Seven years ago, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) was so incensed by the Obama administration treating contraception like routine preventive care that the Pennsylvania Republican compared the policy to the attack on Pearl Harbor. Yesterday, during the debate over Donald Trump's impeachment, the same congressman made the same comparison.
I'll give Kelly credit for consistency, though he really ought to broaden his understanding of historical touchstones.
It was, however, that sort of day on the House floor. As one Democrat after another made principled cases condemning the president's abuses and misconduct, an alarming number of Republicans peddled truly ridiculous historical parallels, with Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-Ga.) going so far as to suggest Pontius Pilate was fairer to Jesus before his crucifixion.
The Georgia Republican did not appear to be kidding.
But as a Washington Post analysis added yesterday, the larger problem with the debate had less to do with misguided historical comparisons and more to do with Republicans' willingness to deny basic facts.
It's often been said that the two sides in the current impeachment debate can't even agree on basic facts. But increasingly for the GOP, that's also true of well-established and indisputable facts.Some Republicans have said President Trump's actions were bad but not impeachable. But a few of them have set out to argue for an alternate reality: One in which it's not conceivable that Trump did something wrong, because the things that happened didn't actually happen.
Fact-checking every speech and interview during yesterday's proceedings is practically impossible, though it's worth noting that Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), one of the White House's more sycophantic allies, was asked by a CBS News reporter whether it's appropriate for a president to ask a foreign country to go after a domestic rival. The North Carolina Republican replied by insisting yesterday that Joe Biden is not, in fact, a "campaign rival" to Donald Trump.
Around the same time, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, repeated his "four facts" that he believes helps clear the president of allegations of wrongdoing. The trouble, of course, is that some of the Georgian's purported "facts" aren't true.
All of which brings us back to Earl Landgrebe. As we discussed last week, at the height of the Watergate scandal, Richard Nixon was running low on friends. When the U.S. House voted to begin impeachment hearings, for example, the vote was 410 to 4. One of the four was an Indiana Republican named Earl Landgrebe.
Months later, as the disgraced president prepared to leave the White House, Landgrebe delivered a line that helped define his political career. "Don't confuse me with the facts," the congressman said the day before Nixon's resignation. "I've got a closed mind. I will not vote for impeachment. I'm going to stick with my president even if he and I have to be taken out of this building and shot."
Nearly a half-century later, it seems there's an entire political party of Earl Landgrebes.