Good Friday Morning, especially to Johnson & Johnson, who have officially applied for an Emergency Use Application for their vaccine against COVID-19. If granted, they could deliver 100 million doses by June. Back towards the beginning of January, I told a few friends that at some point, I was probably going to switch from being accommodating on the FDA, CDC, and others on vaccine approval/rollout to a far more severe stance. I could see my thinking was beginning to turn more towards getting 1) needles in arms and 2) as many viable vaccines rolling out to the market as possible.
That switch has fully happened now. The FDA and CDC presented roadblocks on our capacity to generate widespread testing on COVID-19 for the first 2-3 months. Alex Stapp wrote a piece for The Dispatch in March of 2020 that hammered home how bad the federal agencies were on testing and the bureaucracy that harmed us. We need to avoid the same mistakes on vaccines. There’s a role for the FDA to play in getting vaccines to the public. But the three weeks they’ve announced until they have a meeting on approving the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is flat-out unacceptable in the middle of a pandemic.
I fully understand the normal process is much longer, sometimes as long as six months. Trimming that to 3-4 weeks is noble. But we need better. And the Biden administration needs to pour time, energy, and resources into getting the FDA review done faster. We should not get hemmed in by our red tape. And journalists should be asking hard questions of the Biden administration every day until the FDA approves this vaccine (all the above is also true for the AstraZeneca vaccine, widely used in the UK and EU right now).
Enough about that, though. This week, I will dive into the internal and now external fights in the US House over what to do about nutcases.
Where you can find me this week
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Toxic COVID-19 pessimism needs to stop – The Conservative Institute.
Joe Biden, GameStop, Reddit, and the end of ‘normalcy’ – The Conservative Institute.
MGT, Cheney, and the future of the GOP and politics.
There were a series of votes this week, both about Republicans. The first was a Republican meeting over newly elected Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.). The second was a vote of confidence over Rep. Liz Cheney, who holds the 3rd leadership spot. Republicans had a meeting into late Wednesday night over both. Rep. Greene faced a vote from the entire House over stripping her from her committee spots. Rep. Cheney faced a GOP vote over whether she should lose her leadership spot because she voted to impeach Donald Trump over January 6th.
There’s a lot of inside baseball here, but I’ll explain what’s happening.
MGT and the crazy right.
Rep. Greene (nicknamed MGT) is a newly elected Republican Representative from Georgia. She is, to put it mildly, a nutcase. The Dispatch ran a profile on her in August of 2020, after she won her primary and was guaranteed to win in November (her district went Trump by 50+ points in 2016). Here’s part of her beliefs from that profile:
She ascribes to the QAnon conspiracy theory the FBI classifies as a domestic terrorist threat, saying in a video that Q is a “patriot” who is “worth listening to.” She referred to the 2018 midterm elections as “an Islamic invasion of our government,” and has repeatedly downplayed the existence of racism and played up white identity politics. “Guess what? Slavery is over,” she said in one video. “The most mistreated group of people in the United States today are white males.”
On Thursday, Media Matters For America resurfaced a video from 2018 showing Greene—whose campaign did not respond to a request for comment—espousing conspiracy theories related to the death of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and the 9/11 attacks. In the video, recorded at the American Priority Conference, Greene alleged the Obama administration used MS-13 gang members as “henchmen” to do their “dirty work,” including killing Seth Rich. (The police concluded Rich’s murder was the result of a botched robbery; Rich’s family has askedthe public to “cease using Seth as a political football in predetermined partisan narratives.”) In the same video, Greene referenced the “so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon” on September 11, 2001, claiming it’s “odd” that “there’s never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.” (Greene did not apologize for the remarks, but did admit Thursday on Twitter that she “now know[s] that is not correct.”)
More recently, old Facebook posts of hers surfaced from 2018. She essentially blamed the California wildfires on Jewish Space Lasers, which added anti-Semitism to her long list of nutty beliefs.
In the Republican meeting Wednesday evening, she was given a chance to speak and apologize for those past statements, which she did to a standing ovation. Republicans declined to discipline her. So that was the first significant thing that happened.
Liz Cheney’s vote.
Rep. Cheney, daughter of the former Vice President and currently the third-ranking member in the GOP caucus, was one of the few Republicans to vote for impeachment in the House. Pro-Trump forces in the House blasted her for that vote and called for her to get removed.
Cheney pivoted against that side of the party, demanded a vote, and called the bluff of those pro-Trump forces. The result: Republicans reaffirmed her leadership spot 145-61, with one member abstaining. That was a resounding victory. The spin from pro-Trump Republicans like Mollie Hemingway at the Federalist was “Cheney-friendly media emphasizing she survived a no confidence vote. Indeed she did. But having to face such a vote is quite obviously not a sign of political strength. Neither is being unpopular with one’s constituents after misreading the political winds on a 197-10 vote.”
That point gets seriously undercut by the fact Cheney pushed this vote. It required the Trump forces to put all their cards on the table. Those Representatives, most notably Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, failed. They claimed upwards of 100+ votes in the House for kicking Cheney out. They fell miserably short. It was even reported in various places that Trump himself was pushing on Representatives on this vote. So that makes it a wholesale loss for that wing of the party. Post vote reporting said:
“We just had a very good conference,” Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said, flanked by Cheney and Minority Whip Steve Scalise. “The number one thing that happened in this conference was unity. People were able to air their differences.”
Many members approached the meeting well aware its implications were far broader than who occupies the number three position in the conference. “I don’t think this is about Liz Cheney. She took a vote of her conscience,” Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler—who also voted to impeach Trump—told The Dispatch. “This is about the direction of our party, and whether or not we’re going to be a minority who’s dedicated to just one person, or we’re going to be a united Republican majority. That’s what we’re talking about.”
According to a source in the room, Cheney made a similar point in her opening remarks. “I think it is truly important that we not become the party that outlaws conscience,” she said. “Several members have asked me to apologize for the vote, they’ve asked my colleagues who also voted to impeach to apologize for the vote. I owe you honesty, I owe you the truth, I cannot do that. It was a vote of conscience. It was a vote of principle—a principle on which I stand and still believe.”
This won’t be the last bout between those wings of the party. But Minority Leader McCarthy effectively navigated both events, getting Rep. Greene more under control, letting Rep. Cheney call the Trump wing’s bluff, and settling any leadership questions for the near future. That’s not the end, though.
Pelosi and Democrats vote to strip Greene of committees.
Pelosi and House Democrats banded together and voted to strip Rep. Greene of her committee assignments. “Eleven Republicans joined 219 Democrats in backing Greene’s ejection from her committees, while 199 GOP lawmakers voted ‘no.'” The AP said, “A fiercely divided House tossed Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene off both her committees Thursday, an unprecedented punishment that Democrats said she’d earned by spreading hateful and violent conspiracy theories.”
Interestingly enough, Cheney came out and blasted Democrats for this move. She argued that Greene’s beliefs should get handled internally, and Democrats shouldn’t take matters like this into their own hands.
Democrats argue that Republicans refused to “clean up the mess internally,” and it’s up to Democrats to hold the line. That’s a perfectly reasonable argument. It’s also another short-sighted and foolish decision by Democrats. And I don’t say that lightly because now committee assignments will become politicized.
Here’s something that’s going to happen soon now. Republicans are very likely to retake the House in 2022 if midterms follow average trends for the party out of power. If they do, you can bank on them gunning for retribution. They’ll have a legitimate case to strip every single member of the Squad from committee assignments. At a minimum, they can oust Rep. Ilhan Omar from committee assignments because of her flagrant anti-Semitism. One Republican is making this exact argument, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida:
I’ve previously stated that MTG’s comments are unacceptable, & today I voted to remove her from her committee assignments. These are also members I’ve consistently said should be removed from committee assignments for their irresponsible, inflammatory speech:
When Ilhan Omar continuously made anti-Semitic comments about Israel, Nancy Pelosi swept it under the rug and suggested that they “move forward.” Why wasn’t she removed from her role on a committee that helps set US policy toward Israel?
Why was it excusable for Rep. Maxine Waters to falsely accuse the U.S. government of deliberately trying to poison inner cities with drugs in the 1980s? Or to incite violence against Trump’s cabinet members?
We can’t forget former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, who not only repeatedly engaged in Holocaust denial on social media but also accused the Bush Administration of plotting 9/11.
If MTG is being removed from her committee positions for her past inappropriate comments, then these members should’ve received the same treatment. I’ll continue to demand that Democratic leadership & the press stop the double standard & hold these members equally accountable.
Democrats couldn’t stamp down anti-Semitism on their side of the aisle. And that’s going to come back to bite them. If this is the new standard, Republicans will hold Democrats to it. They could even expand that to all the conspiracy theories that Democrats pushed regarding the Trump administration.
I don’t know how far this goes, but you can bet this comes back up. Democrats have crossed a Rubicon politically. Nothing is going to be the same. So when Democrats and the Press complain about Republicans stripping committee assignments in a few years, remember this moment. It will come back to haunt Democrats, just like Harry Reid nuking the judicial filibuster allowed McConnell to ram through more judges in four years than anyone prior.
I want to end with a few observations. The first is that two types of politicians have emerged in the last 5-8 years. There are the social media influencer and the legislator. The social media influencers are people like newly elected Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), who says he’s building his entire legislative staff around communications and punditry instead of legislation. He’s not alone. MTG, Matt Gaetz, Donald Trump, and more on the right are exactly like that. And on the left, AOC, the Squad, Schiff, and others do the same thing.
These politicians get all the media time. But they’ve accomplished next to nothing legislatively or politically. They push a lot of media narratives but come up short. AOC doesn’t have a single legislative victory to her name. Her push of far-left policy helped Republicans win seats in the House. Donald Trump couldn’t build his wall, repeal Obamacare, or do much else. This point for Trump was true despite attempts from Republicans to get things done.
What all these people want is attention. And they get it by saying outlandish things or supporting dumb ideas. The media loves them because these are the politicians who generate money. To put it bluntly, the attention whores want attention. The media loves them. They create a cycle where nothing gets done.
The only way to defeat these kinds of useless legislators long term is to deny them what they want: attention. That’s why I’m against all the attention all these right-wing sites are giving to MTG, making her a Trump-lite. By giving her all this attention, they’re doing the same thing that happened in the 2016 primaries with Trump, she soaks up all the oxygen, and no other legislators can do anything. If everyone just ignored her, she’d become a backbench crank. But now, she’s been given political capital by the right and left because of these attacks.
So far, no one has learned these lessons. Our politics will continue to be dominated by people with loud mouths and empty words.
Links of the week
Marjorie Taylor Greene Is Filling the Void in Media’s Appetite Set by Trump – Jim Geraghty, National Review
COVID Cuomo: New York’s governor made a deadly policy mistake and doesn’t want to talk about it – David Harsanyi, National Review
Expanding Vaccine Eligibility without Expanding Vaccine Supply Doesn’t Help Much – Jim Geraghty, National Review
Biden administration prepares to open overflow facility for migrant children (aka this is how CNN is covering the “kids in cages” story under a Democratic administration) – CNN
Facebook Bans Second Amendment Group Without Explanation: The Virginia Citizens Defense League says it’s gotten no accounting of move from tech giant – Stephen Gutowski, The Washington Free Beacon
Nato claims Moscow funding anti-fracking groups – Financial Times
Twitter Thread(s) of the week
Satire of the week
AOC Recalls How She Barely Survived Terrorists Seizing Nakatomi Plaza – The Babylon Bee
Migrant Child Inspired By Old Obama ‘Hope’ Poster Hanging In Cell – The Babylon Bee
Thanks for reading!