Bill Barr, after being threatened with a subpoena by Jerry Nadler’s Judiciary Committee, appeared before the House on July 28, 2020. There was no reason for anybody who has watched Barr with increasing outrage and fury, as he has politicized the administration of justice in this country, to hold out much hope that these hearings would reveal much.
Democrats are hopeless at taking on people with even moderate intelligence in a hearing setting. They refuse to adopt an aggressive approach to Republican authoritarians. They are so concerned with being “nice” or “polite” or “well mannered,” they never anticipate the depths of obfuscation and bad behavior to which the Republicans are willing to sink.
When I switched channels over to MSNBC from TCM where I had been contemplating hiding in escapism for the duration, there was nothing but noise, loud, irritating, obnoxious noise. Then, the camera switched to a screen inside the committee hearing. On this screen was a video, displaying images of protesters, tear gas, confrontation, people pounding at fences. What? Isn’t this the Barr hearing?
It was the Barr hearing. What was going on was that bad-boy Jim Jordan, the crazed ex-wrestler who refused to report his colleague for sexual abuse, had introduced as an “opening statement” a long, selectively edited campaign video purporting to give an accurate representation of the protests occurring in various cities in the United States. The video employed one of the right’s main strategies, fear, creating fear and therefore anger in their base. That’s what Fox News does 24/7.
If you watched the video divorced from any other news, you would think the country was descending into total chaos and violent anarchy. That is exactly what the Republicans wanted to portray. They spent the rest of the hearing, pounding home the point and punching the key words over and over – protest, chaos, anarchists, violence, crime, hate…”my constituents are afraid.” As usual, the Republicans had all been briefed on the key words to use during the hearing to drive home the point. Like faithful soldiers, they complied.
This is a strategy they have used for decades. Even years ago, ten or fifteen Republicans would be interviewed independently on television. All of them would use the same words and phrases to describe a situation, to get their point across, to insert their frame on the news. They are good little soldiers, obedient and loyal and willing to do and say anything. That’s one of the many reasons we need to fear them and fight them.
But, even though, Jerry Nadler scolded Jordan for violating Committee rules by not notifying committee of the intent to show the video, the damage was done.
Why are Democrats always like Charlie Brown with the football? Every time, they stand around and watch Lucy put the ball on the ground, suspecting nothing. Then, they watch Lucy yank the ball out from under them. Then, they issue a scolding after the fact, or ignore the behavior with dignified silence.
Why didn’t Jerry Nadler know the Republicans were going to play this video? Why didn’t he review it? There had to be people in the hearing room, setting this up. If I had been burned as many times as the Democrats in hearings, I would have informants everywhere and somebody watching that room from the minute the doors were unlocked.
And, if you want to argue that Nadler couldn’t have known about the video, why didn’t he stop it? If showing the video violated the rules, why didn’t Nadler stop the video? Why didn’t he demand it be stopped when he saw that it was – a propaganda campaign ad that grossly misrepresented the situation? Nadler can’t walk but somebody could have been told to go and stop that video if it violated Committee rules. But, Jerry Nadler (and other corporate Democrats) refuse to enforce the rules?
I watch a lot of politics. I have spent most of my adult life reading about, watching, writing about, studying politics, specifically politics and crime. But, now, when one of these big hearings is scheduled, I start feeling queasy in the morning. I feel obligated to watch, to witness this descent into authoritarianism. But I don’t want to watch. As someone said yesterday on Twitter, how can these hearings always end up being a loss for both sides?
I know corporate Democrats are largely cowards, feckless cowards who will not fight, or enforce the rules even when enforcing the rules would be to their advantage. But, how did we end up with such a sorry lot? And, what are they afraid of?
I think part of the answer lies in the fact that Democrats are living in a culture in Washington that no longer exists. They can’t seem to accept, acknowledge, understand, that they are facing ruthless authoritarians who will resort to anything, anything to win. They act like if they just stand erect, stare directly ahead of them and behave in a dignified manner (watch Adam Schiff), this ruthless, gutter fight for power on the part of the Republicans will disappear.
In fact, Joe Biden has said just that. He has stated that when we get rid of Trump, all his Republican friends are just going to go back to “normal” and we can return to a bipartisan Kumbaya that hasn’t existed for decades. Republicans haven’t been “normal,” haven’t participated in this gentleman’s club of bipartisanship for decades. And, they aren’t going to do so now. People keep saying we need somebody who can “unite us.” No, that’s not what we need. We need somebody who can marginalize and neuter these rabid authoritarians, see them for what they are, and push them as far away from power as we can get them.
An interesting “tell” here is the ability of the “squad” and some of the other recently elected Democrats to run circles around these career corporate Democrats in hearings. They are not still living in a culture that doesn’t exist.
First, they aren’t afraid. They aren’t afraid to use their common sense and ask questions that make Republicans squirm. They ask the sort of questions that these career corporate Democrats would rather die than ask. Secondly, these women come prepared. They generally don’t just read a prepared statement like they’ve never seen it before, stumbling over what are supposed to be their own words. Third, they usually actually show up and listen to the hearings. They don’t just appear and read a series of questions like bad third-grade actors. They know what has gone on in the hearing and are capable of adapting to the situation. Fourth, these women were by-and-large elected in an upset. They have not been groomed by the DNC. They were elected with a skill set that was larger than just being able to raise money and kiss butt. When I watch people who have been on capitol hill for decades perform at a committee hearing, stumbling through the text of canned questions written by their staff, I always think: They are there because they can raise money, lots of money. That’s the only reason they are there. The DNC supports these types of candidates over other candidates that are more qualified because they can raise money and will behave.
The DNC has worked tirelessly to keep new candidates from emerging in the Democratic party and has created a blacklist for consulting businesses who work for candidates challenging incumbents. The Congressional Black Caucus actually supported an incumbent, Elliott Engels, over a progressive black challenger. This tells you how institutionalized these Democrats have become. The DNC is actively working to keep people in Congress who will play ball, who will not enforce the rules, who will not fight, and who will not ask the tough questions.
Recently, I read an interview of somebody in the music industry. She said: “Oh, they don’t look for talent anymore. They look for somebody with the right look and a compliant personality.” That’s what the DNC looks for and they are selling us down the drain by doing so. That’s why an important hearing makes my stomach hurt.