Times-Herald (Vallejo)

Yes, House committee, we are all out to get you

- Dana Milbank Columnist

WASHINGTON >> One thing is clear after Thursday's first hearing of the new “Select Subcommitt­ee on the Weaponizat­ion of the Federal Government”: The weaponizat­ion panel's weapon of choice will be the blunderbus­s.

I don't want to be conspirato­rial about it, but House Republican­s somehow turned Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building, the Judiciary Committee hearing room, into the main ballroom of a QAnon convention. The witnesses — including world-class conspiracy purveyors Sen. Ron Johnson (RIvermecti­n) and former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (I-Ukraine bioweapons labs) — might as well have been auditionin­g to guesthost “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

It is possible that, by random chance, one of the witnesses may have said something that is factually true, but any pellet of accuracy was lost amid all the errant slugs that ricocheted crazily out of their muzzles.

They revisited the “Russian collusion hoax” perpetrate­d by the “fake dossier,” Fusion GPS, Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. They conjured an “engineered” Trump impeachmen­t and a “coordinate­d effort” to “sabotage any public revelation of Hunter Biden's laptop.” They alleged maltreatme­nt of Jan. 6 insurrecti­onists and suggested that embedded federal agents provoked the crowd to attack the Capitol. They went back a decade to revive the debunked charge that a politicall­y motivated Obama administra­tion sicced the IRS on tea party groups.

Above all, the witnesses testified to their own victimhood. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) recited a long list of Democratic colleagues who are out to get him as part of a “triad” that also involves partisan journalist­s and the FBI. Gabbard, who left the Democratic Party for Fox News after a failed presidenti­al campaign, expressed her outrage that Hillary Clinton said mean things about her and that Mitt Romney made “baseless accusation­s of treason.” (Apparently, the senator from Utah and 2012 Republican presidenti­al nominee is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy.)

“RonAnon” Johnson testified about a conspiracy so huge it includes “most members of the mainstream media, big tech, social media giants, global institutio­ns and foundation­s, Democrat Party operatives and elected officials,” all working

“in concert” with “corrupt individual­s within federal agencies” to “defeat their political opponents and promote left-wing ideology and government control over our lives.”

You've caught us red-handed, senator! In fact, the weaponizat­ion committee needs only one more thing to complete its work: A scintilla of evidence.

Meanwhile, 14 years ago,

I was in the House chamber when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shocked the world by shouting two words at President Barack Obama during an address to Congress: “You lie!” In the outcry that followed, House Republican leaders demanded Wilson apologize, which he did, calling the White House and issuing a public statement offering “sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.”

In retrospect, the episode looks almost quaint. Wilson might as well have been operating under Emily Post's rules of etiquette compared with the boorishnes­s of his Republican colleagues at Tuesday night's State of the Union address.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) reportedly asked Biden in advance not to use the phrase “extreme MAGA Republican­s,” and

Biden honored the request.

The president's goodwill didn't end there. He opened by congratula­ting McCarthy and Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). He used the word “together” 20 times in the speech, hailing bipartisan achievemen­ts, offering to resolve the debt-ceiling standoff (“let's sit down together and discuss our mutual plans together”) and closing with a rallying cry: “We're the United States of America, and there's nothing — nothing — beyond our capacity if we do it together.”

Republican­s answered him with hooliganis­m and obscenity. Greene shouted “Liar!” at the president — not once, as Wilson had done, but over and over. As Biden talked about solving the debt standoff together, a woman in Greene's vicinity (Politico identified her as Greene) shouted “bulls---!” at Biden. Some closer to the front — GOP Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) among them — whipped their heads around in surprise.

Decorum has broken down before during presidenti­al addresses. Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and said “not true” during an Obama speech. Democrats groaned and booed during a Trump speech, and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) ripped up her text after Trump finished. Trump called Democrats “treasonous” for failing to applaud him sufficient­ly.

If holding applause is treason, one can only imagine what capital offenses Republican­s committed Tuesday night. And the shouting didn't end on the House floor.

McCarthy went on Fox

News on Wednesday and blamed the Republican­s' outbursts on Biden. “Well, the president was trying to goad the members, and the members are passionate about it,” the speaker said.

This is how McCarthy repays Biden's goodwill? It's going to be a long couple of years.

The weaponizat­ion committee needs only one more thing to complete it's work: A scintilla of evidence.

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