In June 2018, then-Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) complained that too much of today's Republican Party has found itself in "a cult-like situation as it relates to a president." Soon after, Donald Trump Jr. appeared on Fox News and was surprisingly reluctant to reject the criticism.
"You know what," the president's adult son said, "if it's a cult, it's because they like what my father is doing."
In other words, Trump Jr. was comfortable with the use of the "cult," but uncomfortable with the Republican senator's reluctance to join the GOP sect.
A year and a half later, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), somehow the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, used the same word during yesterday floor debate on the presidential impeachment inquiry. As the Washington Post's Dana Milbank noted, the GOP congressman's rhetoric was "jaw-dropping."
He railed about the sort of person who believes in "conspiracy theories" and relies on "defamation and slander," who spins a "preposterous narrative" with "no evidence" and only "bizarre obsession."Surely he was describing one Donald J. Trump to a T?On the contrary, Nunes applied these Trumpian signatures to Democrats. "What we're seeing among Democrats on the Intelligence Committee," he said, "is like a cult. These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy to another."
I realize that I'm-rubber-and-you're-glue projection has become common in Republican circles of late, but Devin Nunes' "no puppeting" efforts were extraordinary, even by 2019 standards.
It would've been entirely appropriate for one of Nunes' Democratic colleagues to borrow his notes, walk to a microphone, and repeat some of his comments, word for word: "These are a group of people loyally following their leader as he bounces from one outlandish conspiracy to another."
Nunes' fellow Californian, Rep. Jackie Speier (D), responded soon after, "Devin Nunes calling the Intelligence Committee's fact-finding mission a cult is despicable. I know about cults. Cults are led by maniacal narcissists who expect complete adoration and relinquishment of independent thought. I suggest Mr. Nunes look elsewhere."
It's worth emphasizing for context that Speier knows of what she speaks: in 1978, she was a congressional staffer who helped investigate Jonestown. Speier was shot five times by cult members, and her boss at the time, Rep. Leo Ryan (D-Calif.), was murdered.