House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) hasn’t done his career any favors lately. The gambit behind his ridiculous “memo” failed spectacularly; Democrats are demanding Nunes’ ouster from his powerful post; and last week, the California Republican was credibly accused of leaking texts from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s ranking member to Fox News as part of an unusually misguided partisan stunt.
Slate added last week that Nunes’ greatest hits include “being forced to admit that he hasn’t personally read the court documents that he based an FBI–Hillary conspiracy memo on, being forced to admit that the FBI actually did disclose the information about Trump ‘dossier’ author Christopher Steele that Nunes had accused it of not disclosing, and being forced to admit that he had coordinated his statements about the phony Obama ‘wiretapping’ story with the White House and then lied about it.”
But don’t worry, Nunes’ embarrassing failures and ruined reputation haven’t stopped him from identifying the real dangers facing the nation.
One of the nation’s exercises in democracy can be found on late-night TV. Hosts crack sharply critical jokes about the country’s politicians without fear of retribution from said politicians.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) sees that exercise very differently. He told Fox News Channel that a skit Stephen Colbert did mocking Nunes’s memo alleging FBI bias in the Russia investigation is a danger to the country.
Colbert aired a segment late last week, showing him on Capitol Hill distributing a joke memo he’s prepared. The five-word document read, “Devin Nunes is a [redacted],” and the CBS host asked various people what they thought the redacted word might be.
“I think this is the danger we have in this country,” Nunes told Fox News a day later. “This is an example of it.” The congressman added that Colbert and others on the left “attack people who are trying to get to the truth.”
Oh, where to start.
First, Colbert is a comedian, and while I realize this is the Trump era, and there’s an unsettling authoritarian streak in certain corners, American politicians should probably avoid describing late-night talk-show hosts as being part of a national “danger.”
The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee has access to the nation’s most sensitive secrets, and in theory, he’s acutely aware of real threats. Stephen Colbert isn’t one of them.
Second, we’ve all had ample opportunity to see the kind of work Devin Nunes does, and the idea that he’s someone “trying to get to the truth” is demonstrably silly. The California Republican is trying to protect his party and its president, even if that means becoming a national punch-line.
Or as one of Nunes’ GOP colleagues put it last year, “You have to keep in mind who [Nunes] works for. He works for the president and answers to the president.”