Trusting House Democrats To Get It Right

[ Posted Monday, December 10th, 2018 – 18:13 UTC ]

I can't decide whether this is just more run-of-the-mill Trumpian-era irony or whether it actually rises to the level of Karl Marx's prediction that "history repeats itself as farce." You be the judge.

House Minority Leader-Elect Kevin McCarthy is helpfully trying to give incoming Democrats some friendly advice. He is warning them that they shouldn't bother to spend too much time investigating Donald Trump and Russia's influence over him, after Democrats take power in January. Just to recap that: a guy with the last name of McCarthy is counselling congressional leaders not to investigate American governmental ties to Russia. "Tail-Gunner Joe" must be having a conniption fit down in Hell, one assumes.

Snarkiness aside, though, even coming from a Republican with a different last name, this would still be pretty farcical. It's impossible to even remember how many investigations the Republican House launched, without any shreds of evidence (other than partisan conspiracy theories), over the past eight years that they've been in control of the House of Representatives. I can't even accurately remember the number of House investigations launched into one single event (Benghazi), to say nothing of all the other political hit-jobs they attempted while in power. And now they're telling Democrats to cool their jets when they take over? That's downright laughable on the face of it, even without the McCarthy name attached to it.

McCarthy made these risible comments (naturally) in an interview with Fox News:

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Monday that Democrats shouldn't focus on investigating President Trump when they retake the House majority in January because there are bigger issues facing the country.

. . .

"Well, it's a challenge," McCarthy told Fox News Channel's Bill Hemmer when asked about Democrats' return to the majority in January. "It looks like what they're going to focus on is just more investigations. I think America's too great of a nation to have such a small agenda."

He added that there are "other problems out there that we really should be focused upon" and that "both sides have come up with nothing" in investigating Trump.

Of course, all those "other problems that we really should be focused upon" couldn't have been all that important to McCarthy or the GOP, since they've just had eight years to address them, and have obviously not bothered to do so.

Beyond that admission of Republican failure, McCarthy's statement is nothing short of the sheerest hypocrisy, when you consider the source. After all, McCarthy is no stranger to partisan investigations:

Critics were quick to point out that in 2014, McCarthy and other House Republican leaders set up a special committee dedicated to investigating the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed. The following year, in an interview with Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity, McCarthy credited the panel with having put a dent in Hillary Clinton's poll numbers.

"Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy said at the time. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she's untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened had we not fought."

America was probably "too great a nation" for "such a small agenda" back then, but McCarthy and crew certainly didn't let that stop them at the time. Now that they're about to enter the political wilderness of the powerless minority, though, and now that there is a Republican in the White House, McCarthy is convinced that "there's nothing to see here, folks, move along." Sergeant Schultz would be so proud!

But again, let's get beyond the obvious snark because Democrats aren't just getting bad political advice from Republicans these days. One interesting thing that has mostly gotten lost since the advent of Trump, is that the so-called "liberal media" does not refrain from attacking Democrats when they are in power. There's a reason the "mainstream media" was just as hated a phrase on the left, roughly a decade or so ago. It took Sarah Palin to focus the right on the label, but denunciations of the "MSM" were rife on liberal websites long before Barack Obama took office. No matter what conservatives think, the media is not "in the tank" for Democrats, they just love a good political brawl and they don't particularly care who is involved in the fray (or who gets hurt by it, for that matter). They have their own agenda, and part of it is to sell as many newspapers as possible (although that concept itself is pretty dated, since who buys actual newspapers anymore?).

So while Republicans are making a laughable attempt at constraining the Democratic urge to investigate Trump to see where the evidence goes, the mainstream media is pressuring Democrats to jump to the last chapter in the novel and just go ahead and impeach Trump. The interviewers on this past Sunday's news shows (from Chuck Todd of Meet The Press in particular) all really wanted to drill into a question they've been obsessing over for roughly the past year: When will the impeachment proceedings begin?

Their game is evidenced by the headlines this morning. They ask question after question about impeachment, and if they successfully get a Democrat to use the word (in any possible context), then they win and run with the "Democrat Smith talks impeachment" headline. Even if Smith said something like: "It is not time to think about impeachment yet, we've got a long way to go before we get there." Compare today's headlines to the actual quotes if you don't believe me.

Personally, I trust both Nancy Pelosi and the incoming committee chairmen in the House. I think they know full well what they've got to do, and it would really surprise me if they put the cart before the horse when it comes to investigating Trump and all his henchmen. They're definitely not going to take McCarthy's "nothing to see here" advice, but then again neither are they going to start drawing up articles of impeachment on Day One. They're smarter than that. Which is why Democrats didn't talk about impeachment on the campaign trail, and they don't talk about it with journalists unless absolutely badgered into some sort of reply by the current journalistic obsession with the subject.

Knowing when it is time to impeach is like Potter Stewart's definition of obscenity: we'll all know it when we see it. We're not there yet. But we may get there at any moment, and we certainly may arrive at that point when Bob Mueller wraps up his investigation. Again, the media have been obsessed with predicting that Mueller "is almost done" or "is preparing his final report" for roughly a year now, but the actual truth is that nobody knows how long he will take. He may still be investigating at this time next year.

Democrats still remember the impeachment of Bill Clinton. They watched as Republicans did not have the votes in the Senate to remove Clinton from office, but went ahead with impeachment anyway. Democrats are simply not going to make that same mistake again. Impeachment proceedings will begin when -- and only when -- Senate Republicans turn on the president. If something so heinous and so undeniable on the face of it emerges from any of the investigations into Trump and Russia and obstruction of justice and all the rest of it that Republicans see turning on Trump as in their own best political interests, then Democrats will move to impeach him. Doing so before that point is reached would mean Trump would not be removed from office and the whole thing might very well backfire on the Democrats in 2020.

But, once again, I am confident that they are smart enough to know all this and are smart enough to avoid making such a political mistake. This will be disappointing to the media's talking heads, but it will be the right way to handle things.

Trump is right about one thing, even if he can't spell it. So far, there is no obvious, easy-to-understand smoking gun (or "smocking gun," if you prefer). There has to be a straight-line connection between some very obvious dots that clearly show strong evidence of high crimes and misdemeanors. This evidence has to be so overwhelming (and so overwhelmingly bad for Trump) that the general public agrees that it is time for Trump to go. Fear of their own voters is the only thing that is going to convince Senate Republicans (of whom at least 20 will be needed to remove Trump from office, in the final vote) that the Trump ship is truly sinking.

For now, perhaps the best metaphor to use is Goldilocks. Kevin McCarthy is desperately trying to get incoming House Democrats to go way too soft on Trump. The MSM is egging Democrats on to go way too hard, way too soon. But in the foreseeable future, my guess is that Nancy Pelosi and her committee chairmen are going to settle in to a pace that is just right. Not too soft, not too hard; not too slow, not too fast. Nobody's going to be banging the gong for impeachment until -- at the very least -- Mueller's report comes out. Which is really as it should be. So everyone needs to take a deep breath and prepare themselves for a lengthy investigative period, because that is the most likely next thing that's going to happen. And if it should become time to begin impeachment proceedings, we're all going to know it, because it's going to be painfully obvious.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


15 Comments on “Trusting House Democrats To Get It Right”

  1. [1] 
    TheStig wrote:

    I see McCarthy's remarks differently. They are aimed at Republicans, not Democrats. Mostly at old school Republicans (used to be called Country Club Republicans) not Trump Contemptibles (used to be called Birchers). McCarthy is telling his troops to play nice...dangle compromise, delay and hope for the best. Notice that I phrase it "play nice" not "be nice." It is a stall tactic intended to buy quiet time while adults in the Republican Party figure out how to build a Trojan Horse that can plausibly fool the Trojans - I mean Democrats and/or Independents - again.

    I don't think McCarthy is promoting a very promising strategy. There may be no smoking gun yet, but there is an awful lot of smoke pouring out of the gun room or possiblly the powder magazines. Still, you work with the tools you have and are familiar with.

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    TheStig -

    I found it amusing (I can look up the link if you want) to read that the GOP House committee in charge of such things is holding their first hearing in 8 yrs on raising the minimum wage. Of course, from the witnesses they've indicated, all they're doing is getting on the record all the conservative arguments AGAINST raising the minimum wage, but you're right, they're going through a whole lot of last-ditch efforts aimed at assuaging the GOP voter base right about now...


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    neilm [4] -

    My favorite theory is we've slipped into some bizzaro world alternate reality and we haven't quite figured out how to get back again.

    Or a sci-fi writer conceived of the idea, and it popped into existence because of that (see: Robert A.
    Heinlein's "Number Of The Beast"...).


    nypoet22 [5] -

    OK, yeah, or it could be that. Good points, all.

    C. R. Stucki [7] -

    Well, there's many words, but "proud" sure ain't one of them!!

    [9] -

    Yes. Yes, he is. See his understanding of trade imbalances, where if we run a trade deficit, according to The Orange One, we're "getting ripped off" somehow.

    Sigh. He really is that dumb, sad to say.

    neilm [10] -

    AHA! I was just going to look that info up, for tomorrow's column. I remember that contest (and getting it massively wrong), and now that the time is upon us, I thought it was time to go back and see who got closest! So thank you for providing both the data and the link!

    And, of course, you are right. Even "August" is the closest guess, this far out. I will publicly award kudos tomorrow, promise! Unless Trump stirs up some sort of shitstorm that pre-empts it, of course (always a possibility, these days).

    I have to compliment you on your accuracy, though -- Kelly lasted a whale of a lot longer than I ever expected!


    [11] -

    Damn, that is impressive! Pretty close to exactly what is happening now!

    TheStig [12] -

    Hoo boy. That could be a LOT longer list! How about "the designated hitter rule" just for one?


    As for the Pinto, in a former life I did software quality assurance (finding all the bugs before it was released to the public). The Pinto was a cautionary tale we'd tell to all the other departments: "The Ford Pinto shipped six months early -- ahead of schedule. But does anyone remember that now, or do they remember the one fatal bug it had?"


    Mopshell [13] -

    The NYT/AP calls it a flip. They put it in the "likely Dem" column, but they do credit it as a flipped seat. Dunno what list you're looking at, here's mine:

    nypoet22 [15] -

    Hey, I was close... well, OK, a whole year off, but when you look at the MONTHS, I was close!



    James T Canuck [16] -

    Have to compliment you on "mayhemic standards." Nice turn of phrase!

    And as for donations, I promise never to stand outside a liquor store ringing a bell. That should deserve some consideration, right?


    OK, I haven't updated the thermometer in a few days, I promise I'll get on that soon...

    PLEASE consider a donation, everyone, as we really need to pay the bills and keep the lights on, and we only beg once a year!

    Don Harris [17] -

    Around here, I usually go with "date closest, whether early or late" to avoid the Price Is Right tactic of trying to be either first place or last place in line. So neilm is still closest, by our rules...

    neilm [18] -

    OK, now THAT was funny!

    TheStig [21] -

    Nick Ayers! Hoo boy...

    Now THAT was really, really funny! Well done, sirrah!


    OK, that seems like a good time to wrap this up...


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Oh, damn. Meant that for last Friday's column. Lemme cut and paste a bit... sorry 'bout that...


  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, now it's posted in both places...

    Mea culpa...


  6. [6] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Are smocking guns for sale at Hobby Lobby? Or maybe Amazon?I can see the Amazon reviews now.

  7. [7] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    @CW- did you read about russian spy maria butina who got caught trying to infiltrate the nra?

    cue joke about the right to arm bears.


  8. [8] 
    TheStig wrote:

    I think this was the week in which narcissist Trump encountered Trin Tragula's Total Perspective Vortex. Trump is now aware that he is an elderly, fat, balding, semi-literate man, with a family of vipers and facing the very real prospects of impeachment, incarceration and economic ruin. Another piece of Fairy Cake Mr. President?

  9. [9] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    The smocking gun is not an item in itself, it is another setting on the Point-of-View gun that makes people mock themselves and is only available on Magrathea.

    Even though it seems someone has used one on Trump, it wouldn't work on Trump for the same reason the point of view setting didn't work on Trillian. .

  10. [10] 
    Don Harris wrote:

    Knowing when to to trust Nancy Pelosi and the incoming committee chairmen is like the definition of obscenity- we'll know it when we see it.

    Not only are we not there yet- we're not even in the ballpark.

    In fact, trusting Pelosi and the incoming committee chairmen now is more like the definition of insanity- doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

  11. [11] 
    TheStig wrote:


    Cue "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Butina."

    She's what is known in spy trade craft as a "Honey Trapp."

    Sorry - I've been channeling Mr. Peabody all week. Mr. P. is a legend in the intelligence community.

  12. [12] 
    James T Canuck wrote:

    [3] C.W...It's refreshing to see that even he that wields ultimate power in this place, is equally helpless when confronted with a misplaced cut and paste. It restores my faith in the fallibility of all things.

    Back to my daily " I told you so"... I sprinkle them around like fairy dust, it's a service I offer for free. I figure if the great unwashed had any spare cabbage, they'd spend it on soap, not inflicted smuggery.

    I seem to remember harping on this very notion, in the 'before time', and being politely told where to go and how to get there. Granted, it was Michale doing the telling, and therefore assigned to my 'helpful suggestions from complete dullards folder'.

    I cast what remains of my mind back, I recall suggesting that Trump would weigh his odds of re-election against the universal loathing of him and his presidency prior to 2020, and resign. Also, there was something about him petulantly accusing America of not being worthy of his leadership, blaming everyone but himself for his idiocy and disappearing back up his tower, secure in his own mind that once again the universe had not seen things his way.

    Trump is deteriorating before our eyes in real time, which is no revelation in and of itself, it's just happening a few months earlier than most of us predicted.

    "smocking"... not once, but twice, I mean, Jesus Effing Christ.


  13. [13] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    Don [9]: Aw, gee. And here I was thinking of a Martha Stewart effort. You know, smocking your hand-woven curtains, or possibly the Christmas turkey, to one-up an annoying family. Or possibly, to be the annoying one.

  14. [14] 
    Kick wrote:

    CW: PLEASE consider a donation, everyone, as we really need to pay the bills and keep the lights on, and we only beg once a year!

    Beg more. ;)

  15. [15] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, everyone, a few things:

    First, the thermometer has now been updated (twice!) because of an influx of donations. Woo hoo! We may hit our goal earlier than we ever have, if this keeps up!


    Second, best comment I've heard yet on the smocking gun: "This confirms it. Our president is a focking idiot."


    Third, I'm putting together an odds-and-ends column today, so don't expect too much, but it'll have plenty of opportunity for audience participation, so there is that...

    More later...


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