One of the most interesting aspects of America’s current political environment has been the defection from the GOP of formerly high-ranking Republicans. These strategists and elected officials have recognized that today’s GOP is a very different animal than the party that once existed, and have been intellectually honest enough to say so.
One of those “refugees” from MAGA land is David Frum, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush. Frum is currently a senior editor at The Atlantic and an MSNBC contributor. (He was also the author of Bush’s “axis of evil” description–a framing I personnally found unfortunate, but hey…)
Frum has an article in the most recent Atlantic in which he predicts the behavior of the slim GOP House majority over the next two years. He began by comparing the actions of Democrats under Nancy Pelosi with the behavior of the chamber under Newt Gingrich and Tom Delay. Pelosi focused the Democrats on legislation–notably, the Affordable Care Act.
By contrast, the Republican majority elected in 1994 and 2010 lunged immediately into total war. In 1994, the leaders, Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay, wanted and led the total war. In 2010, Speaker John Boehner opposed the lunge and tried, largely in vain, to control it. In both cases, the result was the same: a government shutdown in 1995, a near default on U.S. debt obligations in 2011, and a conspiratorial extremism that frightened mainstream voters back to the party of the president.
Frum says the signs all point to the likelihood that the just-elected Republican House majority “will follow the pattern of its predecessors.” It isn’t difficult to pinpoint one of those “signs”–intemperate MAGA warrior Jim Jordan will evidently head up the Judiciary Committee. Jordan has all but licked his chops when announcing the GOP’s highest priority: investigating Hunter Biden’s laptop and tying whatever is found to Joe Biden.
As he says,
Why Republicans would want to believe this holds little mystery. From 2017 to 2021, Republicans supported and defended a strikingly corrupt president whose children disregarded nepotism rules to enrich themselves and their businesses. The administration opened with a special favor from the government of Japan to Donald Trump’s daughter and closed with a $2 billion investment by the government of Saudi Arabia for the president’s son-in-law—despite written warnings from the Saudi government’s outside advisers about excessive fees, inexperienced management, and operations that were “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”
How do partisans try to neutralize four years of nonstop genuine scandals? By ginning up an equal and opposite scandal against the other team. The Trump family may have been the most crooked ever to occupy the White House, and on a scale impossible to deny or ignore. During Trump’s administration, his hotel business exacted payments on Pennsylvania Avenue from corporations, individuals, and foreign governments as a condition of presidential favor and charged the Secret Service fees simply so that it could do its job of protecting the president. Trump himself elevated his son-in-law to de facto positions as a chief of staff and a national security adviser. Meanwhile, the president’s other children headed family businesses that profited from the presidency.
If that record cannot be denied, then maybe it can be diminished or rendered somehow acceptable by alleging that Trump’s successor is doing the same thing.
Frum proceeds to explain why the GOP’s “whataboutism” is unlikely to work, harking back to comparisons with Bill Clinton’s impeachment. But here’s the thing: if indeed Hunter Biden turns out to have been guilty of legal misconduct, most Democrats I know would agree that he should be appropriately sanctioned for that misconduct. No one’s above the law.
My own guess is that the worst thing an investigation will be able to pin on President Biden is that he has been a loving and forgiving father to a disturbed son. As Frum writes the upcoming script:
Republicans: Do you know that Hunter Biden is a financial and emotional mess?
Voters: Now we do.
Republicans: Don’t you care?
Republicans: Do you know that Joe Biden wrote notes telling his son he loved him despite his troubles, and also let his son stay in his house when his son was down on his luck?
Voters: That sounds like a good thing.
Republicans: What if we told you that Joe and Hunter Biden ran a massive international-crime syndicate and that they are implicated in sex trafficking and cover-ups?
You can foresee where this dialogue is heading.
The GOP is gearing up for a re-run of “Pizzagate.” Deep in their conspiratorial bubbles, many of them actually believe the QAnon-inspired stories. As Frum writes, they are so deeply embedded in those fantasies, they forget that they were the ones who first concocted them.
And really– sex trafficking is so much more interesting than governing…