Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Punching Themselves Just a Little Bit More

Update: Thanks again to Driftglass over at Crooks & Liars to include this article at Mike's Blog Round-Up. Please give a chance to read the blog and leave suggestions for good book titles for the non-fiction novel project I'm working to complete ASAFP, thank ye.

When the Republicans gained a (slim) majority in the House of Representatives this 2022, a good number of pundits and bloggers saw this coming. Here's me, seeing it coming

The Republicans ought to be rejoicing in that they control the House, which they can use to investigate Biden's administration family for scandals every day they meet on the Hill, and file every impeachment complaint until all they do is vote on embarrassing Biden and Harris for the 2024 campaign (lacking control of the Senate, no impeachment will go their way: For the Republicans it's all about making the Democrats look corrupt and weak to their own voting base). They are openly planning repeated hearings over Russia's planted evidence Hunter Biden's laptop, as it's the only thing they can do other than force federal shutdowns to break the entire government...

And after eight months or so of staging congressional investigations that went nowhere, the Far Right factions of the House have gotten their lapdog Speaker to roll over and beg for his career (via Mary Yang at the Guardian):

Kevin McCarthy, the speaker of the US House, announced on Tuesday he is launching a formal impeachment inquiry into president Joe Biden – despite resistance from Republicans in the House and Senate, where an impeachment vote would almost certainly fail.

The order comes as McCarthy faces mounting pressure from some far-right members of his chamber, who have threatened to tank his deal to avert a government shutdown by the end of the month if he does not meet their list of demands...

According to McCarthy, findings from Republican-led investigations over the summer recess revealed “a culture of corruption”, and that Biden lied about his lack of involvement and knowledge of his family’s overseas business dealings...

Here's the sticking point: The House Republicans could not find any credible witness or piece of evidence that tied Joe Biden to his son Hunter's questionable business activities.

Many of the allegations center on the president’s son, Hunter Biden, who sat on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, during his father’s term as vice-president. Republicans allege that Joe Biden improperly benefited from his son’s foreign connections but, after several months, have produced no evidence. Watchdog groups say Republicans do not actually have evidence to back up their claims.

One such watchdog group the Congressional Integrity Project issued a review of the Oversight Committee's - led by James Comer - failures to present witnesses or documentation that could have backed the House GOP claims. They provide examples such as their own witnesses from the IRS arguing that Biden never interfered in their investigations into Hunter Biden's taxes, and Comer claiming to have audiotape proof of Biden taking bribes before admitting he wasn't sure the tapes (and the source of those tapes) even existed. The nine regular followers of this blog might remember I wrote about some of this - especially Comer's screwups - a while back:

But if we're taking Comer's work seriously, then what Comer's admitting to is a terrible breach of investigatory procedures. One of the first things you gotta do when you're pulling witnesses together is that you gotta talk to them face-to-face as soon as possible, get their statements on record, verify the source(s), confirm they're in a position to know, etc. What Comer's admitting during that interview is that they didn't even have a handle on the informant to confirm the whistleblower was even real.

The House Republicans were charging ahead without having any evidence or witness to guide them. It's that whole "cart before the horse" and/or "get your damn ducks in a row" idiom (or metaphor, I'm not sure which) in real life.

As I concluded in the same article: At worst, the House Republicans honestly didn't care if they had a witness/whistleblower at all. All they really wanted was the illusion that they had dirt on Biden.

The House Republicans are screaming "Witch" in their witch hunt against President Joe, but that's not a real nose it's a false one. It doesn't matter to them. All they want is the appearance of Biden (and his administration) being corrupt so that they can bully and bluff the refs national media into perpetuating the Both Sides lazy narrative that would protect their banner carrier (trump) from the very real criminal indictments trump faces before the 2024 election. As Li Zhou notes over at Vox:

Republicans also hope to see their nominee, likely to be former President Donald Trump, retake the White House next year. But Trump is beset by many legal problems. The inquiry, and a possible impeachment, will allow the GOP to go on the offensive against Biden ahead of the presidential election in 2024 and defuse some of the attention on Trump’s legal baggage.

Zhou also notes how McCarthy's weakness has been exposed here: Pandering to an extremist Freedom Caucus that doesn't care how this impeachment will play in battleground districts against their narrow House majority:

As such, the inquiry appears driven more by the House GOP’s internal dynamics and political goals than the substance of the allegations. Earlier this year, McCarthy gave any member of his caucus the ability to call for a vote on his ouster in exchange for the speaker’s gavel. In recent weeks, some on his party’s right flank have threatened to oust him if he didn’t pursue an impeachment inquiry, putting pressure on him to take that step.

That’s not to say all Republicans are behind the move, a reflection of just how wide an ideological spectrum McCarthy needs to keep happy. Although more conservative Republicans like Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) have been urging an impeachment push for months, others including Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) have previously spoken out against it.

Even the way McCarthy decided to launch the inquiry — unilaterally instead of by a full vote, as he’d said ought to be the only way impeachment inquiries are authorized — is reflective of how big a tent the speaker needs to cater to. McCarthy’s majority depends on lawmakers who won in districts Biden carried; forcing them to vote yes on an inquiry would have been damaging to their reelection prospects next year, and could have put the GOP majority in jeopardy.

For all the damage Far Right Republicans hope to inflict on Biden here - both personally by attacking his family, and politically - they are not looking at the reality of how most voters won't be affected by the implications of impeachment.

Anyone who's been politically aware since the Clinton administration can tell you this. Back then, the Republicans who took Congress in 1994 promised the nation a thorough investigation into Bill Clinton's scandalous behavior involving Whitewater... and ended up impeaching him for lying under oath about an improper (but not criminal) affair with an intern. A sizable portion of the American population watched this political theater... and yawned a bit before going to the 1998 midterms and reduced Republican seats, a staggering loss that ended Newt Gingrich's Speakership and led to a nervous Republican Senate into refusing to reach even a simple majority vote to remove Clinton. It was as though most Americans knew the charges were a sham and punished the Republicans for wasting everyone's time.

It didn't affect American voters either when Republicans during Obama's presidency promised to impeach him for any number of alleged crimes (including his birth certificate) but noticeably never presented any factual evidence to justify those claims. As Jonathan Chait noted back in 2010 for the New Republic, it was all Scandal TBD (To Be Determined) and to hell with comity or bipartisanship, it was the GOP trying to drown Obama in mudslinging to discourage his supporters. Americans again yawned and voted Obama to a second term in 2012.

Impeach as a campaign weapon didn't even matter much when Democrats imposed it on donald trump and with actual evidence of misconduct in office to back it up. The impeachment over trump's extorting Ukraine into even faking a criminal investigation into Hunter Biden in 2019 may have had legitimate cause, but much like the Clinton impeachment years earlier it was going to end as a whimper in a Republican-controlled Senate that was never going to vote against their own criminal boss President. The second impeachment regarding trump's violent insurrection effort on January 6th to disrupt Congress's electoral certification was an attempt to have it on record of what trump did, but again a divided Senate did nothing to remove trump (even with good cause). And those impeachments did nothing to discourage 74 million Americans from voting for trump in 2020.

I've noticed this about impeachment before. It's a toothless mechanism in the Constitution designed before partisanship rewrote how our government works:

Looking back at the history of impeaching those who served as President, we can recognize the moments where the need for impeaching a corrupt President did not occur because that President's party also controlled enough of Congress to make the point moot. We can see the moments when impeachment was used as a partisan weapon instead of upholding the Constitution. We can remember how only once in our nation's history did impeachment seem likely - Nixon was facing that fate before he resigned - only because our political landscape was genuinely bipartisan enough to see the reality of how Nixon's acts threatened the public trust.

Impeachment is broken. Either it is too partisan a tool that threatens the independence of the Executive Branch, or the Legislative Branch is too partisan and corrupt to properly employ the impeachment process in any legal and just manner...

The Founding Fathers may have created the Impeachment process but did so in an era when partisanship had yet to form during our nation's infancy. They did it under assumptions that civic duty and personal honor would drive the individuals in Congress to value integrity over impulsive selfishness. They never considered the reality that Congresspersons - especially when one of their parties turned corrupt the way the modern Republicans have - would avoid their own accountability, that the entire elective process - bent and battered by decades of gerrymandering and false narratives - would fail to hold them accountable when they failed the people and themselves.

The kabuki dance we're about to see from the House Republicans isn't about accountability, as they themselves do not believe themselves accountable thanks to safe gerrymandered districts back home. This isn't about corruption because despite all their wailing and gnashing of teeth they haven't proven it. 

This is about embarrassing Biden and weakening him on the political stage in order to depress voter turnout in 2024. This is about making it easier to deflect or avoid the real corruption trump is confronting in multiple courtrooms over the next six months.

But it's not going to work. The Republicans keep tripping over themselves failing to find any "evidence" of Biden's alleged sins. Attempts to make Democratic or Center-Left voters worry about supporting an "impeached" President in Biden overlooks how the very partisanship that the Far Right uses to divide the nation will compel hardened liberal and progressive voters to support Biden even more. 

And it's not going to distract Americans from the reality that trump faces in each of the courtrooms where his criminal charges continue apace. Whether it's this November in Georgia or March 2024 in DC or Manhattan or May 2024 in South Florida, by the next Republican national convention we are dealing with the reality that trump is convicted on even one felony criminal charge. The courtrooms are not meant to be partisan, with cases determined by an American jury of our peers, and no amount of mudslinging thrown by Far Right Republicans will change those facts.

The Republicans are desperate. They can't run on issues, and yet they're driven to attack attack attack as the only way they can win elections.

Only now, the blows are hitting their own as they punch themselves in the collective face trying to defend the indefensible.

This would all be enjoyable to watch if it didn't threaten the fate of American democracy and upholding the rule of law.


dinthebeast said...

One: Kevin doesn't have the votes, or he would have done what he said was required to launch an inquiry and held one.
Two: As now constituted, there will never be 67 votes in the senate to remove a president. Ever.
Three: The courts are there to determine the truth about guilt or lack thereof. They are an imperfect tool for that job, but not entirely without merit.
Four: The information environment we live in right now renders much of #3 impotent in swaying votes among partisans.
Looks like we need to fight our asses off to win the next few elections. Yup, we already knew that.

-Doug in Sugar Pine

Paul W said...

It's not that the Republicans will have the votes in the Senate. It's that they want to hang that albatross of IMPEACHED around Biden's neck: So that the Beltway media is distracted by that and panic over Biden being 'unelectable' even though Biden supporters know damn well it will be a partisan nothingburger.
The Republicans will never take their allegations to an actual courtroom. They will happily impeach and continue to impeach where there are no consequences of their perjurous BS.

william said...

I have one question: Will they figure out a way to include in their in-depth, very serious "investigation," her emails, Benghazi, or the birth certificate?

Paul W said...

The House GOP will only reopen the emails and Benghazi if Biden switches his VP from Kamala to Hillary.