5 Totally Ridiculous Republican Reversals In 2016
Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.
With the election over and Republicans occupying all branches of government, as well as controlling most state legislatures, it’s easy to forget that just a few short months ago the Republican Party seemed to be collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions. The nomination of Trump, whose positions on trade and government benefits seemed to put him at odds with establishment Republicans, signaled a rejection of conservatism and an embrace of white nationalism. Meanwhile, the revelations of a widespread culture of sexual harassment at Fox News and the resulting ouster of the predatory Roger Ailes exposed the hollowness of conservative media’s lament that the country was straying from “traditional family values.” Headlines gleefully predicted the demise of the GOP. At Esquire, Charlie Pierce asked rhetorically, “Are You Ready for the End of the Republican Party?” Salon was even more direct, declaring, “Republicans are doomed.”
The shocking results of the election forced everyone to revisit their assumptions and understand where their analysis went wrong. But even in the deeply disorienting post-election political landscape, at least one thing has held up: the profound, almost comical hypocrisy of Republicans. When Ted Cruz talked about how the Democrats were set to be historically obstructionist, it was hard to know which alternate reality the Texas senator and Green Eggs and Ham filibusterer was occupying. Yes, hypocrisy has only intensified since the election, twisting them into logical pretzels so tortured they made Cirque du Soleil look like beginner’s gymnastics.
Below, we take a look at five of the biggest examples of post-election about-faces from Republicans.
1. Jason Chaffetz flip-flops on launching a House probe.
In late October, when Hillary Clinton’s victory in the presidential contest seemed all but assured, the Washington Post reported that House Republicans were gearing up for another investigation into Clinton’s tenure at the State Department. The story quoted Jason Chaffetz, a Utah congressman and head of the House Oversight Committee, saying, “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years worth of material lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.”
Fast-forward to Trump’s electoral college victory. Many, including Chaffetz’s home-state paper, the Salt Lake Tribune, are calling for investigations into potential conflicts of interest in a Trump administration. Surely, someone chomping at the bit to probe alleged conflicts of interest in the past would be even more bullish about preventing a member of his own party from committing the same type of infraction in the future, right?
Not Jason Chaffetz. In a statement to the Tribune, he pleaded for patience: “At least let the guy become a federal employee before you start screaming for investigations.” Hillary Clinton, apparently, wasn’t entitled to the same grace period.
2. Mitch McConnell: Leaks about presidential candidates are partisan when you do it, but not when we do it.
Mitch McConnell, never exactly a profile in courage, hit a new low this year when he declared that Senate Republicans would not allow a vote on President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Merrick Garland. For this unprecedented obstructionism, along with a general strategy of denying Obama any legislative victories after Republicans swept to power, he was rewarded with a Senate majority and a Republican in the White House.
Many were quick to praise McConnell’s political tactics for delivering the victory. But it was not so much his shrewd political instincts as his flexible principles that helped him when it mattered most. Case in point: as evidence has mounted in recent weeks that Russian hackers attempted to tilt the election toward Donald Trump, McConnell has held firm in insisting that there is no need for a Select Committee to investigate the matter, because the Senate intelligence panel is “fully capable of handling this.”
Silly Democrats! Select Committees are for serious, definitely-not-made-up issues like Benghazi, an effort which was backed by—you guessed it—Mitch McConnell, back in 2014. Good to see he has his priorities straight.
3. Ted Cruz’s boot-licking act.
On some level, you have to feel for Ted Cruz. He was the subject of more embarrassing viral episodes this year than any other public figure, a cringeworthy litany of gaffes and humiliations that reached its nadir with a short video of him cold-calling voters on Donald Trump’s behalf. This, mind you, came after Donald Trump had branded him “Lyin’ Ted,” insulted his wife and baselessly accused his father of conspiring with Lee Harvey Oswald to kill JFK. To top it all off, Cruz didn’t get the warmest reception from his colleagues upon his return to the Senate.
But c’mon. This is Ted Cruz we’re talking about. All his talk of principles and values are hogwash unless they are in the service of his higher political ambitions. Since his infamous “Vote your conscience” line at his RNC speech—admittedly one of his finer moments—he’s lavished praise on Trump, calling his election “an amazing victory for the American worker.” Rumors even circulated that Cruz met with Trump to discuss a potential cabinet position. Who needs principles when there are boots to lick and rings to kiss?
4. Mike Pence’s about-face on Trump.
Contrary to popular belief, former Indiana governor-turned-VP-elect Mike Pence wasn’t always so gaga over his running mate (or his broad shoulders). According to Dan Senor, a former Bush administration official, Pence once privately lamented to him that Donald Trump was “unacceptable” as a presidential nominee—one of the rare and disorienting instances in which we actually find ourselves agreeing with Mike Pence.
But that was then. How Trump went from “unacceptable” to “Reaganesque” in Pence’s eyes, within a matter of months, is pretty shocking, considering the fact that Trump did not demonstrably change his behavior between the primaries and the general election. What’s more, the president-elect has given no indication that he’ll moderate his behavior since being elected, lashing out at journalists and critics in fits of pique. But judging by his preliminary personnel choices, Trump is certainly embracing elements of Pence’s far-right agenda, which could help explain the VP-elect’s Faustian bargain with the man he once disdained.
5. Rick Perry: Trump is a ‘cancer on conservatism,’ and I’m working for him.
Rick Perry raised many eyebrows on the left and the right with his fiery denunciation of Trump back in July 2015, calling him a “cancer on conservatism” and a “barking carnival act” when other GOP candidates were only offering up tepid criticisms of the eventual nominee. Granted, Perry was probably eager to do anything that might shake up his moribund campaign; nonetheless, many observers were impressed with his willingness to stake out a clear position on Trump’s candidacy and what it represented.
Whatever bipartisan goodwill Perry garnered with his speech quickly dissipated when he threw his support behind Trump in May. Apparently, the man Perry predicted would “lead the Republican Party to perdition” was a better bet than a committed, qualified civil servant like Hillary Clinton. But the erstwhile Texas governor didn’t stop there. Just a couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Perry would be heading up the Energy Department under President Trump, dispelling any lingering doubts that Trump was looking for someone who was, y’know, qualified. A more charitable view would hold that Perry felt a civic obligation to serve in Trump’s administration despite his misgivings. Then again, this is the department Perry pledged to eliminate last time he ran for president. Oops.
IMAGE: Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich stand together onstage at the start of the Republican candidates debate sponsored by CNN at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper