Sunday, March 24, 2024

Sunday Reading

The Real Reason for the Biden Impeachment — Michael Tomasky in The New Republic.

James Comer, that caged monkey with a cocaine drip, just can’t stop. He wants President Biden to come to his House committee to testify. At the end of a hearing on Wednesday that was just an abject humiliation for his party and for him personally, Comer actually said with a straight face: “In the coming days I will invite President Biden to the Oversight Committee to provide his testimony and explain why his family received tens of millions of dollars.… We need to hear from the president himself.”

The White House reacted with an appropriate “LOL,” and there’s no sign I’ve seen that Comer is planning on issuing the president a subpoena, which would be insane. But who’s to say he won’t one day?

Ah, interesting question. Because there is a precise answer to who’s to say he won’t: Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott, Sean Hannity, and everyone else at Fox who runs the Republican Party. This whole thing happened because Fox wanted it to happen. And therein lies a lesson for all of us about how a morally corrupt entity, which settled a lawsuit for three-quarters of a billion dollars because its executives were mortified about what the country was likely to learn about how they do business, has perverted American democracy.

As Media Matters’s Matt Gertz wrote at this week, “The House Republican impeachment inquiry satisfied Fox stars’ long-standing demands for a Biden impeachment, which began before he was even elected.” Fox and the New York Post and other right-wing outlets tried to make Hunter Biden an issue in the 2020 campaign. They claimed a great victory over the snaring of Hunter’s laptop, although we still don’t know what was on it that was supposedly so incriminating.

Then, after the GOP captured the House in the 2022 midterms, Fox shoved it into overdrive. Hannity, Gertz notes, did 325 segments on Hunter in 2023. Think of that. There are only 260 weekdays in a year. So that’s many shows with two segments. Which of course the story deserved, because the Biden crime family was the biggest scandal in American history!

Except there is no story, and no Biden crime family. Everything Comer and Jim Jordan have charged has collapsed. Everything. The Democrats on Comer’s committee drew attention Wednesday to the parade of schmegegges the Republicans have marched up to the Hill. Tony Bobulinski’s testimony has been riddled with inconsistencies, and he has his own alleged Russian connections, The Daily Beast reported. Jason Galanis has said nothing of importance that we know of that’s been substantiated. Alexander Smirnov was a great key witness; then he was indicted, and suddenly Comer said he “wasn’t an important part” of the probe. But my favorite is Gal Luft, whom Comer once described as “very credible.” Luft alleged that the Bidens received payments from China—then was indicted on allegations that he himself was an agent for China (he denies this).

But Comer kept it going, and he kept it going for one simple reason: Fox News, and the rest of the right-wing media following its lead, set up a very clear reward system. Comer and Jordan, and anyone else who cared to, make allegations; they get invited on Fox to talk them up; the small-dollar donations come in from the suckers who believe this spittle; and lies get filtered out into the discourse by a non-right-wing media that wants scoops and clicks but also fears in the back of its collective mind that it’s just possible that the Republicans are onto something and that if they dismiss that possibility, they’re guilty of liberal bias.

It’s the right-wing propaganda equivalent of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s famous stages of grief. The five stages of right-wing propaganda: Assert, repeat, raise money, repeat again, blame the deep state when it falls apart. But now there is a sixth stage, which is when even Fox taps on the brakes and tells stooges like Comer, OK, you idiot, you have failed, it’s time to move on. This gives Fox the richly undeserved opportunity to look “responsible,” after five years of suggesting that Joe Biden was the most corrupt person in America since Boss Tweed.

None of it would have happened without the existence of this Fox doom loop. A lot of things wouldn’t have happened. Donald Trump’s march to the 2016 nomination wouldn’t have happened without Fox. Once Rupert saw that the enraged base he and Roger Ailes had spent two decades creating was demanding nothing less than an openly racist demagogue who talked smack on everyone Fox and Rush Limbaugh had taught them to despise, he decided to pave Trump’s way. Fox could have ended Trump’s rise at any point it wanted to in 2015 or 2016, but Trump was too good for business, and besides, he was the network’s unchecked id.

This is what happens to a democracy when a “news” organization becomes the command headquarters of a political party. And it is that—the command headquarters. It is not an “arm” of the GOP, as is often said; it is the brain, which sounds like a big statement but isn’t, really, since the GOP auto-lobotomized years ago.

Remember, that other lawsuit is coming—a judge ruled in January that the Smartmatic suit could proceed, rejecting Fox’s arguments. Smartmatic says Fox aired lies about the voting company as it repeated its false story line about the 2020 election. Fox says the suit is a baseless attempt to infringe upon its free speech rights.

People are reportedly being deposed now. There’s reason to think that, someday, we’ll see those depositions. They’ll tell us, again, what the Dominion lawsuit depositions told us. With any luck, this one will go to trial and Scott and others will have to place their hands on a Bible and swear to tell the truth, assuming their flesh doesn’t catch fire once it touches the good book. Then, maybe, America will finally see.

Doonesbury — Testify!