Donald Trump

No, Congressional Republicans, Your Inability to Do Your Job Is Not the Media's Fault

Freedom Caucus Chair Mark Meadows tries to blame congressional inaction on the media's obsession with Trump/Russia.


In the run-up to Capitol Hill's two-day festival of high-profile congressional grillings of various intelligence types over President Donald Trump's controversial Russia-related activities, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), chairman of the influential House Freedom Caucus, penned a CNN Opinion op-ed with the spittake-worthy headline of "How Russia hysteria paralyzes Congress." And yes, Meadows really goes there:

[A]verage Americans…will tell you that they could care less about the latest Washington cable news drama. Rather, what they care about are policies that impact their families, their pocket books and their everyday lives.

Political media and DC elites often forget that the average American family is struggling to save for the future—and in fact almost half couldn't cover an unforeseen $400 expense. Despite the fact that millions of men and women across this country are working second and third jobs, they are struggling to feed their families.

Those Americans—from Western North Carolina to Ohio to Pennsylvania to Michigan—aren't focused on the latest breaking "news" on the Russia investigation. They care about seeing results and solutions that help their businesses survive—and grow. They care about having access to high quality, affordable health care. They care about lower taxes that allow them to keep more of their paychecks. They care about the safety and security of their family.

And, in Washington, we have done an abysmal job of maintaining our primary focus on those issues. Passing important policy that impacts every day Americans requires consensus building, marketing our ideas to constituents through media and building coalitions of support. With the constant focus on Russia, big important policy items like tax reform have been stalled….

The hysterics surrounding Russia merely serve to distract from accomplishing the priorities of the American people—and for what, partisan gain?

While I do appreciate the "we" in that penultimate paragraph, which at least acknowledges the existence of personal responsibility, the overall thrust of this exercise is to transform the word and into because. Congress has done an abysmal job AND there are a lot of media hysterics surrounding Russia, not BECAUSE.

Media obsession with Trump/Russia has not prevented the GOP-led Congress from doing the de minimis legislative-branch job of passing a freaking budget. Rachel Maddow's heavy breathing had nothing whatsoever to do with last month's congressional agreement to increase federal spending. It ain't Russian hookers slipping the handcuffs on the vast majority of congressmen when it comes to exercising constitutional responsibility for the waging of war. Tax reform is stalled largely for the decidedly less sexy reason that Republicans do not yet agree amongst themselves precisely how taxes should be reformed. And I reckon that when it comes to the most potentially significant act Congress has taken—the deeply flawed and remarkably unpopular American Health Care Act, which has Meadows' fingerprints all over it—the Freedom Caucus chair may soon wish he had been blocked by the distractionistas in the liberal media.

Not only is Meadows soft-pedaling the agency of politicians who, after all, have a literal vote when it comes to legislation, he's doing so in a way that carries the distinct whiff of pre-emptively minimizing in a timely manner the headline-making acts of congressional oversight this week against a Republican president. While inserting a make-no-mistake sentence about how "it's critical that we not gloss over any potential wrongdoing in the Russia investigation," Meadows nonetheless throws scare-quotes around the latest "scandal" and breaking "news," which was certainly not his rhetorical style when vigorously investigating the IRS/Tea Party targeting and all things Benghazi.

Meadows is on firmer ground when he asserts that "media and political hysterics" can "work in opposition to…getting to truth and transparency." Lordy is there ever hysteria out there. But in our two-party, three-branch, four-estate, fundamentally adversarial system, every scandal that rises to the level of televised hearings is guaranteed to come with generous helpings of partisan and media spittle. What's more—and this can really hurt the feelings of some of us who nurture romantic ideas about the pursuit of capital-T Truth—base partisanship is often a more potent motivation than the Scientific Method when unearthing politically relevant facts.

That, plus skepticism particularly of executive branch power, is why I defended the GOP's often hyperbolic efforts to scrutinize Hillary Clinton's actions involving Benghazi, and it's why I'd like to see constitutional conservatives hold Trump's feet more firmly to the fire when it comes to his obstructiony behavior. The media can be crying wolf, Democrats can be ludicrously conspiratorial, Congress can be cowardly, average Americans can be hurting, AND a president can be guilty of at least some wrongdoing, all at the same time. It has, after all, happened before.