There was only one side of the dais at Tuesday’s House Judiciary Committee hearing that mentioned impeachment — and it wasn’t the Democratic side.
There was only one side that hollered and sputtered, one side that lobbed insults at the other and impugned colleagues’ motives — and it wasn’t the majority.
Indeed, Tuesday’s hearing was a study in the asymmetric combat that defines our politics in the Trump era. Some on the left see this asymmetry as a sign of Democratic weakness. I see it as the nation’s best hope for recovery.
At Tuesday’s session, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), spoke in a calm, steady voice about the absence of former White House counsel Donald McGahn, a no-show after President Trump ordered him not to comply with a subpoena. “Mr. McGahn has a legal obligation to be here for this scheduled appearance. If he does not immediately correct his mistake, this committee will have no choice but to enforce the subpoena against him,” Nadler intoned.
Nadler mentioned neither impeachment nor contempt, and he managed to keep the Democratic side — including the gadfly who brought fried chicken to a previous hearing as a prop — quiet.
Then came Nadler’s Republican counterpart, Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, who practically yelled out his statement and fired off taunts so quickly that those of us in the room struggled to understand him, and the transcript designated several sections as unintelligible. The words that did come through were mostly caustic and personal. Nadler “rushed to maximize headlines,” was “politically expedient,” issued an “illegal subpoena,” “orchestrated” a “spectacle” and a “drama,” and is “more interested in the fight than fact-finding.” Collins further accused Nadler and the Democrats of “harangues,” “innuendo” and warned of“running roughshod over the Constitution.”
“The theater is open,” Collins said of the sedate proceedings. Because Democrats can’t find anything to “hang their I-word, impeachment, on. . . . We’re here again, with the circus in full force.”
Though accusing Democrats of theatrics by having the empty-seat hearing, Republicans attempted to continue bickering by voting against adjournment. “This is disgraceful!” cried out Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio).
Watching this disparity in demeanor, I tried to imagine how things might look if Hillary Clinton had won the presidency, and, two years later:
• Five of her campaign advisers had been convicted of crimes — one of them implicating her — and a sixth indicted.
• A prosecutor documented numerous instances in which Clinton had interfered with investigators.
• Clinton refused to let aides cooperate with subpoenas and dismissed an unfavorable court ruling as “crazy” and partisan.
• She directed the Justice Department to investigate the front-runner for the Republicans’ 2020 nomination.
• She directed the White House counsel to lie about her deceit, then ordered him not to testify.
Can anybody imagine, in those circumstances, a Republican speaker of the House and the Republican presidential front-runner (the one Clinton ordered investigated) steadfastly resisting calls for impeachment?
There is long-standing tension among Democratic lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates about whether to answer Trump’s aggression and insults in kind (Republican lawmakers long ago internalized his style) or whether to be the grown-ups in the room. On the campaign trail, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Kamala Harris(Calif.) have called for impeachment, and a growing number of Democrats in Congress, from fiery Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) to Rep. David Cicilline (R.I.), a member of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (Calif.) leadership team, have joined the cause. Liberal activists rage against Pelosi “meeting fire with fecklessness,” as New York magazine’s Eric Levitz put it.
But the mass of voters side with restraint, and even anti-establishment Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has said impeachment “works to Trump’s advantage.” Certainly, Trump has earned impeachment; Republican Rep. Justin Amash (Mich.) has said as much. But with no chance of removing Trump, Democrats can instead show the country that our problem isn’t polarization; it’s that one side has gone bonkers, and the other side is trying to restore adult supervision.
Americans, even reluctant Trump supporters, hunger to end the madness. This is likely why former vice president Joe Biden holds a commanding lead, even though he’s out of sync with the party base ideologically and demographically. And generally, the 2020 Democrats seem to grasp the country’s need for normal. I had feared that, after Trump, Democrats would conclude there’s no penalty for lying. Instead, “anecdotally, I think they are trying to harder to be more factually accurate,” The Post’s Fact Checker, Glenn Kessler, tells me.
This is an encouraging sign, as is party leadership’s efforts to resist an impeachment stampede. Impeachment may be inevitable if Trump continues to stiff-arm all inquiries. But Democrats are right not to emulate Trump’s insults, falsehoods and extreme partisanship as they go about their legitimate inquiries.
Maybe such restraint will be proved wrong in 2020, and voters will reward the insult hurlers. But if Americans don’t desire a return to stability, honesty and decency, our democracy is already lost.
The Iowa congressman has been saying offensive things for years but many of his supporters don’t seem concerned.
The Republicans in Des Moines and Washington are doing what they can to run away from and run off Representative Steve King, the Republican from my district, for yet more of his outlandish remarks over white supremacy, nationalism and western civilization — remarks that simply echo things he has said many times over the past two decades in my paper, The Storm Lake Times.
.. A Republican State Senator, Randy Feenstra, a professor at Dordt College with solid Christian conservative credentials, has said he will challenge Mr. King in the 2020 primary. Mr. Feenstra said he stands with President Trump but is not as “caustic” as Mr. King and will not embarrass ever-polite Iowans. Other Republicans are pondering primary runs, too, thinking that condemnation at the hands of the party elite may give them a rare opening.
Not so fast. Mr. King may be wounded, but he remains popular here.
.. “They can’t change my mind about him,” said Cathy Greenfield, a dog groomer adamantly opposed to abortion who lives with her husband, Larry, a teacher and auto body mechanic, in the village of Fonda just east of Storm Lake. “The left has been after him forever. I don’t think he’s a racist. I think he will be successful.”
.. She is not even prepared to consider Mr. Feenstra or anyone else. Ms. Greenfield trusts Steve King, now serving his ninth term.
The same goes for Sue Guntren of Storm Lake, who with her husband, Robert, proudly plants a huge red “KING” sign every two years in her yard along Lake Avenue, the main drag. “We’re sticking with him,” she said. “I’ve never really heard what he did was that bad.”
.. Eric Mosbo took a break from his Snapper dealership to reflect on his support for Mr. King. “I don’t care what the topic is, you have to be able to have an honest discussion about it. King was trying to defend the merits of Western Civilization, not white supremacy. Since only a snippet of his comments were used and the interview wasn’t recorded, the message was twisted around to project an incorrect quote. Reporting events and comments are hard work and the need to be correct is huge.”
.. The congressman has made lots of outrageous remarks over the years. He joked about immigrants being “dirt.” Like Mr. Trump, hebroadly describes Latinos as drug runners and criminals. He said he doesn’t expect to meet any gay people in heaven.
.. Most supporters write it off as “Steve being Steve,” or as the media unfairly being on his case. His son banned or ejected reporters, including from The Des Moines Register, The Storm Lake Times and other publications, from the congressman’s election-night rally, calling them left-wing propagandists.