A couple of weeks ago, Donald Trump’s Republican allies considered a variety of defenses to explain away the president’s racist criticisms of four Democratic congresswomen of color. The one from House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) stood out as … unique.
The Louisiana Republican suggested controversies like these wouldn’t happen if Democrats were as polite to Trump as GOP lawmakers were to Barack Obama during his presidency. “[W]e had disagreements with a lot of Barack Obama’s policies, but we never disrespected the office,” Scalise said. “We expressed our disagreements in a respectful, respectful way.”
The GOP congressman did not appear to be kidding. It led a variety of observers (including me) to point out a hearty list of instances in which Republicans registered their opposition to Obama in ways that were far short of “respectful.”
But Scalise isn’t the only one with a selective memory. Consider Donald Trump’s reflections of the Obama era at a White House event the other day.
“Frankly, the Republicans were gentlemen and women. When we had the majority in the House, they didn’t do subpoenas all day long. They didn’t do what they – what these people have done.”
The president has bragged more than once about having “one of the great memories of all time,” but partisan amnesia appears to be affecting him, too.
The point about Republican lawmakers being “gentlemen and women” toward Obama has already been discredited, but when it comes to Trump’s observations about subpoenas, the Associated Press explained that the sitting president is “distorting recent history.”
Republicans made aggressive use of their investigative powers when they controlled one chamber or the other during the Obama years. Moreover, matters involving Hillary Clinton, her use of email as secretary of state, her conduct of foreign policy and the Clinton Foundation were very much part of their scrutiny. And they weren’t notably polite about it.
Over the course of a few months in 2016, House Republicans controlling the oversight committee unleashed a barrage of subpoenas in what minority Democrats called a “desperate onslaught of frivolous attacks” and “everything in their arsenal against Secretary Clinton.” In addition, Clinton was investigated by the FBI.
Earlier, a half dozen GOP-led House committees conducted protracted investigations of the 2012 attacks on U.S. diplomats in Benghazi, Libya. Republican-led investigations of the 2009-2011 Operation Fast and Furious episode – a botched initiative against drug cartels that ended up putting guns in the hands of murderers – lasted into the Trump administration.
Obama was dogged by investigations into the Internal Revenue Service’s treatment of conservatives and his administration’s loan guarantee to the failed solar-panel startup, Solyndra. And much more.
Trump was well aware of the search for scandals at the time. He cheered Republican investigations from the sidelines, on Twitter.
If Trump and his allies want to try to defend the president, fine. If they want to push back against the scrutiny he’s facing, that’s normal, too.
But if they’re going to reflect on the Obama era, Republicans really ought to put down the rose-colored glasses.