Abcarian: Republican era of 'angertainment' is coming soon
There is nothing showy or preposterous about the work of the House Jan. 6 committee.
Over the course of 10 sessions, a nominally bipartisan group of legislators and their indefatigable staff have presented a sober, methodical case that then-President Donald Trump and an expansive cabal of supporters incited a riot that cost lives and could have upended the results of a free and fair election.
Rational people agree. Anyone who does not is either stupid or lying. Fortunately, polls show that most Americans, regardless of political affiliation, understand that what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, was an attempted coup. Most believe that the attack was planned, not spontaneous, and that Trump bears responsibility.
The House committee has been effective in getting to the bottom of what really happened because it has not turned into the kind of partisan sideshow that MAGA Republicans, such as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wanted it to be. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refused to seat the pro-Trump lawmakers McCarthy had picked for the committee, including the clownishly partisan Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan.
In blocking McCarthy's picks and seating two apostate Republicans instead, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Liz Cheney of Wyoming, Pelosi refused to let the Republicans do to the Jan. 6 committee what they tried to do during the two Trump impeachment hearings, when Jordan, his pal Devin Nunes and their MAGA colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee attempted to turn the nation's business into a spectacle of angertainment.
MAGA Judiciary Committee members didn't care that Trump threatened to withhold military aid from Ukraine in exchange for dirt on his political rival, Joe Biden. They wanted to know who blew the whistle on Trump. How dare that person report the inappropriate call! Rep. Jordan was mad!
I don't know who coined the portmanteau, but what a perfect neologism for the antics of House MAGA Republicans.
You remember the spectacle of the 2015 Benghazi hearings? A perfect example of angertainment.
Hillary Clinton sat for 11 excruciating hours while Republicans battered her with false accusations that when she was secretary of state, she had ignored Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens' requests for increased security before he and three other Americans were killed on Sept. 11, 2012.
McCarthy even admitted on national television that the Benghazi hearings were meant to dirty up Clinton as she prepared her 2016 presidential bid. "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" McCarthy bragged to Sean Hannity. "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping."
With no platform, and no apparent legislative agenda, the MAGA Republicans who make up the next House majority have set for themselves one task: weaken Democrats' chances for the 2024 election by pecking the Biden administration to death with investigations.
"For many, that was the point of the election," wrote Carl Hulse in The New York Times. "Their agenda is investigative, not legislative."
Without a doubt, some of the GOP's efforts will be legitimate inquiries. I'd like to know more about the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, and I think most of the American people would too. I have no problem with a hearing on what seems like a debacle.
If the recent past is prologue, however, most of what House Republicans have in store will be bad-faith efforts to score political points.
On Nov. 2, Jordan, the presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland alerting him to several potential topics of interest. The tone was accusatory.
Jordan wrote that in his hands, Judiciary would be looking into the department's "targeting of journalists with Project Veritas," its "one-sided enforcement of the FACE Act" and the FBI's "unprecedented raid on President Trump's residence."
Project Veritas is a right-wing attack group that uses a variety of deceptions, including fake identities and secret recordings, to "investigate" alleged wrongdoing by Democrats and the usual list of Republican cultural targets: teachers, doctors who work with trans kids, etc.
Jordan is interested in what happened when Project Veritas became entangled in a federal investigation after purchasing first daughter Ashley Biden's stolen diary for $40,000. The ACLU, while deploring Project Veritas' "deceptions," said it was troubled by the way the feds carried out the investigation. That could be fair game for a hearing.
On the other hand, the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act, or the FACE Act, should be left alone. It was signed into law during the Clinton administration to protect those receiving reproductive health care at heavily picketed locations such as Planned Parenthood clinics. As a sop to religious conservatives, houses of worship were included in the list of facilities protected by the law. MAGA Republicans now allege the law is being used to harass anti-abortion demonstrators and is not enforced in cases of religious services being disrupted, though I could find no evidence of that.
Jordan et al. are also trying to make a political martyr of Mark Houck, an anti-abortion activist who was arrested by the FBI after shoving a 72-year-old clinic escort at a Philadelphia Planned Parenthood in October 2021. Houck has pleaded not guilty to two counts of violating the FACE Act.
As for the "unprecedented raid" at Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate, it was a legally executed search warrant based on credible information that the former president had illegally kept government documents when he left the White House.
I assume that MAGA Republicans are particularly licking their chops over potential investigations of Hunter Biden and whatever information is contained on the laptop he seems to have abandoned in a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019. The former president's henchmen are seeking — but unlikely to find — proof that Joe Biden was involved in son Hunter's shady business dealings.
After the New York Post published some of the laptop's emails, dozens of former national intelligence officials, many of whom worked in the Trump administration, raised questions about the data's authenticity and Twitter suspended the paper's account, citing hacking. The experts' suspicionsproved wrong and Twitter also backed down.
Will hearings that ransack computer data belonging to the president's son fix inflation, high gas prices and illegal immigration, the issues Republicans claimed to be laser-focused on during the midterm campaigns? Of course not.
But the spectacle will be a triumph of angertainment, of which all but the most MAGA-centric Americans have had their fill.
Robin Abcarian is a columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
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