The Depressing State of House Republicans
We all suffer if the the unserious have power.
This week, FBI Director Christopher Wray testified before the Jim Jordan (R-OH)-led House Judiciary Committee. The NYT reports, House Republicans Criticize F.B.I. in Contentious Hearing.
Committee Republicans, led by the chairman, Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, treated Mr. Wray as if he were a hostile witness — repeatedly interrupting his attempts to answer their rapid-fire queries with shouted rebuttals. Most sought to portray the nation’s premier law enforcement agency, and Mr. Wray, who was appointed by President Donald J. Trump, as a political tool of the Democrats.
Time and again, Mr. Wray, a registered Republican, rejected accusations that he had sought to shield President Biden or his son, Hunter Biden, or that he had targeted Mr. Trump. The F.B.I.’s search of the former president’s Mar-a-Lago estate last August as agents sought to recover sensitive documents from his time in office, Mr. Wray added, was lawful, restrained and prompted by a court order.
“The idea that I’m biased against conservatives seems somewhat insane to me, given my own personal background,” Mr. Wray said, responding to Representative Harriet M. Hageman, a Wyoming Republican who unseated Liz Cheney last year, as she claimed that he had perpetuated a “two-tiered” system of justice. In earlier questioning, he flatly denied that the bureau was being weaponized.
Insane, indeed. In fact, it is an unhinged, cynical undermining of federal law enforcement that is bereft of evidence and with no other obvious goal than scoring partisan political points. It is shamelessly stupid, but exactly the kind of thing we are going to get when people like Jordan are empowered by Republican leadership.
Really, the notion that the FBI has some kind of leftward bias is beyond ahistorical, it is fantastical. And the specific notion that Wray is a tool of the Democrats would be laugh-out-loud funny if this wasn’t such a serious situation.
As Dana Milbank in WaPo In this House of lies, there’s a conspiracy around every corner) notes:
[Mike] Johnson [(R-La.)], the leadoff questioner at Wednesday’s hearing, told Wray about a recent NBC News poll, in which “only 37 percent of registered voters now view the FBI positively,” down from 52 percent in 2018. “That’s a serious decline in the people’s faith, and it’s on your watch,” he told Wray.
The Republicans are well aware of “those numbers” — because they are the ones who assassinated the reputation of the nation’s premier law enforcement agency. Support for the FBI isn’t low among all Americans; it’s at rock bottom among Republicans — only 17 percent of whom had a positive view of the FBI in the NBC poll, compared with 58 percent of Democrats.
Now why would that have happened? Well, maybe it’s because they’ve been fed an endless diet of lies and conspiracy theories about the FBI by elected Republicans and their Murdoch mouthpieces. These lies — and similar ones told about the Justice Department, public health agencies, the IRS and even the military — serve Republicans’ short-term interest of discrediting the Biden administration. But the lies are also destroying the right’s support for the most basic functions of government that even conservatives long supported, such as law and order and national defense. Maybe that’s the goal.
This is, again, a dangerous, irresponsible game. Look, I am not saying that criticizing the government is off the table, far from it! But, it is rather important that criticisms be based in, you know, reality. Further, if members of Congress have real concerns about key bureaucracies like the FBI and the IRS, then they have this thing called “legislation” that they should be proposing to fix those problems. If the problems are real, and the solutions are sound, it is then possible to get other members of the chamber to vote for the changes. Yelling at people and making absurd accusations is not governing. It is a sideshow.
If, however, the goal is to use the legislature to play talk radio host/cable news talking head as a means to fundraise and win primaries, well, that’s a problem for all of us.