Republicans have a new strategy and it’s particularly shameless

‘What does Speaker Pelosi have to hide,’ Scalise asked. ‘Why is she trying to do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party?’

Eric Garcia
Washington, DC
Friday 23 July 2021 16:04
<p>House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (L) and Congressman Jim Jordan</p>

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (L) and Congressman Jim Jordan

After Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to add Congressmen Jim Jordan and Jim Banks to the select committee on the events of 6 January, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and a group of House Republicans told a news conference Wednesday that one of the fundamental questions about the insurrection was why there wasn’t a proper security presence at the Capitol that day.

“And only one person can answer that question,” Jordan said. “The speaker of the United States House of Representatives.” Jordan, whose ambition is often only as naked as his dress shirts given that he almost never wears a jacket, said his hunch is that it’s because Democrats enabled violence during Black Lives Matter protests.

Jordan told me and other reporters the same thing earlier this week, insisting that “Democrats created this environment sort of normalizing rioting, normalizing looting, normalizing anarchy in the summer of 2020.”

Never mind that former president Donald Trump, of whom Jordan is a vociferous defender, had spent months saying he had won the election in a landslide, or that Jordan himself had said there is “no way” Trump should concede in December and met with the White House later that month to discuss the possibility of using the election certification on January 6 to keep Trump in office, as The New York Times noted. Rather, Jordan wants to pin the riot on the lack of security, and that in turn on Pelosi, thereby absolving not just Trump but also himself.

There were indeed security failures, and the people who ignored them should be held responsible. But trying to frame Pelosi as the sole cause of the failures while not acknowledging his own role is the height of hypocrisy both for Jordan and the Republican caucus. It appears that the party that makes personal responsibility one of its calling cards is now becoming the party of “Blame Democrats First,” to borrow from Jeanne Kirkpatrick.

This pattern doesn’t just apply to the Capitol riot. Trump bungled the Covid-19 pandemic, frequently downplaying it when it began to take hold last year and refusing to wear a mask for months (only to contract Covid-19 himself). But on Thursday, instead of touting the vaccine – even as many Republican voters are not getting vaccinated – House minority whip Steve Scalise, Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik and members of the Republican Doctors’ Caucus mostly focused on blaming Pelosi for not wanting to look into the theory that Covid-19 originated in a lab in Wuhan.

“What does Speaker Pelosi have to hide,” Scalise asked. “Why is she trying to do the bidding of the Chinese Communist Party in covering it up?”

In the presser, Rep Ronny Jackson, who after being the White House physician won a House seat in Texas, responded to a question by reporters about encouraging vaccinations by asking why the press wasn’t asking Democrats if they had been vaccinated (as Dave Weigel from The Washington Post noted, CNN had reported that house Democrats had a 100 percent vaccination rate).

On the same front, Republicans are also blaming the White House for the vaccine hesitancy among their own voters. Earlier this week, Scalise revealed he had recently received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, which to his credit might reinforce people’s confidence in the shots, especially in his native Louisiana. But at the same time, he blamed widespread hesitancy on the Biden White House’s criticism of the Trump administration’s vaccine rollout and Sen Tommy Tuberville of Alabama said vaccine skeptics would not get vaccinated until “this administration acknowledges the efforts of the last one,” which smacks of the days when the GOP would hound Barack Obama for not uttering the words “radical Islamic terrorism.” It’s as if simple incantations and utterances will break a spell.

Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas joined the pile-on. “Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr Fauci opens his mouth,” Marshall told The New York Times, “10,000 more people say ‘I’m never going to take the vaccine.’” Never mind that Trump’s administration regularly trashed Fauci, which helped make him public enemy number one in the MAGA mind, turning Trump followers against anything the director of the the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says.

Politics is ultimately about winning and losing. It stands to reason, and it might even be welcome, that a party out of power should criticize a party in power for the latter’s actions. But what’s happening today is more of an effort to cover for Republicans’ culpability when they had power, an attempt to absolve them of guilt by placing the burden on Democrats. It’s unclear whether this rhetoric will work politically – but it won’t teach Republicans to learn from their mistakes.

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