Saturday, February 09, 2019

Reading the Story

So, that didn't happen, after all.   Except Slate says the House Committee gave away the store before Whitaker testified (and did a poor job questioning him, to boot).

For one, as the committee’s ranking minority member Doug Collins noted in his opening remarks, Whitaker likely has less than a week left in office before William Barr is confirmed as the new attorney general. Secondly, as Collins also noted, Nadler had the day before held a vote to authorize a subpoena of Whitaker should he refuse to answer the panel’s questions, only to quietly holster that power after Whitaker threatened to cancel his appearance. Nadler had actually announced in a letter to Whitaker that was released to the public on Thursday evening that the committee would not use the subpoena “if you are prepared to respond to questions from our Members.” The clear implication was that a subpoena was still on the table if Whitaker dodged. In actuality, Collins said, the chairman had sent a second letter to the Department of Justice guaranteeing that there would be no subpoena.

As Collins described it, this was “a full-blown cave.”

Without a legitimate subpoena threat—and with so little time left for the acting attorney general in office—Whitaker felt comfortable literally laughing off Democrats’ questions. With time ticking down on Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s clock and the Texas congresswoman asking for more time in the face of the witness’ ducking, for example, Whitaker commented, “Congresswoman, I don’t know if your time has been restored or not.”

Or maybe you shouldn't take the word of the GOP on matters of fact, after all:

“You owe us responses on a number of issues raised here today. Responses we intend to secure,” Nadler said. “I ask the Department [of Justice] to work with the committee to provide them. As part of that work I fully intend to call you back for an interview, under subpoena if necessary and I expect more answers at that time.”

Nadler said that at the end of the hearing, not in some obscure press conference later.  Watch the donut, not the hole.  Or ignore the narrative that Democrats are in disarray and weak and feckless, and the GOP always holds the whip hand, no matter what.  It's always about the narrative:

The goals of the Green New Deal are impossible. Which is exactly what makes it a great idea.

Huh? Don’t you get it? By asking the impossible, the Green New Deal asks us to consider the possibilities! You see, a plan’s actual workability as a plan is no longer the value of a plan. Plans are good for thinking, and thinking leads to dreaming, and dreaming is the only way that change occurs—that’s just science, folks.

We’ve blown past the era of evaluating an idea’s worth by subjecting it to the standard of “feasibility.” Workability or feasibility is no way to judge any idea put forth by the exciting and innovative Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, says Shadi Hamid, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Writing in the Atlantic of another of AOC’s headline-grabbing proposals, a 70 percent tax rate, Hamid admits he does not have a well thought out position on whether it’s a good idea.

Which may well be what the "Green New Deal" is about; but the difference between the GND and, say "Build the wall/Crime will fall!" should be rather obvious.  One is the starting point for a discussion, for literally a new narrative (what, you think LBJ sprang sui generis from the Senate to the White House and started handing out landmark legislation like pre-wrapped peppermints?); the other is a foolish and ignorant demand based, not on reality, but on demagoguery.  And it's doing so badly news now is Trump is going to cave, and accept $2 billion for...wait for it....border security.  Which, as Katty Kay of the BBC said on Washington Week last night, could well mean rose bushes; planted along the border, of course.

The GND ain't about rose bushes.  That's just science, donchaknow?

What actually happened yesterday is a matter of the dust settling, and everyone wants to make sure the dust settles in their favor.  And yeah, there's a political strategy here:

A Republican political operative and Capitol Hill veteran told me: "It doesn’t take long for ordinary voters — who are very different from people in Washington — to start seeing participating committee members as pompous, rude and belittling, and begin to side with whoever is sitting in the hot seat."

And here:

Except the audience for C-SPAN 2 is not that large, and the majority of the country would ask "Whitaker who?"  Besides, this is not football, a season of only 16 games, where every defeat is a major setback, and every victory another foothold on the playoffs; this is baseball; it's a much, much longer season.

And while we're distracted by political theater:

What the hell?

It's all about the narrative; and sometimes, that's the problem.  Which is what Sen. Whitehouse understands:

"Follow the money," one of the greatest of American narratives.

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