Ending the Nonsense

It was lovefest. Donald Trump says he saw the tapes. Everyone was having a fine time. Those who were there don’t remember things that way. No one has seen those Trump tapes. But there are the tapes everyone has seen. They seem real enough. It was time to end the nonsense. Nancy Pelosi did that. The New York Times’ Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos explain what she did:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi moved on Wednesday to bar two of former President Donald J. Trump’s most vociferous Republican defenders in Congress from joining a select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, saying their conduct suggested they could not be trusted to participate.

In an unusual move, Ms. Pelosi announced that she was rejecting Representatives Jim Banks of Indiana and Jim Jordan of Ohio, both of whom amplified Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud, joined their party’s efforts to challenge President Biden’s victory on Jan. 6 and have opposed efforts to investigate the assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters. She agreed to seat the other three Republicans who had been chosen for the panel.

But those two just wouldn’t do:

Ms. Pelosi said she could not allow the pair to take part, based on their actions around the riot and comments they had made undercutting the investigation. Mr. Banks, who has equated the deadly attack to unrest during the racial justice protests last summer, said the Jan. 6 inquiry was created to “malign conservatives and to justify the left’s authoritarian agenda.” Mr. Jordan, one of the biggest cheerleaders of Mr. Trump’s attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the 2020 election, pressed Mr. Trump’s false claims of election fraud on the House floor as protesters breached the Capitol, and has called the select committee “impeachment Round 3.”

Those two were going to show up and scream that this was all a farce and that Trump had won in a landslide and then scream at her. Why did she want to rip the presidency away from Donald Trump since he had clearly won, in spite all that official certification and recount stuff? What did that matter? She hated Trump, the rightful president. That was the problem. This was just so very unfair:

The speaker’s decision drew an angry response from Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, who announced that Republicans would boycott the panel altogether. He seized on Ms. Pelosi’s intervention as confirmation of his charge that the investigation was nothing more than a political exercise to hurt the GOP.

Really? There was no point in arguing about this:

Many Democrats no longer wish to work with or hear from Republicans who helped spread Mr. Trump’s lie of a stolen election, especially those who led the effort and have sought to downplay the severity and significance of the assault that it inspired. Some said allowing two of the most prominent defenders to serve on a panel examining the attack was akin to allowing criminals to investigate their own crimes.

In a statement, Ms. Pelosi said she had rejected Mr. Banks and Mr. Jordan “with respect for the integrity of the investigation, with an insistence on the truth and with concern about statements made and actions taken by these members.”

They were going to scream and throw papers around, and then drop by Fox News each evening and scream some more. But this was to be a select committee to investigate what happened that one day in January. There’d be witnesses. They’re be subpoenas for those who didn’t want to be witnesses. Events would be laid out in sequence and cause-and-effect suggested. It was time to straighten things out. What happened when and in what order, and who said what and who did what, and how do they explain themselves? What the hell happened? Those two guys screaming might not answer that question.

And then, suddenly, things changed. Donald Trump was wrong. There had been a riot after all. But that was Nancy Pelosi’s fault:

A visibly agitated Mr. McCarthy hastily called a news conference to condemn Ms. Pelosi’s move and accuse her of excessive partisanship. He pledged to carry out a Republican-only investigation into the events of Jan. 6, focused on how Ms. Pelosi should have done more to protect the Capitol from a mob of Trump loyalists.

“Why was the Capitol so ill-prepared for that day, when they knew on Dec. 14 that they had a problem?” Mr. McCarthy said, referring to Democrats.

Okay. Trump was wrong. A mob of Trump loyalists really had trashed the place and tried to stop the government from seating Biden as president. They’d make Trump president again by force. But that was Nancy Pelosi’s fault. She should have stopped those awful people, who Trump had said were wonderful people, so they had said wee wonderful people, until this point:

In a television studio on Capitol Hill, Mr. McCarthy, Mr. Banks and Mr. Jordan – appearing with the three other Republicans chosen to sit on the panel – sought to divert blame for the riot from Mr. Trump and their own political supporters who carried it out, instead faulting Democrats who they said had not adequately planned for the onslaught.

At this point, Donald Trump might have been confused, but now these three Republicans say they will open an investigation into Pelosi. Why didn’t she stop this murderous mob? She knew they were coming to destroy democracy. Someone will have to brief Trump on this change in concept.

But on the others side, it was time to get to work with what they had:

Democrats received high-profile backing from Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Mr. McCarthy’s former No. 3 whom Ms. Pelosi appointed to the committee after she was ousted from her leadership position in May for criticizing Mr. Trump.

“The rhetoric that we have heard from the minority leader is disingenuous,” Ms. Cheney told reporters on the steps of the Capitol. “At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation.”

She said Ms. Pelosi had been right to bar Mr. Jordan and Mr. Banks from the panel, saying that Mr. Jordan was a potential “material witness” and Mr. Banks had “disqualified himself” with recent comments disparaging the committee’s work.

She saw no need to deal with these two screamers, but that only made matters worse:

Ms. Pelosi had said she would accept Mr. McCarthy’s three other nominees to the panel – Representative Rodney Davis of Illinois, Representative Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota and Representative Troy Nehls of Texas – and said she encouraged Mr. McCarthy to offer two new picks to replace Mr. Jordan and Mr. Banks.

But following Mr. McCarthy’s lead, those three also said they would not participate.

Why would they? This is Nancy Pelosi’s fault, all of it, which leads E. J. Dionne to say this.

It’s past time to recognize the disqualifying extremism of the Trump-era Republican Party. Politics as usual just isn’t possible anymore. Pretending that today’s GOP is the same Grand Old Party of even a decade ago is dysfunctional and misleading.

That’s the message House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) sent on Wednesday when she rejected two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) five appointees to the select committee to investigate the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Pelosi freely admitted that her decision to turn back minority-party appointees to a committee – in this case, Reps. Jim Banks (R-Ind.) and Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) – is “unprecedented.” But she noted that the attacks on the Capitol were unprecedented, too.

So, really, don’t send in the clowns:

Banks and Jordan should be seen as having disqualified themselves. From the start, Banks rejected the idea that the Jan. 6 attack aimed at overturning the results of a free election was worth investigating as a discretely dangerous act.

He issued a whataboutism-on-steroids statement on Monday declaring that the committee should study not only “the January 6 riot” but also “the hundreds of violent political riots last summer when many more innocent Americans and law-enforcement officers were attacked.”

Banks’s goal was clearly to dilute and undercut the committee’s core purpose, and as for Jordan, he, like Banks, supported Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud. He is a famous political bomb-thrower and derided the committee to which he was appointed as “Impeachment Round 3,” an effort to “go after President Trump.”

But that’s nonsense:

You can’t say that Pelosi and the Democrats didn’t try to have a fair investigation. But their plan to create a bipartisan, independent commission was shot down by Republicans, many of whom are plainly uneasy with a balanced inquiry. God forbid that it delves into Trump’s role in the violent insurrection and possibly also into the behavior of Republican members of Congress themselves…

So they were left with this:

Will Republicans denounce any findings offered by a select committee with only Pelosi appointees – including, by the way, GOP Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming? Sure. But McCarthy and his allies would have done that anyway. At least a panel without disrupters can systematically pursue the truth and follow the evidence. Old-fashioned it may be, but let’s allow its conclusions to stand or fall on the basis of their accuracy and fidelity to the known facts.

That seems to be what she had in mind:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering unilaterally appointing a second anti-Trump Republican, Representative Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, according to two officials familiar with the ongoing discussions.

Mr. Kinzinger, who broke with his party to support investigating the Jan. 6 assault, has made clear for weeks that he would be willing to serve. But Democrats began more seriously weighing the possibility of naming him after the House Republican leader, Kevin McCarthy of California, said on Wednesday that Republicans would boycott the investigation because Ms. Pelosi rejected two of the five members he had recommended.

“We’ll see,” Ms. Pelosi said on Thursday, when asked about the possibility of going around Mr. McCarthy to directly appoint additional Republican members. “There are some members that would like to be on it.”

Separately, Ms. Pelosi was seriously considering naming Denver Riggleman, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, as a senior adviser to the committee, according to the officials, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the deliberations. Mr. Riggleman is a former a former Air Force intelligence officer, who emerged from a GOP primary loss last year determined to try to fight disinformation, like QAnon, from overtaking his party.

There are sensible Republicans out there, who could help on her select subcommittee, and of course by pointing that out, she allows the Republican Party to destroy itself. They fell for that trap:

Democrats have discussed the possibility of adding other Republicans whom they trust to take the committee’s work seriously. But several conceded that Mr. Kinzinger may be the only one other than Ms. Cheney willing to buck Mr. McCarthy, who suggested in recent weeks that any Republican member who accepted an appointment from Ms. Pelosi would lose their seats on other committees.

They seem determined to prove to the American people that they really are jerks, and Pelosi was rubbing that in:

On Thursday, Ms. Pelosi made clear she would not reverse course, citing statements by the two Republicans dismissing the investigation as “impeachment round three” and suggesting it was Democrats who ought to be scrutinized for not properly defending the Capitol.

“Nobody is saying it should all be on the same point of view going on the committee,” Ms. Pelosi said. “But when statements are ridiculous and fall into the realm of ‘You must be kidding,’ there is no way that they are going to be on the committee.”

Democrats also began locking in the committee’s professional staff on Thursday, turning to seasoned government investigators. They announced that David B. Buckley, a former inspector general for the CIA, would lead the staff. Kristin Amerling, a longtime congressional investigator who scrutinized the Iraq War and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, will be his deputy; Tim Mulvey, a former House and State Department aide, will be the committee’s chief spokesman.

It seems that competence, not party, is the staffing plan, and Jennifer Rubin adds this:

There’s no need to dive into political gamesmanship here. Were these tactics smart? Who won? The media should be as serious about our democracy as Pelosi is. The “story” is simple: Republicans continue to cover up and defend a violent insurrection instigated by their cult hero. They blocked a bipartisan commission and now won’t participate unless their disruptive members have a chance to throw the committee into chaos.

McCarthy’s decision to take his ball and march off in a huff might have bad consequences for the GOP. First, the select committee may now be the rare congressional investigation that is serious, professional and focused. Without the provocateurs and Jan. 6 apologists, its members can proceed unimpeded through their witness list, subpoena documents and produce a comprehensive account of the day’s events, the forces behind it and the recommended steps to prevent this from reoccurring.

That is the point, and Greg Sargent and Paul Waldman add this:

We should be thankful that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) just pulled Republicans out of any involvement in the select committee to examine the Jan. 6 insurrection. In so doing, he ensured that the committee’s investigation will both have more integrity and be more likely to undertake a valuable accounting.

Yes, no clowns now:

McCarthy mustered great outrage about this, railing that it was an “abuse of power” that had cost the committee “all legitimacy and credibility.”

In fact, precisely the opposite is true: By pulling out, McCarthy has boosted the committee’s legitimacy and credibility immeasurably. The less involved McCarthy is with this committee, the more likely it will be to undertake a genuine and comprehensive accounting.

McCarthy’s picks were expressly designed to prevent that accounting…

There’s another hidden dynamic here, too: McCarthy and Jordan are very likely to be witnesses themselves. McCarthy made a frantic appeal to Trump to call off the rioters; he likely has firsthand experience of Trump’s truly sociopathic and insurrectionist intentions that day.

And Jordan was present in a Dec. 21 White House meeting with Trump and others, at which they discussed how to overturn Biden’s electors on the day of what would become the insurrection. What was said at that meeting will be of great interest to the committee.

Anyone who is a material witness to the key events leading up to that mess in January doesn’t really belong on the committee in investigating the whole thing, so Pelosi made the right call:

By nixing Banks and Jordan, Pelosi actually protected the integrity of the committee’s investigation, from their openly advertised intention to misdirect, disrupt and sabotage it. By appointing publicly committed saboteurs, McCarthy openly advertised the same intention.

But it’s not bipartisan! But who cares? That may be a trap. Nicole Hemmer is an associate research scholar at Columbia University with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics – and her podcast This Day in Esoteric Political History is a hoot – but she thinks bipartisanship is vastly overrated:

Pelosi was right to reject Jordan and Banks, who, as blood was still drying on the floor of the Capitol, voted to give the insurrectionists what so many of them wanted. At a deeper level, Pelosi’s actions here also constitute a crucial development: the rejection of bipartisanship as a positive force in US politics. The select committee will still be bipartisan – GOP Rep. Liz Cheney, who voted to impeach Trump for fomenting the insurrection, will still serve on it – but the notion that Democratic leaders must work with Republican leaders in order to have political legitimacy is well and truly dead.

As it should be. The fetish for bipartisanship has dominated Washington for at least 80 years. In that time, bipartisanship acquired a rosy glow: to label a policy bipartisan was to deem it both representative and virtuous, the byproduct of opposing sides compromising their way to the best possible solution. But on its own, bipartisanship has never been a virtue. It has been, at best, virtue-signaling – a legislative both-sidesism that has infected US politics for far too long.

That’s because it’s kind of useless:

For much of our history, bipartisanship was not lionized. It was only in the mid-20th century that bipartisan compromise began to confer a golden sheen on legislation. That’s in part because it was more attainable, and because at times, the results were profoundly beneficial. The two major parties had become a mishmash of ideologies: there were liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats, and on the major issues of the day, bipartisanship made life-changing legislation possible. The Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid – all bipartisan.

In the 1940s and 1950s, with the threat of totalitarianism looming large in the American imagination, there was something particularly beneficial to politicians about championing bipartisanship. It showed voters (along with foreign leaders and allies abroad) that American lawmakers followed a standard higher than simple party interests. Compromise elevated them to the ranks of technocratic statesmen (they were nearly all men) who were unencumbered by devotion to party, who were instead dedicated to higher ideals and first principles.

That turned out to be an attractive talking point for politicians well into the 21st century. But it papered over all the things bipartisanship had sanctified. Bipartisanship had accompanied US entry into WWII, but also Vietnam, Iraq (twice), and Afghanistan. It had ratified civil rights but also rampant discrimination. “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was bipartisan, as was the Defense of Marriage Act.

In theory, bipartisanship can help ensure that crucial landmark legislation has a future, even if and when the opposing party takes Congress or the White House. But on its own, bipartisanship was not good or bad; it had no moral valence at all.

And then things got worse:

By the time President Barack Obama entered office, bipartisanship had become both a prize and a weapon: the Obama administration dragged its feet on landmark legislation, waiting – fruitlessly – for a handful of Republican votes so they could claim the legitimacy of bipartisanship. Republicans, well aware how much Obama wanted that, made it their mission to deny it. As Congressman Tom Cole, a member of Republican House leadership, put it, “We wanted the talking point: ‘The only thing bipartisan was the opposition.’“

If Republicans had discovered the power of withholding bipartisanship during the Obama era, Democrats slowly began to understand the limits of working with Republicans in the Trump era, a time when both the President and the party’s leadership in Congress proved unreliable dealmakers and craven partisans. But it was the insurrection that made it most clear: even though a handful of Republicans did cross the aisle to ratify the election, denounce the insurrection and impeach Trump a second time, the vast majority did not. How, then, could bipartisanship be a marker of good governance, if most of one party had just voted to overturn democracy?

It’s not a marker of that at all:

The continued efforts by the GOP to prevent investigations into the insurrection only confirm that bipartisanship is a useless metric. Senate Republicans blocked an independent commission, and McCarthy has now made clear that the price of Republicans playing ball on the select committee was accepting some of the insurrectionists’ biggest supporters as members. Pelosi, who has understood the new rules of politics far better than most Democrats, did the right thing by saying no.

The point here is not that politics has changed so dramatically that bipartisanship no longer matters. It’s that bipartisanship was never a metric for good politics, and by rejecting the Republican leaders’ conditions, Pelosi has acknowledged that, and opened the door for a franker assessment of political goods and political harms…

Yes, it’s time to get serious. Competence, not party. Try that. It’s time.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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