Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Anger Management Class) followed the plan to the letter.

The House Oversight Committee held a video Q&A Tuesday with Christi Grimm, the civil servant who earned a verbal lashing from President Trump, and got replaced from her position as top in-house watchdog at the Department of Health and Human Services after she documented critical shortages of protective equipment at the nation’s hospitals.

As the ranking Republican on the panel, Jordan couldn’t very well defend Trump’s quashing of yet another whistleblower, and he didn’t try. Instead, he did what president and party demand of him: He blamed China.

“I’m hopeful that the majority will stop playing these partisan games,” he protested, and instead “conduct meaningful oversight to hold China accountable for this pandemic.”

Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) took the baton. He declared that “a significant cause of the shortages was China’s efforts to cause our PPE shortage.” He asked about allegations “that the Chinese government hid the severity of the pandemic,” and thereby caused “a delay in the administration’s ability to respond.”

Speaking to reporters on May 15, President Donald Trump said he had “lost a little flavor” for the trade deal he signed with China in February. (The Washington Post)

Following Comer’s remarks, Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) said the China pivot “is fascinating to me because I count at least 37 different statements by President Trump in January, February, March and April praising the Chinese government and defending the performance of General Xi.”

Therein lies the trouble with Trump’s, and Republicans’, plans to make attacks on China the focus of the election. Probably no U.S. leader has praised China’s government as effusively and as often as Trump. There’s no way to campaign against that same government without acknowledging Trump was played for a fool.

The Senate Republicans’ campaign arm has advised candidates: “Don’t defend Trump, other than the China Travel Ban — attack China.” Republican incumbents have attacked Democratic challengers for alleged ties to China. Pro-Trump groups have tried to link “BeijingBiden” with China. Trump spent the past few days denouncing China (“it should have been stopped at its source,” “ban on Chinese people,” “Chinese virus,” “China doesn’t want me to win,” “Nobody in 50 years has been WEAKER on China than Sleepy Joe Biden”).

But on Jan. 15, when the virus was already spreading from China to the rest of the world, Trump stood in the East Room of the White House celebrating a now-doubtful trade deal with China. “I want to thank President Xi [Jinping], a very, very good friend of mine,” Trump said, adding that the two had “developed an incredible relationship” through “honest” negotiations.

It was one of dozens of times Trump extolled the virtues of his “friend” Xi, whose regime now is moving to end political freedoms in Hong Kong and to threaten Taiwan with warships. “My respect and friendship with President Xi is unlimited,” he said a year ago. “I like President Xi a lot,” he said at another point, calling him a “gentleman.” Anther time he attested: “President Xi is a good man. He’s a friend of mine.” In late January, Trump proclaimed that “our relationship with China now might be the best it’s been in a long, long time.”

There’s abundant evidence that China hid early signs of the coronavirus, and that it didn’t move quickly enough. But here again, Trump looks like a dupe for saying so. Among his statements praising Xi’s government:

China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency … I want to thank President Xi!”

Xi “is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus … Great discipline is taking place in China, as President Xi strongly leads what will be a very successful operation.”

I think they’ve handled it professionally and I think they’re extremely capable and I think President Xi is extremely capable.”

I know this: President Xi loves the people of China, he loves his country, and he’s doing a very good job with a very, very tough situation.”

As recently as last month, Trump was talking about his “great respect for President Xi. I consider him to be a friend of mine.”

What’s Trump to do now that it’s obvious he fell for a dictator’s charms, much like when he “fell in love” with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un? Now his friend’s government is talking about a “new Cold War” with the United States. The president is so “miffed” that even the trade deal that blinded him to Xi’s intentions is no longer “as important to him,” economic adviser Larry Kudlow told Fox News Tuesday.

Just miffed? Trump, perhaps compensating for being hoodwinked by China, has now gone full xenophobe, lashing out at an Asian American journalist for CBS News by telling her to “ask China” her question.

Hell hath no fury like a president suckered.

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