Press: Inmates have taken over the asylum
Democrats and Republicans in Congress today have a similar public relations problem. Call it “the tail wagging the dog.” It’s the impression that a small band of radicals is running the show, setting the agenda and calling the shots for both parties.
For Democrats, it’s “the Squad” — originally, a group of four House members (Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York), now joined by Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) and Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.). For Republicans, it’s a group of Jan. 6 deniers: Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde of Georgia, Matt Gaetz of Florida, Louie Gohmert of Texas, and Paul Gosar and Andrew Biggs of Arizona.
But there’s a huge difference between the two groups: One impression is true, the other is not. No matter how colorful, the Squad’s not running the Democratic Party in the House. But no matter how outrageous, the Jan. 6 Deniers are, in fact, controlling the Republican Party. Especially on the issue of Jan. 6, the inmates have taken over the asylum.
Even before last week, the Deniers showed what a bunch of wing-nuts they are. Clyde alleged the Jan. 6 invasion of the Capitol was nothing more than “a normal tourist visit.” Gohmert argued there was “no evidence” that any of the Jan. 6 mob were armed. Biggs and Gaetz both spread the theory that federal agencies, most likely the FBI, were behind the rampage. Gosar claimed, without evidence, that some rioters were members of antifa. Greene was one of 21 Republicans who voted against honoring Capitol police officers who defended them because, she insisted, it was not an “insurrection.”
Wait? Does that mean some Republican members of Congress are siding against the police and for an armed mob? Yes! And, last week the Deniers went even further. On July 27, Gaetz, Gohmert, Gosar, Greene, Biggs and Rep.Bob Good (R-Va.) appeared in front of the Department of Justice building and accused the Justice Department of “harassing” those arrested for invading the Capitol, whom Gosar called “peaceful patriots” and Gohmert described as “political prisoners held hostage by their own government.”
Two days later, Greene, Gaetz, Gosar and Gohmert attempted to storm unannounced into the D.C. jail to protest the detention of rioters charged with the most serious crimes — assaulting police officers or carrying weapons into the Capitol. When they were denied entrance, Gohmert accused D.C. jail officials of operating a “dictatorship.”
It’s bad enough that six Jan. 6 Deniers are backing the mob who attacked them rather than the police who defended them. What makes it worse is that they have at least the tacit support of party leaders. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has yet to condemn them. House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York blamed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the riot. And Donald Trump insisted his supporters were actually “hugging and kissing the police and the guards,” not attacking them.
All of which makes the aftermath of Jan. 6 especially difficult for police officers. “What makes the struggle harder and more painful,” Officer Michael Fanone told the January 6 Select Committee, “is to know so many of my fellow citizens, including so many of the people I put my life at risk to defend, are downplaying or outright denying what happened.”
The bottom line: Trump, McCarthy and the Jan. 6 Deniers have turned the Republican Party upside down. They’re no longer the law-and-order party. They no longer defend the “thin blue line.” They’re now the anti-police, anti-law enforcement, anti-democracy and pro-insurrectionist party. Good luck defending that position in the 2022 midterms.
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”