GOP lawmakers have treated the hearings like Fox New segments, delivering loud, rambling monologues in a deliberate attempt to wear down participants and viewers.
The articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump have been drafted and the process is now moving steadily towards a vote in the House. But GOP lawmakers, especially GOP men, aren't going down quietly. Perhaps Democratic Coalition’s Jon Cooper put it best when he tweeted Monday, “Why is Doug Collins always yelling?” CNBC’s Christina Wilkie pointed out a similar phenomenon, noting that Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz was "yelling about whether the rules of the hearing are, in fact, the rules of the hearing.”
Indeed, in observing my former House GOP comrades over the many days of contentious House hearings, I am reminded of a scene from the classic Will Ferrell comedy “Anchorman,” where the famed (and fictional) Channel 4 News team angrily confronts its news director over the hiring of a female reporter. In the scene, several of the male journalists take turns yelling their opposition to the addition. Steve Carell’s character, Brick Tamland, isn’t really smart enough to have a critique but wishing to be included, he screams, “I don’t know what we’re yelling about!”
That pretty much sums up Republicans' defense of their current leader. If they yell loud enough and long enough, what they say about the circumstances of this impeachment inquiry will become truth. Their calculation is that by yelling about anything and everything, the American people will either be convinced or at the very least so annoyed they’ll stop watching. To the GOP, yelling seems to be both a demonstration of strength and a deliberate effort to wear down Democrats and any other Americans who care enough to tune in.
Thus, the outrage that's been on display these past few weeks hasn't been spontaneous. This isn’t an indication of passion or righteous anger. It is the manifestation of a decadelong marketing strategy that has kept them in the driving seat of Congress for the better part of the Obama and the Trump administrations.
This isn’t an indication of passion or righteous anger. It is the manifestation of a decadelong marketing strategy that has kept them in the driving seat of Congress.
Ironically, this tactic of outrage was often utilized by Republicans to defend the widespread use of their congressional oversight authority. Just go back and watch the 2012 House Oversight Committee hearing where Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress. You’ll see Trump defenders like Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, yelling about the need to “get the facts.”
Revisit the 11-hour grilling that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was subjected to by Republicans during the Benghazi hearing and you’ll see the now familiar sight of Republicans yelling and badgering their witness. As Rep. Adam Smith, R-Wash., observed that day, the Republicans’ strategy was to try and “wear you down.”
Monday’s impeachment hearing conducted by the House Judiciary Committee continues this pattern.
It began with Republican members like Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., trying to disrupt the proceedings with out-of-order interjections. It continued with outbursts from Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., when the committee attempted to take a break. Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wisc., joined the chorus accusing the Democrats of “badgering the witness.”
Republicans engaged in a parade of outbursts, mostly refusing to engage with the substance of the evidence presented by the House Intelligence Committee previously, instead trying to discredit the process. Often, this meant members used their time to deliver loud, rambling monologues that contained few if any questions for the witnesses.
The conservative approach during these hearings has been to treat every member’s time like it is a segment on Fox News. The members are playing the part of Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. Their script is built on misdirection and moving the goal posts as their paltry strategy shifts to incorporate various conspiracy theories and outlandish claims. But ultimately, the overarching argument is that the entire process is circumspect. Republicans attack Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., they demand testimony from Hunter Biden, they attack and threaten whistleblowers and do everything possible to avoid asking questions of substance.
And as disingenuous as their tactics may be, they also could be working.
The members are playing the part of Sean Hannity or Laura Ingraham. Their script is built on misdirection and moving the goal posts.
Public opinion regarding impeachment has remained unchanged since the public hearings began prior to Thanksgiving. Democrats have unwittingly amplified Republicans’ misdirection campaign by initially scheduling a marathon of hearings featuring hours and hours of testimony in a condensed timeline, making it all but impossible for the American people to digest and distinguish the credible testimonies we heard from career diplomats with partisan grandstanding.
And as Republicans such as Doug Collins, R-Ga., and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, disparaged impeachment and their Democratic counterparts, Democrats let the GOP off the hook by refusing to address the rash of propaganda entering the public domain.
Republicans have observed that Democrats aren’t really willing to confront them directly, and the process of congressional hearings makes such confrontation difficult anyway. And so they will continue to yell. They will continue to scream. They will continue to lie. They will not stop. The only question is, what are Democrats prepared to do about it? Clearly, banging the gavel repeatedly isn’t enough.
- Kurt Bardella is an NBC News THINK contributor and served as the spokesperson and senior advisor for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2009-2013.
This piece was first published by NBC Think.
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