Tag Archives: Steny Hoyer

QAnon and the New McCarthyism

mccarthyism (the kevin variant) n. 1. the behavior of a craven, amoral politician eager to advance his or her political career at the expense of the security and safety of the nation. 

2. The antithesis of patriotism.

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“I think it would be helpful if you could hear exactly what she told all of us — denouncing Q-on, I don’t know if I say it right, I don’t even know what it is,” House Minority Leader  Kevin McCarthy (Q-Calif.) said after he defended the bigoted, conspiracy theorist freshman Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-Ga.) for her heinous remarks and actions. His defense is a classic example of the new McCarthyism.

Nice try, Representative McCarthy, but pulling the old Trumpian dodge — “I know nothing about QAnon” — will not get you off the hook. Here is the problem with that formulation, Mr. Minority Leader: The rest of us know enough about QAnon and its loony conspiracies to condemn it. And, here is another problem, Mr. Craven Politician: You are on tape, on FOX News last August, condemning QAnon. “Let me be very clear: There is no place for QAnon in the Republican Party. I do not support it,” you said then. I know you do not have a reputation as the sharpest knife in the drawer, but surely, Mr. McCarthy, your memory is better than that. But, selective amnesia is a part of the new McCarthyism.

Of course, the gyrations of the Republican House leader on Greene reflect the state of today’s Republican Party. There may have been no place for QAnon in the Republican Party six months ago, but, today, McCarthy and the bulk of the Republican House caucus are more than willing to carve out a spot for her, with some members giving her a standing ovation at a contentious meeting Wednesday night. Think about that: Republicans in the House gave a standing ovation to a colleague who wants Speaker Nancy Pelosi assassinated. The reasons are simple: Greene mirrors the views of millions of voters to whom the party appeals, and she is close to former president Donald Trump. Greene may hold idiotic notions, but she is savvy enough to know when to invoke Trump’s name, which she did last weekend as the furor over her intensified. “I had a great call with my all time favorite POTUS, President Trump! I’m so grateful for his support,” the QAnon lawmaker tweeted. 

It is hard to see this McCarthyist cowardice as a winning strategy. Republican loyalty to Trump led to the party losing the White House, the House, and the Senate after controlling all three in 2017. Sure, a public vote to remove Greene from her committee assignments might result in a primary challenge against a member from someone even further out in la-la land, but what is the value in staving off a primary challenge only to lose in the general election?

Actually, many Senate Republicans understand the danger of hooking the party to QAnon. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican Party and the country,” said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. The second-ranking Republican in the Senate, John Thune of South Dakota, asked whether Republicans “want to be the party of limited government… or do they want to be the party of conspiracy theories and QAnon? (The Senator might want to withdraw the question as he might not want to hear the answer.) Utah Senator Mitt Romney said, “Our big tent is not large enough to both accommodate conservatives and kooks.” 

Many Senate Republicans know Greene spells disaster for the Republican Party. Already, the Democratic Party is running an advertising campaign making Greene the face of the GOP. But, Senate Republican condemnation of Greene rings hollow given the party’s past tolerance of Trump’s lies and embrace of conspiracy theories. Remember, Trump came to political prominence pushing “birtherism.” Along the way, he claimed Senator Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate John Kennedy; Barack Obama founded the Islamic State; TV anchor Joe Scarborough, when a congressman, murdered one of his staffers, and many more “looney lies.” Trump’s penchant for conspiracy theories culminated in the big lie of a stolen election in 2020 that led to the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The dynamic in the House is different. Republicans in the lower chamber refused to take any action against Greene, settling, instead, for a tortured McCarthyist statement from their leader in which McCarthy said Greene’s “past comments now have much greater meaning. Marjorie recognized this in our conversation. I hold her to her word, as well as her actions going forward” before pivoting to attacking the Democrats for wanting to more effectively rebuke the Georgia representative. House Republicans assume a racist, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist who has not apologized for any of her assaults on decency will behave decorously in the future. Good luck with that!

Republicans also took up the future of Representative Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking House Republican. Cheney, a consistent conservative, ran afoul of the Trumpistas in the party for voting to impeach Trump for instigating the Capitol riot. Cheney survived by a vote of 145 to 61, but only, one suspects, because the vote was secret. On the open vote Thursday on removing Greene from House committees, only 11 Republicans voted in the affirmative. The vast majority of Republicans were unmoved by the emotional appeal of Majority Leader Steny Hoyer who displayed a picture of Greene posing with an assault rifle juxtaposed with photos of three progressive Democratic congresswomen of color above a caption, “The Squad’s Worst Nightmare.” “When you take this vote, imagine your faces on this poster,” Hoyer said to his Republican colleagues. “Imagine it’s a Democrat with an AR-15. Imagine what your response would be.”

The cowardice of the new McCarthyism is unfathomable. Just two years ago, McCarthy stripped Iowa Representative Steve King of his committee appointments because of his history of white supremacist remarks. Odious as King’s racism was, it seems tame compared to the egregious behavior of Marjorie Taylor Greene. But, according to the new McCarthyism, it is acceptable for members of the United States House of Representatives to threaten other members on the other side of the aisle with assault rifles.

Fortunately, at least for now, the Democrats have a majority in the House.

Posted February 5, 2021

Do the Right Thing

The 10 House Republicans who voted to impeach President Donald Trump Wednesday deserve credit for political courage.

The 197 who voted in the negative deserve continued scorn for their willingness to abet Trump in his heinous behavior.

It is that simple.

Trump is a recidivist who will say whatever he is told is necessary to avoid criminal and political liability, but once he believes he is in the clear — or his worst impulses get the better of him — he will revert to norm, which, in this case, means encouraging his supporters, once again, to attempt to overthrow the government of the United States. We have seen this movie before, most notably after White supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017. So, yes, Trump released a clearly scripted video Wednesday evening urging his supporters to avoid violence, but he strikingly avoided accepting blame for inciting the insurrection at the Capitol on January 6. The day before Wednesday’s impeachment vote, he called remarks to his supporters before the riot — urging them to march on the Capitol and show “strength” — “totally appropriate.” Who knows what he will say tomorrow?

Trump’s propensity to cause mayhem is one reason — in addition to sending a signal to other would-be dictators and supporting the rule of law — why the Senate must convict him of the House’s charge even after he leaves office next week. The constitutional penalties for conviction include removal from office and “disqualification” from ever holding federal office again. While Trump cannot be removed from office after January 20, he still could run for the presidency again. The Senate must insure that never happens. As noted constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe points out in The Washington Post, there are precedents in American history for convicting impeached officials — judges — after they left office. 

Trump is not the only Republican who needs to take responsibility for abetting insurrection. Complicit also are the nearly two-thirds of the Republican House caucus who voted on January 6 to overturn a free and fair election and the 197 Republicans who voted on January 13 not to impeach. A trial in the Senate, incidentally, will force Republican senators to go on record as supporting or opposing the Constitution and the rule of law. The public needs to know who among its leaders is patriotic and who would overthrow the government.

There are indications and rumors that some members of Congress actively aided the insurrectionists. Democratic representatives have accused unnamed Republicans of giving tours of the Capitol to insurrectionists the day before the siege. Representative Mikie Sherrill, a Democrat from New Jersey, said some of her GOP colleagues “incited this violent crowd.” Democrats are furious at gun-toting new Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado who tweeted the morning of the insurrection “Today is 1776” and, then, in the midst of the attack, revealed that Speaker Nancy Pelosi had left the floor of the House chamber. The House should expel these members, as well as Alabama’s Mo Brooks who told told the MAGA-clad thugs on the National Mall — before the riot — “today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.”

The defense of the president offered by the 197 Republicans who voted against impeaching him ranged from the absurd to the pathetic to technicalities. There was the usual “whataboutism” offered by Ohio’s Jim Jordan — “they spied on his campaign” — and Florida’s Matt Gaetz — “Speaker Pelosi stood at the rostrum and tore through the president’s State of the Union speech” (oh my!). Jodey Arrington of Texas said the president showed “poor judgment” in his speech to the rally — as if Trump had told an off-color joke at a state dinner.  Most were oblivious to the cynicism of claiming impeachment would only further divide the nation, as if their repeated lies about a fraudulent election were not divisive. None praised the president, and Michael McCaul of Texas worried that he might regret his decision, saying future revelations might “put me on the wrong side of this debate.” Note to the representative: You already are on the wrong side!

Contrast the pusillanimity of the Republican majority with the brave 10 who voted to impeach. Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican in the House and no flaming liberal, said, “There has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution…. The president of the United States summoned the mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack.” Washington’s Dan Newhouse announced he was voting yes because “there is no excuse for President Trump’s actions.”  Another Washingtonian, Jaime Herrera Beutler, perhaps said it best. “I’m not afraid of losing my job, but I am afraid that my country will fail,” she told her colleagues.

Because of the actions of the president — who incited a violent insurrection against the government he leads — troops are bivouacking in the Capitol for the first time since Confederate armies threatened to cross the Potomac during the Civil War. This is all because a vain, narcissistic, ignorant man refused to recognize the results of a legitimate and free election, lying that he won but his victory was stolen. It is also because Republicans in a position to do something about Trump and his malignant actions refused to act for four years.

Republicans were furious in early 2020 when Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California, speaking at the Senate trial after Trump’s first impeachment, quoted an anonymous threat warning Republican senators that if they voted to acquit they would wind up with their “head on a pike.” It was meant metaphorically, of course, but Republicans in Congress were always afraid of Trump’s wrath and its influence on their constituents, which is why they repeatedly overlooked the president’s offenses and why it took courage for Beutler to say she was “not afraid of losing my job.” All the others, sadly, were afraid. Some Republicans, according to Jason Crow, a Colorado Democrat, were afraid for more than their jobs, fearing for their lives and the safety of their families if they voted to impeach the president. Representative Peter Meijer, a Michigan Republican, says some of those who voted to impeach are “altering our routines, working to get body armor… [because] our expectation is that someone may try to kill us.”

Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the second ranking House Democrat, told Republicans, “It is never too late to do the right thing.” Only 10 in the House listened. Let us hope enough Republican senators heed Hoyer’s advice and do the right thing at the trial of Donald Trump.

Posted January 15, 2021

  

   

Scarred by Reagan

Generals, so the hoary maxim goes, are always prepared to fight the last war. Building on the lessons of World War I, France constructed the Maginot Line — an ultramodern defensive line of fortifications — along its border with Germany, but not on the Franco-Belgian border. In the spring of 1940, Hitler’s armies invaded Belgium, and after conquering that small country, crossed into France. The Maginot Line was effective, so the German Army simply outflanked it. In the United States, the world’s most superb military cannot shake the trauma of Vietnam. It colors all military decisions, from where the nation will deploy troops to the strategy used in conflicts.

Politicians, too, it seems, are often mired in the past. Or, at least, older politicians cannot forget past painful political experiences. Nowhere is this more evident than in the generational divide within the Democratic Party. On issue after issue, the younger Democratic members of the House — Representatives Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts, among others — call for bold action, only to hear party elders — lead by Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California — say, yes, we agree with you, but now is not the time. Push too far too fast, older Democrats argue, and there will be a backlash for Republicans to exploit.

Pelosi and her generational peers — Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and, applying this analysis to the presidential race, former Vice President Joe Biden — all came of age in the shadow of Ronald Reagan’s 1980 landslide victory over President Jimmy Carter. The rout that year saw not only Carter’s defeat, but also the ouster from the Senate of a number of liberal Democrats who had defined the party for a generation: Frank Church of Idaho, Warren Magnuson of Washington, and George McGovern of South Dakota, the party’s 1972 presidential nominee. 

The lesson the now older Democrats took from the trauma of 1980 was that the party had moved too far to the left in the late 1960s and 1970s in the aftermath of the Vietnam War and Watergate. Reagan’s victory was the inevitable result in what — or so Pelosi, et al. believed — was a center-right country. Future events only strengthened their conviction: Reagan’s even bigger landslide victory four years later and the subsequent triumph of the rather inept George H.W. Bush — despite the Iran-Contra scandal and eight years of Republican control — over Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, who had held a 20-point lead in the polls.

Even when Democrats won, battle-scarred veterans like Pelosi, Schumer, Hoyer, and Biden, learned the lessons of moderation: Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 came only because Ross Perot’s presence in the race kept either major party candidate from gaining 50 percent of the vote and Clinton eked out a win because he was a centrist Democrat. In his first term, Clinton signed into law the controversial 1994 crime bill, originally written by Biden and which bolstered Clinton’s centrist bona fides. Clinton ran for reelection in 1996 and governed as a Republican moderate. “The era of big government is over,” he declared in his 1996 State of the Union address. Then, Clinton proved it by working with Republicans on enacting Republican ideas on welfare reform and Wall Street deregulation.

The tendency to move toward the center continued during the presidency of Barack Obama. Obamacare was framed not as a human right but as a reform that would reduce budget deficits. The heart of the new system was the individual mandate, a Republican idea borrowed in the hope — misplaced — of garnering GOP votes in Congress. Same for the stimulus package, which was long on tax cuts — to appeal, again, misguidedly, to Republicans — and short on actual stimulus projects.

Pelosi is liberal, but she fears progressive Democrats will move the party too far to the left. “Own the center, own the mainstream,” she says, adding, avoid the “exuberances that exist in our party.” “Exuberances” refers to Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. This is the voice of Democrats who grew up in the years of Reagan. But, younger Democrats — Omar, Tlaib, Ocasio-Cortez, Pressley — matured in the  years of Republican obstructionism when the party veered far to the right. For these Democrats, Republicans should not be coddled, they should be beaten. And, progressive issues — such as Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, a $15-dollar-an-hour minimum wage, free college education — should not be avoided, but extolled and advocated.

This divide spills into the presidential race, with Biden the candidate who bears the scars of the Reagan years. Most of the younger candidates are more outspokenly progressive than the former Delaware senator. The two exceptions to the age differential split — Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts — turn out not to be exceptions upon closer inspection. Sanders is not really a Democrat and has few ties to the Democratic establishment. Warren voted for Carter in 1980, but she was largely apolitical in those years. It was only in the 2000s that Warren became involved in national politics and found her progressive voice.

The Democratic base appears to be moving left. At least, that is true of Democrats likely to vote in the primaries. If that is the case, then a progressive Democrat with bold ideas — Sanders, Warren, Senator Kamala Harris of California — could be the party’s presidential nominee. A victory by a progressive finally might salve the wounds of the Reagan years. Then, Nancy Pelosi could shed her calculated caution and push a truly progressive agenda through Congress. It is time!

Posted July 9, 2019