Here are the 5 biggest right-wing outrages of the week: From Cohen to CPAC, Republicans can't turn off the crazy
This week gave the GOP no shortage of opportunities for controversy.
President Donald Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen testified before the House Oversight Committee. A new report showed Trump overruled his own officials to grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner a top secret security clearance, provoking outrage from intelligence experts. Some Republican senators warned the president his border emergency declaration may fracture the caucus. And throughout all this, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) took place, giving the far right a bizarre echo chamber in which to cheer each other's nonsense.
Here are five of the craziest right-wing moments this week:
- Matt Gaetz tries to tamper with Cohen's testimony — and lands in hot water.
Trump's Republican allies had a singular strategy to try to discredit Cohen: destroy him personally, and paint him as a disreputable sleazebag who cannot be trusted on anything (while ignoring the rather obvious question of what that says about Trump's judgment for retaining him for years.)
But one congressman, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) took things way too far in a tweet directed at Cohen on Tuesday night:
Matt Gaetz’s tweet likely violates 18 USC § 1512(b): Whoever knowingly uses intimidation or threatens with the int… https://t.co/bK2dwgM1Mw— Spin Doctor (@Spin Doctor)1551220068.0
Gaetz initially brushed off the controversy, saying he hadn't engaged in witness tampering, only "witness testing." But faced with furious criticism and a stern rebuke from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Gaetz eventually deleted the tweet and apologized to Cohen. Even after that, however, he was allegedly overheard telling Trump he was "happy to do it for you" in a phone call — although he denies this happened.
Regardless, Gaetz's damage control may not be enough to avoid consequences. It is unlikely he will be criminally prosecuted, but the Florida State Bar, where he is licensed as an attorney, is now investigating him.
- Mark Meadows invites a black Trump appointee to the Cohen hearing to prove Trump isn't a racist.
Another Republican who humiliated himself trying to take down Cohen was Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus and ranking member of the House Oversight Committee. Ahead of rumors that Cohen would offer examples of Trump's racist behavior behind closed doors, Meadows thought he had the perfect plan to discredit him: invite Lynne Patton, a black woman and former party planner who serves in Trump's Department of Housing and Urban Development, and point to her to prove Trump is not racist.
This stunt enraged freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), another woman of color, who proceeded to shame Meadows for the "prop" of dragging out a black woman as a "racist act" itself. Meadows, visibly stung to the point of tears, demanded Tlaib's words be stricken from the record.
"I think if we want to talk about race in this country, that's not the way to do it," says Democratic Rep. Rashida… https://t.co/vdE50I8SNc— CNN Politics (@CNN Politics)1551358935.0
It should go without saying: having black friends, relatives, or employees does not mean someone is not racist. Indeed, Trump's whole motive for putting random black people with no relevant experience in charge of Housing and Urban Development appears to be rooted in his deep-seated prejudiced assumptions about who lives in inner cities. But it is safe to say that Meadows, who once proclaimed he was going to send President Barack Obama "home to Kenya," does not understand any of this.
- Paul LePage says whites will become "forgotten people" if the Electoral College is eliminated.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which seeks to nullify the Electoral College, is now being debated in the state of Maine. But the state's former Republican governor, Paul LePage, opposes it — and gave an eyebrow-raising explanation in an interview with WVOM on Tuesday.
"What would happen if they do what they say they're gonna do is white people will not have anything to say," said LePage. "It's only going to be the minorities that would elect. It would be California, Texas, Florida ... we're gonna be forgotten people."
This is nonsense. Adopting a popular vote would make everyone's vote count equally. In fact, while the Electoral College does benefit many white voters, it outright disenfranchises tens of millions of others. In California, 4.4 million voters backed Trump, including 45 percent of the non-Hispanic white electorate, and yet California awarded zero of its electoral votes to Trump. Under a popular vote, all of those votes would be counted too.
LePage, who once said drug dealers named "D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty" were impregnating "young white girl[s]" in his state and implied Hispanics should be shot, is clearly just thinking of how white voters elected Trump while the popular vote as a whole didn't. But putting white power over democracy is a dangerous game.
- Idaho lawmaker says she opposes banning child marriage because it would encourage abortions.
According to Unchained at Last, Idaho has the highest rate of child marriage of any state in America. But Republicans do not seem overly concerned about this problem — on Thursday, the state House voted down a bill to set the minimum age for marriage to 16.
One lawmaker, state Rep. Christy Zito, told the Idaho Statesman she opposed the bill for an interesting reason: because it would still be legal for these girls to have abortions if they obtain permission from a judge.
"If we pass this legislation, it will then become easier in the state of Idaho to obtain an abortion at 15 years old than it will to decide to form a family and create a family for a child that has been conceived," said Zito.
To be clear, many pregnancies at age 15 are rapes, and many marriages at 15 are coerced. Moreover, a teenage girl who wants to continue a pregnancy and start a family is free to do so even if she has to wait a few years to get married. So this doesn't make sense as a reason against ending child marriage.
- Sebastian Gorka says Democrats want to take your hamburgers.
It would be hard to name the craziest moment at CPAC this year. But one contender is surely the speech delivered by Dr. Sebastian Gorka, a frequent Fox News commentator with ties to a Nazi group who previously served as Trump's foreign policy adviser. On Thursday, Gorka laid out what was coming if Democrats pass the Green New Deal.
"They want to rebuild your home, they want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved," thundered Gorka. "You are on the front lines of the war against communism coming back to America."
Former Trump White House official Sebastian Gorka: "They want to take away your hamburgers. This is what Stalin dre… https://t.co/xygG5MaaF3— Aaron Rupar (@Aaron Rupar)1551370108.0
The Green New Deal, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) calls for net zero greenhouse emissions within a decade, through investment in renewable infrastructure, transportation, and retrofitting of older buildings. One thing it definitely does not do is ban hamburgers.
Republicans have claimed the resolution would ban airplanes and "farting cows," based on a line from Ocasio-Cortez's FAQ sheet that actually says the exact opposite. Under Democrats, you can still keep your hamburger — and you can keep your planet, too.