. If you’re wearing slacks, you have to wear a jacket. One day I was in slacks and a sweater and I tried to swipe onto the floor and the sergeant at arms said, “You can’t be out there, you don’t have a jacket on.” My boss was with me and was like, “Really?” They were like, “Unfortunately, she can’t accompany you.”
Joe Scarborough, a former Republican member of the House, observed after the first day of live testimony that there was not a dress code nor a behavior code in force which might otherwise provide a restraint for members like Jordan. It is such behavior that prompted The Onion to offer this headline: “Jim Jordan Arrives in Congress Displaying Even More Casual Look.”
Who knows. If past behavior and bad manners are any guide, and as his patron Donald Trump implodes amid an amalgam of corruption, incompetence, and self-dealing, it may not be out of the realm of possibilities to see an even newer version of the congressman as Jacketless, Shirtless, and Shoeless Jim.
Jim Jordan, the Clownish Coatless Cur of Congress, is an embarrassment to the citizens of Ohio and indeed the nation. He needs an intervention and enrollment in a behavior modification program. As someone who was required to wear a jacket and tie all through high school to comply with institutional norms, I am suggesting that perhaps wearing a jacket might make a difference in guiding Jordan to learn and accept institutional norms and proper behavior, including the importance of why we dress, where we need to be dressed, and when both are important. Who knows, wearing a jacket on a voluntary basis might improve his image.
As a right-wing, reactionary, revanchist Republican, Jordan hates regulations. Like dress codes, perhaps. But we are in great need of norms in these troubled times, and the mass undifferentiated audience we otherwise call our fellow citizens are getting tired of Jim Jordan’s clown act. With the bad behavior of Jordan – and some of his cohorts – it’s not Grand. It’s getting Old. And it’s all about Party.
Yes, party. Not country. Have we forgotten John McCain’s 2008 election theme, Country First?
Wearing a jacket should be important for a member of Congress. Just like it was once upon a time at a restaurant like Simpson’s. Or my beloved high school, where we tried to behave as young gentlemen, and where wearing a jacket made us even more conscious of where we walked in avoiding stepping into dreaded doo-doo or other stuff while running to catch the bus, trolley or elevated train for the way home.
What if a certain member of Congress could wear a jacket and, like magic, acquire an internal navigation system to help him avoid stepping into, or even hurling doo-doo, lest that jacket be soiled in the process?
Yes, as if magic could be found in a jacket.
If only Speaker Nancy Pelosi could also be empowered to serve as maître d of the House. Wouldn’t it be time to hear these words: “Good day, sir. May we assist the member from Ohio in acquiring a jacket”?
Notice that I didn’t use the word gentleman.
NOTE: Readers may also want to check out these previous Plunderbund sketches of Jacketless Jim Jordan:
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