Worse Than McCarthyism

In the last post I quoted Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, who criticized Donald Trump’s so-called “plan” to plop a fig leaf over obvious conflicts of interest by allegedly separating himself from his businesses without actually separating himself from his businesses. Such criticism would seem to be to be part of Shaub’s job; he’d be remiss if he said nothing. My understanding is that most people who knows stuff about government ethics agree with Shaub.

Republicans might have reacted to this criticism in many ways. They might have disagreed with it; they might have offered counter-arguments. But here’s what they did, courtesy of  Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee.

On Thursday, Chaffetz opted to go full Salem on the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, attacking Shaub for having done his job. The Republican threatened to subpoena Shaub if he refuses to participate in an official transcribed behind-closed doors interview. The calculus here seems to be that if nobody sees this crooked behavior by supposed ethics guardians like Chaffetz, then it didn’t happen.

OGE, set up post-Watergate, is nonpartisan and advises executive branch officials on avoiding conflicts. Shaub’s five-year term expires in January 2018.

Chaffetz demanded in a letter that he appear before lawmakers in the aforementioned closed-door, transcribed interview, to answer questions in a deposition-style setting. Richard Painter, who served as the ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, told the New York Times that this was “political retaliation” by Republicans against nonpartisan ethics officers for doing their basic duty.

Using threats of subpoenas and hearings to intimidate and silence political opponents is an old tactic for the American Right. Sen. Joe McCarthy was infamous for it back in the day, as was the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee.

But why do I claim that what Chaffetz tried to do is worse? Because he had no excuse. At least HUAC and McCarthy were ostensibly trying to investigate espionage and subversion in the United States, even though they were mostly just using said investigations as partisan political tools. But Chaffetz didn’t even bother to concoct some reason to harass Shaub that served some greater good. Back to Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

In an interview with me on Friday, Norm Eisen—who led ethics initiatives during President Obama’s first term—agreed with Painter’s assessment that this is simply retaliation:

Democrats and Republicans alike, Richard Painter and myself included, are outraged by the chairman’s demand for a closed, Star Chamber–style interrogation of Director Shaub simply because he said exactly what bipartisan experts agree upon: that Trump’s proposed conflicts solution is woefully inadequate. An even more chilling aspect of the chairman’s letter is the not-so-veiled threat to cut OGE’s funding. All of this is merely the latest salvo in all-out attack on ethics oversight. The effort to shut down OCE, the four [Cabinet] nominees who had no ethics vetting who the majority tried to ram through confirmation hearings, Trump’s flouting precedent and the Constitution in his own [conflicts of interest] plan, and now this bullying of Shaub and threat to close OGE.

“It’s open season on ethics in D.C.,” Eisen added.

In the old days the enemy was Communism; now the enemy is ethics.  See also “Earnest: ‘Outrageous’ For Chaffetz To Threaten To Subpoena Ethics Chief” by Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo.

In other news, Trump has now taken to tweeting insults about Rep. John Lewis. The creature has no shame at all.

21 thoughts on “Worse Than McCarthyism

  1. Come on, we’ve no for a long time that der Drumpf has no shame and perhaps a heart darker than Chaney’s.

  2. Jason is an old buddy of mine. He had comments after my flight.

    The pilot of the gyrocopter that landed last week on the West Lawn at the U.S. Capitol “should have been blown out of the air,” House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz said today , adding that Doug Hughes is “lucky to be alive” after pulling off the wild stunt.

    “He is lucky to be alive because he should have been blown out of the air, and very well could have been,” Chaffetz, R-Utah, said. “If it was up to me, I would have taken care of the problem.”

    The SOB is a fascist who will use lethal force against protesters, I believe. On that subject, the General in charge of the DC National Guard has been told he’s fired – one minute after Trump takes office. His successor has been picked, but won’t take office immediately – so who will be the interim CO of thousands on National Guard troops in and around the Capitol for the weekend that huge anti-Trump demonstrations are planned?

  3. I wish I was a tailor!
    Think of how much money I’d make in the next few years designing and making brown shirts, and long black leather coats and high boots, and spiffy caps!?!?
    And some sharp silver lightning-bolt emblems with “DJT” for use on collars and hats!

    But no matter how hard I and/or other designers tried, we’d never match the original German Nazi’s for style.

    Pity that, no?
    We’d make cheap knock-off’s, just like our GOP politicians will be cheap Nazi/Fascist imposters.
    Oh, they’ll do plenty of harm!
    It’s just that, somewhere in what’s left of any minimal conscience they might have ever had, they’ll know that they’re being like this just because they’re power-hungry dickish assholes, and not because they’re truly evil.
    Just look at Chaffetz, and compare him to Himmler.
    Jason’s a cheap wannabe and a knock-off.

    But, time will tell, won’t it…

    See You In The GULag – probably. 😉

  4. I am proud to have met and talked with Congressman John Lewis, one of the most courageous Americans I know. Trump is clueless or lying when he says that John Lewis’ district is in horrible shape and falling apart. It is total nonsense. Lewis’ 5th District has 3 major universities (Emory, Georgia State, Georgia Tech) as well as Coca-Cola, CNN, Delta Airlines, Georgia Pacific, the CDC. New high rise buildings are coming up downtown all the time. The district is at the US average for college degrees; the average annual income is $73,000 plus. In Grant Park and other upper areas houses sell close to $1 million. I sure would rather live in these upscale neighborhoods than here in West Cobb County, home of Newt Gingrich. Since I have been in this country I have never seen a would-be president reacting with such hate and ignorance in public. Trump maybe a billionaire but he has no class. With a “leader” like this at its head this country is in decline and will continue to be. As you say, Maha, what a pathetic and vulgar “creature” this corrupt DT is, and such an embarrassment.

  5. I have never seen a would-be president reacting with such hate and ignorance in public.

    Yeah, that’s why Putin will manipulate him so easily. He’s so consumed with insecurity and ignorance that he can’t be rational. There’s a scripture that was written well over two thousand years ago that says to the effect that..better is he who rules his own spirit than he who takes a city.
    Trump is a big bag of shit because he’s a captive to his own insecurities. He tries to mask them by making reinforcing statements as to his greatness and success, but it only serves to highlight just how fragile his true feeling about himself are. I strongly suspect he was reared in a house of emotional horrors where the childhood need for parental approval, validation, and love was meted out in the most rigid of conditions. His brother drank himself to death to kill the pain of being starved for love and acceptance by an overbearing father whose love was conditioned on the accumulation of money.
    The Trumpf family curse..I’ve read psychological profiles where Ivanka is deemed to be pathologically accommodating in her relation to her father. Meaning that Trump successfully destroyed her spirit to be her own person. He broke her will and she’ll never be whole again as long as he walks the face of this earth. She’s daddy’s little girl..providing she obeys daddy.
    I think that fact holds true for all of Trump’s children…all the conditional love they can handle.

  6. I’m with Tom_b. I rather expect that in an open hearing Schaub would put Chaffetz to shame. Besides, an open hearing would be appropriate for the question of ethics in government.

  7. “You become what/whom you fear…”

    After The Russian Revolution, conservatives – worldwide – went bonkers.
    They feared Communism/Socialism.

    Why should they have to share THEIR toys?!?!?!?!

    From 1917, until the fall of the USSR and the Berlin Wall (a pre-t-RUMP border project to keep people locked IN, and undesirable people locked OUT!).

    And yet, despite their fears, conservatives began to take on the characterisitics of Soviet apparatchiks.

    After the USSR collapsed, and it and China decided to become Capitalist Oligarchies and/or Pluto/Klepto-cracies, our Murkin conservatives used old Russian/Chinese Communist means to attack and control their – OUR! – country.
    From Newt’s order on how to talk about things, to… Well, a whole hell of a lot – which I’ll spare all ‘ya’ll – since it’s the Sunday right before MOST of us honor the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and no one is interested in any Doctoral-level long thesis (feces) from me – I’ll cut to the chase.

    The Republicans, like Stalin, “disappeared” a lot of people not just from their photo’s, but from their history, itself.

    Does anyone know or remember that we had a SECOND Bush as POTUS?
    That 8 years after George H.W. “Papa Doc” Bush was POTUS for one term, his son, George W. “Baby Doc” Bush ws also POTUS – for TWO disastrous terms?
    Yes, it’s true!
    But, since they want hide ALL of his manifest failures, all of W’s sins have been laid at the feet of Bill Clinton and Barack Hussein Obama – and, also, strangely, Jimmy Carter. They are trying to “disappear” W.! And have succeeded – to a degree.

    Now, they want to “disappear” the record of BHO – our 44th POTUS, for TWO TERMS!!!
    First, PPACA – aka: Obamacare.
    Then, his legacy of supporting gays, immigrants – admittedly, he COULD have done more, but with a GOP House… OY! – and all of the GOOD/GREAT things he did.

    Let’s not let them erase the reocrd and memory of the best POTUS of my (soon to be 59) years on this planet, and in this country.

    For at least a while, they’ll need to blame President Obama while they try to un-do what he and the Dem’s accomplished.
    They’ll use his name in vain, as they try to eliminate Obamacare – PPACA – and privatize Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and FSM knows how many other things the Bond-villain Republicans in DC – and Red state legislatures and Governor’s mansions – have in store for fucking over, “We the people…”

    With those “happy” thoughts, I’ll leave you.
    Enjoy the long weekend, and spend part of Monday either listening or reading MLK’s great “I Have A Dream” speech – and his life of committment to openly battling not only for Civil Rights for minorities, but for ALL people, including working stiffs.

  8. Every whiff of the future seems to smell worse, and the “age of Trump” hasn’t officially begun.

    Billikin, do you have a connection with Alaska?

  9. Swami: Thanks for the Bible reference. It is Proverbs 16:32. New American Standard Bible version:
    “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city.”
    How apropos for this time.

  10. Drumpf is morally and ethically vacant. He was brought up on prosperity worship. Telling oneself that one’s prosperity is a sign of divine approval, never questioning the means to that end. He honestly believes that he is exceptional and nothing applies to him.
    That is a large part of his attraction for those who wish they could be him.
    Whether the office of ethics survives will depend on Congress. Will there ever come a tipping point for any of these toadies? Or are they irredeemable?

  11. It is instances like firing the General in command of the D.C. National Guard the minute Trump is sworn into office that shows how sick Trump is.. It’s a move designed to inflict a humiliation on somebody just for the sake of humiliating someone. Nobody cares and it really doesn’t matter when the change of command takes place and there’s certainly no need to make an issue of it..But Trump evidently is getting some perverse satisfaction from making the transition ( firing) so public and precise in a way intended to humiliate ..Again, it just shows his insecurities.
    Trump is a sick and twisted soul.. Actually, he’s a big bloated bag of shit!

  12. The thing is, this is pretty typical. Remember: the IRS did nothing vengeful or even ugly toward GOP-leaning groups – they investigated them as was their job. They flubbed the job in a few respects – it happens. They asked some questions – some of which may have been over-reaching. But let’s keep in mind that the horrible, horrible fate that awaited those failed to answer questions the IRS posed was… not achieving tax exempt status as quickly.

    The IRS was pilloried for this, and it should have been a big story. “Republicans savage government agency for doing its job with respect to Republican supporters”. But no, it was just those crazy Republicans and hey, everyone likes a good anti-IRS story, so….

    Now, someone else in a government agency is doing their job, and it affects an important Republican asset (well, in Trump’s case we should remember that the “et” ending means small, and remove it from his particular label. That would make him an… okay, juvenile joke).

    Anyway: so, yeah, they’re being threatened, because why the hell not? “the bad press”? Hah!

  13. I just finished reading an article about Trump’s solution to repealing Obamacare. It was like reading from the pages of Aesop’s fables or Grimm’s fairy tales with Trump’s offerings of magical solutions that can’t be divulged until some undetermined point in the future that is dependent upon an imaginary event that will occur at some undetermined point in the future.
    The only thing determinable in Trump’s ramblings was that whatever solution he had formulated, but wasn’t ready to divulge at this point, was that it is going to be a beautiful thing. Sounds like the classical waltz down the garden path to me. Snake charming 101. Distract and Defer?
    I’m mystified to understand how much and for how long this bull shit nonsense can go on before the American public wakes up and realises that they’ve been had a charlatan.
    What makes it more painful to watch is seeing that he’s supported by an army of sycophants who defend his whimsical fantasies by further twisting words and concepts to dull the senses and confuse the american public.
    Paulie Ryan has just spun a new abstraction called universal access to solve the replace portion of repeal and replace. Maybe I’m not getting it, or maybe I’m just too jaded with skepticism, but it seems to me that universal access was never a problem with obtaining health insurance. It’s the affordability to that access where the problem lies. For $200.00 a month I can have access to the local country club, but unfortunately I don’t have access to a spare $200.00 a month. I think Paulie is peddling something in the realm of a Catch 22 nature. But whatever Paulie is peddling he claims it is in conjunction with Trump’s mystery solution for repeal and replace. That beautiful thing that’s coming our way.

  14. Martin Luther King is most remembered for his eloquence and his keen moral insight. But, he was also a man of tremendous physical courage, and that sort of courage may be the most important virtue that we can have in the days to come. I hope not, it’s never been one of my gifts, and I am not as strong as I used to be.

    The firing of the CO of the D.C. National Guard seems a typical Trump move, you can’t help but wonder what he has up his sleeve, and you know, if there’s anything there it’s going to be worse than you imagined. They are making some bold moves, so my expectation is that they are “going for it,” as we used to say way back in the eighties.

    Thanks, Billikin. I didn’t mean to be nosey. My parents lived in Alaska for quite a few years. I was thinking your screen name came from those little figures made by Native American people up there.

  15. “The Republican Party geared its appeal and program to racism, reaction, and extremism…On the urgent issue of civil rights, Senator Goldwater represents a philosophy that is morally indefensible and socially suicidal. While not himself a racist, Mr. Goldwater articulates a philosophy which gives aid and comfort to the racist. His candidacy and philosophy would serve as an umbrella under which extremists of all stripes would stand. In the light of these facts and because of my love for America, I have no alternative but to urge every Negro and white person of goodwill to vote against Mr. Goldwater and to withdraw support from any Republican candidate that does not publicly disassociate himself from Senator Goldwater and his philosophy.”
    Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 1964

  16. “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”  Martin Luther King Jr.Strength to Love, 1963

    Still signs of a hazardous path.

  17. One thing people tend to forget about McCarthyism is that it wasn’t just the national committees. There were local committees and institutions (school boards, for instance) that operated along the same lines. We’ll be seeing that now, no doubt. Small groups or even one person can counter or challenge these local groups more easily than they can a national institution, and that should be done.

    Keeping pressure on national groups and the news media needs doing too, by letters and phone calls and protests, but the local iterations of this national-level disgrace need to be challenged too.

    Healthcare seems to be one of the most likely levers to work. It needs to be leaned on.

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