Fri, Mar

The Creep in the House


GELFAND’S WORLD - Whoever this Mike Johnson is, he is a creep. He was one of the leaders in the Republican attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election. Notice that not even super-right-winger John Emmer was bad enough to get Donald Trump's approval -- Emmer didn't go all the way in Trump's attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election. Johnson did.

But now we have Mike Johnson as the new Speaker of the House of Representatives. The question is whether Johnson can get the House to function in some sort of normal way. What this means in practice is that aid to Israel will get passed, that some sort of aid to Ukraine will be allowed to go to the floor, and the House will decide whether to shut down the government in a few weeks.

From the New York Times:

"The selection of Mr. Johnson, 51, was the latest abrupt turn in a chaotic leadership battle among House Republicans in which they have lurched from one speaker nominee to another — first a mainstream conservative, then a far-right rabble rouser, then another mainstream candidate and now another conservative hard-liner — putting their rifts on vivid display.

"A social conservative, Mr. Johnson is a lawyer and the former chairman of the Republican Study Committee. He served on former President Donald J. Trump’s impeachment defense team, played a leading role in recruiting House Republicans to sign a legal brief supporting a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 election results and was an architect of Mr. Trump’s bid to object to certifying them in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

"Pressed by reporters on Tuesday night about his efforts to overturn the election, Mr. Johnson smiled and shook his head, saying, “next question,” as Republicans beside him booed."

As to Johnson being a creep, there's this comment from the LGM website.

And that's just one strange story this week.

It's been a totally Lily Tomlin week. You know -- "No matter how cynical you get, it's impossible to keep up."  It was a week so bizarre that a category 5 hurricane approaching Acapulco hardly got covered, while war sort of raged in the Middle East and Donald Trump got called a liar to his face by a judge in New York.

It was a week so 2020's that the latest mass murder (Lewiston, Maine) with the killer at large is just one more story. And while these stories of mayhem and murder were running above the fold, the government quietly dropped the news that the economy has been growing about as fast as it's possible to grow if you're not actually lying about it, that is to say, the GDP grew at 4.9% over the past quarter. This is a curious thing, considering that Republicans I have talked to recently were telling me how Biden has crashed the economy even as our cities are burning.

(Don't see a lot of burning around me. Admittedly, there was a fire on the Belmont Pier a few weeks ago that took five minutes to put out, but I don't think that's what they are talking about.)

Let's take the week's stories inside out, starting with Trump's comeuppance in New York.

You may remember that the judge in the New York State civil trial warned Trump about attempts to intimidate the courtroom staff, and this particularly included the judge's secretary. So the other day, Trump held a press conference where he referred to the judge and the person sitting next to the judge as being prejudiced. This certainly sounded like a violation of the gag order, because the secretary sits next to the judge in court. Now here is the kicker: Trump was called to the stand by the judge, and claimed that he wasn't talking about the secretary, but the person sitting in the witness chair.

I suppose it's possible. But the judge didn't buy it and said so directly. He fined Trump $10,000 to go along with the earlier $5000.

Donald Trump likes to pretend that he has the right to say whatever he wants, whenever he wants. I can think of two exceptions, and one is the right to intimidate witnesses,  jurors, and members of the court staff. The other, of course, is his right to tell a foreign national some of our nuclear submarine secrets.

But what is amusing here is that Donald Trump was finally called on the carpet by somebody who has the power to do so -- and it turns out that this category of person includes any judge who happens to be presiding over a matter involving Donald Trump.

It looks like the New York judge is carrying the burden of disciplining the errant Trump this month, leaving the federal judge in the District of Columbia to deal with all the time-wasting motions. My guess is that they will switch roles later in the year. We should remind ourselves that a criminal trial over felony charges in federal court will involve significantly tighter controls over the defendant. One might think of it this way: The New York judge is gradually warming the American people up to the idea of Donald Trump getting thrown in jail for contempt of court.

Things that are barely making the news

That hurricane is one more bit of evidence that global warming is having tangible effects that are affecting our civilization. The clue in this case is the rapid growth to category 5 in a short period of time.

And then there are the defendants pleading guilty in the Georgia election stealing case. We may be up to nine or ten such pleas within a couple of months, as the low level defendants scratch their way to a no-jail compromise with the authorities.

There is also the rumor that former chief of staff Mark Meadows may have cut a deal. One news source claims that Meadows took a grant of immunity. Remember that this is the person that staffer Cassidy Hutchinson testified about to the January 6 Committee. So how could a story of this magnitude be anything but a screaming headline, had it been any other week?

Back to the new Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson. He checks all the boxes, if you are a right wing Republican:

✅ Supported Trump's Big Lie about the stolen election? Check.

✅ Would like a national ban on abortion? Check

✅ Anti-gay? Check

✅ Philosophically a theocrat? I think his support of the Covenant Marriage says enough. Check

But there is one last box that we need to ask about. As a resident of Louisiana, does Mike Johnson now accept the reality of global warming, considering how many damaging storms have smashed the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida? If not, what does he say about the issue?

Or put it this way. The next time a truly ruinous hurricane damages one of those states, will Mike Johnson support an emergency appropriations bill? OK, I was asking tongue in cheek, because they always do pass those bills, but the question about global warming denial is legitimate.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics. He can be reached at [email protected].)