The House’s new GOP majority is ignoring a key principle I learned during my five years working for Republicans on the House Oversight Committee: Manage expectations. Its “make accusations first, get the facts never” approach to oversight is doomed to over-promise, under-deliver and fall flat with the vast majority of voters.
House Republicans begin with a massive credibility deficit. A recent Navigator Research poll found that only 16% of Americans think the GOP’s obsessive investigations are important. And the Pew Research Center found that 65% of U.S. adults believe Republicans will be overly focused on investigating the Biden administration.
Independent voters convened for a Washington Post focus group viewed the Republican majority’s agenda as mostly about revenge against Democrats and showed little interest in its preoccupation with Hunter Biden, the president’s son. When asked about the absurd new House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, most Americans surveyed by ABC News and the Washington Post did not find it legitimate.
Knowing all that, you would think congressional Republicans would do their best to ensure that the first hearings would deliver the goods. No such luck.
Up first Wednesday, Kentucky Rep. James Comer’s Oversight Committee convened a hearing sensationally titled “Protecting Speech From Government Interference and Social Media Bias, Part 1: Twitter’s Role in Suppressing the Biden Laptop Story.”
Unfortunately for Republicans, however, the former Twitter executives they handpicked to serve as witnesses undermined their central thesis, testifying that they were not directed by the FBI or any other official to suppress information about Hunter Biden. The only revelation of federal interference with free speech concerned the previous White House’s efforts to get Twitter to censor model Chrissy Teigen’s criticism of former President Trump.
Unable to get their own witnesses to validate their accusations, Republicans on the panel tried to ignore the testimony and make unsubstantiated claims about the Bidens. That blew up in their faces, too, when freshman Rep. Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.) debunked one of Comer’s claims about the younger Biden in real time. As Bloomberg reported, “Comer offered no counterarguments to Goldman, tried to move the hearing along and then suggested a bathroom break.”
The next day, the inaugural hearing of the “Weaponization” committee took place. Once again, Republicans used it to advance baseless conspiracy theories about everyone from Hillary Clinton to Dr. Anthony Fauci. Their “star” witnesses were Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa and Fox News personalities Tulsi Gabbard and Jonathan Turley — who, as you might expect, offered no evidence to substantiate GOP claims of bias within the Justice Department. When challenged by Democrats to produce witnesses, documents, notes and transcripts from whistleblowers that would substantiate the accusations, committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) refused.
It was obvious from these first two attempts at oversight that House Republicans have absolutely nothing. Their strained efforts to prove there is a “there” there are backfiring spectacularly and raising serious questions about the basic competence of Jordan and Comer.
The American people have no appetite for such taxpayer-financed witch hunts. Most of the voters who pulled the lever for Republicans in the midterm elections couldn’t care less about a member of the first family who doesn’t even serve in the government. They’re far more concerned about the economy and inflation.
House Republicans have overplayed their hand. Turning congressional hearing rooms into a Fox News set will only expose the new majority as thoroughly out of touch with the American people.
Kurt Bardella is a contributing writer to Opinion. He is a Democratic strategist and a former senior advisor to Republicans on the House Oversight Committee. @KurtBardella