For Trump’s GOP, crossing lines has little consequence


WASHINGTON — There was a time in the nation’s capital when lines mattered, and when they were crossed, the consequences were quick and severe.

President Jim Wright, a Democrat, lost his job in 1989 on charges of corruption and profiteering. Nearly a decade later, President Newt Gingrich, a Republican, lost his after a disappointing midterm election.

Mr Gingrich’s expected successor, Robert L. Livingston, then admitted he had violated the public trust by having an extramarital affair – even as he demanded the resignation of President Bill Clinton for having an affair with a man. White House intern – and retired on his own.

More recently, in quick succession, Senator Al Franken of Minnesota and Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, both Democrats, were forced out of Congress amid accusations of sexual harassment during the #MeToo era. On the Republican side, Representatives Blake Farenthold of Texas, Patrick Meehan of Pennsylvania and Trent Franks of Arizona have also been driven by allegations of sexual impropriety.

Yet when House Republican Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California was shown to have lied about his response to the deadliest assault on the Capitol in centuries and the guilt of President Donald J. Trump, the consequences were not expected to be quick. or serious – or that there would be any at all.

Pretending is not a crime, but doing so to cover up a general reversal on a matter as serious as an attack on the citadel of democracy and the possible resignation of a president would once have been considered the end of a career for a politician, especially one who aspires to the highest position in the House.

Not so for a Republican in the Trump era, when Mr. McCarthy’s brand of lying was nothing particularly new; maybe it was just a Thursday. On Friday, another House member, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, Republican of Georgia, testified under oath during an administrative law hearing in Atlanta that she could “not recall” advocating that Mr. Trump is imposing martial law to stop the transfer of power to Joseph R. Biden Jr., a position that would seem hard to forget.

“It’s a tragic indictment of the political process these days – and the Republican Party of late – that truth doesn’t matter, words don’t matter, everyone can be elastic in areas that were once seen as concrete,” said Mark Sanford, a Republican former governor of South Carolina who lied to the public about his whereabouts while pursuing an extramarital affair in South America and was censured by the state House of Representatives. “You cross the lines now, and there are no more consequences.”

Mr. Sanford’s political comeback as a Republican member of the House ended when he crossed the one line that still matters in his party: he condemned Mr. Trump as intolerant and untrustworthy. Mr Trump called it ‘nothing but trouble’ and Mr Sanford was beaten in a primary in 2018.

It was Mr. Trump himself who showed how little consequence there could be for transgressions that once seemed irrelevant to the nation’s leaders in 2016, when he survived the publication of a leaked audio in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women – then went on to win the presidency. In the years since, he has survived two impeachment trials, accused of pressuring Ukraine for his own political gain and inciting the Capitol Riot, and he continues to spread the lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

These episodes were stark proof, if more was needed, that tribalism and party loyalty now trump any notion of integrity, or even unwavering political beliefs. But if there were any questions about whether the end of Mr. Trump’s presidency would begin to restore old mores and lifeguards, the past few months have put them to rest.

Last month, Rep. Madison Cawthorn, a Republican from North Carolina, angered fellow Republicans by saying lawmakers he “admired” had invited him to parties involving sex and cocaine. The allegations were condemned by Mr McCarthy, who told Republican lawmakers Mr Cawthorn later admitted they were false, despite the House Leader refraining from punishing him.

Mr Cawthorn’s problems appeared to worsen on Friday when Politico published photos of him in women’s lingerie, undermining his portrayal of himself as a social conservative. Barely chastened, Mr. Cawthorn replied on Twitter“I guess the left thinks crazy vacation photos at a game on a cruise (taken way before I ran for Congress) are going to hurt me somehow? They run out of things to throw at me.

He then asked people to “share your most embarrassing vacation photos in the replies.”

In Missouri, Eric Greitens, who resigned as governor in 2018 after being accused of stripping his mistress, recorded her exercising in his basement, photographed her and told her says he would post the nude photos if she told anyone about their affair, is running for the Senate as a Trump-loving conservative. When his ex-wife accused him of domestic violence in an affidavit last month, he went on, near the top of the polls, saying she was manipulated by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, and Karl Rove, President George Former political adviser to W. Bush.

“The Greitens campaign has received tremendous support from donors and patriots across the country who see the deception and lies peddled by establishment RINOs,” said Dylan Johnson, its campaign manager, using the acronym. of “Republicans in name only”. “Since they launched these unfounded attacks over the past few weeks, the campaign has seen an exponential increase in donations, registrations and engagement.”

Mr. McCarthy’s latest routs with the truth are reminiscent of the last time he had the speaker within his grasp and instructive on how Mr. Trump has changed the landscape.

Then, like now, the California Republican’s troubles really started when he told the truth. In 2015, after President John A. Boehner handed over the gavel, Mr. McCarthy made the mistake of telling the camera that the appointment of a special committee to review the terrorist attack on a US government compound in Benghazi, Libya, was aimed at least in part to diminish the approval rating of Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.

Other House Republicans were furious, insisting their pursuit of the issue had nothing to do with politics. They gave the talking hammer to Representative Paul D. Ryan.

This time, the truth told by Mr McCarthy was that Mr Trump’s conduct on January 6 had been “excruciating and utterly wrong” and that he planned to seek his resignation. The lie Mr McCarthy told was that he said no such thing and that the New York Times had made it up, a claim that was quickly refuted by his recorded voice telling Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming, exactly what the Times said it said.

But unlike 2015, the media’s partisan hatred and desire for party unity could win out. Republicans said Friday they were singularly focused on taking control of the House. Their constituents are far more concerned with the policies of Mr. Biden and Speaker Nancy Pelosi than with the words of the House Minority Leader, who most of them have never heard of, the House said. former Rep. Jason Chaffetz, Republican of Utah.

“Conservatives and Republicans think it’s an unfair fight in the media; it’s always a Republican question that gets the ink flowing and not the Democrats,” said Mr. Chaffetz, who challenged Mr. McCarthy for the presidency in 2015 when he stumbled. “They feel harassed.”

“It’s not to justify anything,” he said, “but the treatment in the national media is something that makes Republicans stronger.”

As the media analyzed Ms Greene’s testimony Friday during a drawn-out hearing to determine whether she was an “insurgent” disqualified for re-election, the congresswoman was raising money over what she calls persecution. On the witness stand, she laughed off accusations that she had supported the rioters on January 6 because the evidence against her had been reported by CNN and other media outlets which she said could not be trusted.

In her fundraising appeal, she took advantage of her day at the helm.

‘The game was so stacked against me that I had to take legal action to stop this charade,’ she wrote to her followers before claiming without any proof that she would probably have to fight to stay on the ballot to the Supreme Court. “Fighting their fraudulent prosecution could cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Indeed, persecution, not propriety, is a watchword, not just in Washington but in state-level fights in which Republicans say their actions are simply aimed at countering the authoritarian efforts of liberals. socialists” and “woke” companies.

Representative Charlie Crist of Florida, who was his state’s Republican governor before becoming a Democratic congressman, insisted that honesty was as important today as it was when Abraham Lincoln was touted as “honest Abe” and that a myth grew around George Washington admitting he cut down a cherry tree because he couldn’t lie.

Mr. Crist is now seeking the governorship as a Democrat, and he said Friday that if he wins a contested primary, he plans to put honesty at the heart of his campaign to unseat Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican.

“It’s already part of this campaign,” he said. “It must be and it should be. This goes to the very essence of integrity.

For Republicans, the ultimate arbiter of lines not to cross and consequences to pay remains Mr. Trump. For now, the former president has signaled that all is well with Mr. McCarthy: “I think that’s a big compliment, frankly,” he told the Wall Street Journal on Friday. If Mr. Trump decides the House leader must pay for his dithering – or for the truths he tried to hide – the price could still be steep.

Believe one who knows: Mr. Sanford.

“We live in very strange times in politics,” he said as he hurried to his son’s wedding rehearsal dinner. “I hope they can self-correct, but I’m afraid they can’t.”


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