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Already in a ditch, Josh Hawley finds a shovel, keeps digging

How would Josh Hawley repair his standing and reputation? An answer has come into focus: he's decided not to try.
Image: Senate Republicans Hold Media Availability After Policy Luncheon
Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks to reporters on Oct. 20, 2020, in Washington.Stefani Reynolds / Getty Images file

The new year probably isn't turning out quite the way Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) intended. Over the course of three weeks, the far-right senator's anti-election efforts have turned him into a political "pariah" on Capitol Hill, but the troubles are not limited to the Beltway.

Hawley has been denounced by former allies; some donors want their money back; businesses don't want anything to do with him; the Missouri Republican faces multiple calls that he resign in disgrace; and seven of his Senate colleagues filed an ethics complaint against him last week.

It was far from clear how, exactly, the senator might take steps to repair his standing and reputation. In recent days, an answer has come into focus: Hawley has decided not to try.

When he challenged the legitimacy of Joe Biden's Electoral College win in the Senate and voted to reject the results of the election in Arizona and Pennsylvania, Hawley explained Friday, he merely "gave voice" to Missourians who were concerned about allegations of fraud. "I was very clear from the beginning that I was never attempting to overturn the election," he said.

I wish that were true. It's not. Mother Jones' Tim Murphy published ample evidence that discredits the Republican senator's defense, but of particular interest was a Fox News interview on Jan. 4 -- two days before the deadly insurrectionist riot -- in which Bret Baier asked Hawley whether he believed Donald Trump would remain president on Inauguration Day 2021.

"Well, Bret, it depends on what happens on Wednesday," Hawley said, referring to the day in which Congress was scheduled to formally certify Joe Biden's victory.

In other words, as recently as three weeks ago, the Missouri Republican was telling a national television audience the outcome of the election was still in doubt. Whether Trump remained in power -- whether the election would be overturned -- would "depend on" the events of Jan. 6.

It was also on Jan. 6, of course, that Hawley was photographed giving the insurrectionist mob a thumbs up and a raised fist in apparent solidarity, shortly before the deadly riot.

And yet, despite this ugly record, Hawley just keeps digging. Over the weekend, the GOP senator, whose book will soon be published, wrote an op-ed for the New York Post -- a conservative, high-circulation newspaper -- suggesting he's been "muzzled." (The irony was apparently lost on him.)

In the op-ed, Hawley continued to argue that by fighting against election results, he was merely "representing the views" of his constituents -- a claim that continues to be deeply foolish, no matter how frequently the senator repeats it.

And this morning, the Missouri Republican went just a little further, calling for an ethics investigation into those senators who filed an ethics complaint against him.

In other words, Josh Hawley found himself in a ditch, and grabbed a shovel to dig deeper. After disgusting and infuriating his colleagues, the far-right senator settled on a strategy of making matters worse, no doubt hoping that it will help him inherit Donald Trump's most rabid followers.

And that plan may very well work. Is it worth trading one's reputation for a shot at succeeding Trump in the eyes of the GOP's base? For Hawley, this is an apparently easy call.

Postscript: The Missouri senator's recent voting record is consistent with his overall posture. The Senate last week confirmed two members of President Biden's cabinet: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines. Hawley is one of only two senators to vote against both.