The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion The Republican clown-car caucus is undermining itself

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) holds up a document at a hearing in Washington on Wednesday. (Carolyn Kaster/AP)
4 min

Already, it is safe to say that the brand-new House Republican majority is off to an awful, abysmal, amateurish and appalling start. And those are just the applicable adjectives that begin with the letter A.

Their embarrassing performance at Tuesday night’s State of the Union address — where President Biden handled their boorish heckling with ease, making them look both obnoxious and ineffectual — put them in a hole. And then, for some unfathomable reason, they kept digging.

Eugene Robinson: Biden's State of the Union speech shows he is no punching bag

On Wednesday, Republicans’ first made-for-television, MAGA-themed public hearing fizzled and then backfired. The House Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), set out to prove the conspiracy theory that Big Tech social media companies have colluded with Democrats and the “deep state” to censor conservative views. But the former Twitter executives they hauled in to testify told a different story.

As the company acknowledged at the time, Twitter was wrong to briefly squelch an October 2020 story from the New York Post involving a laptop belonging to Joe Biden’s son Hunter. But the suppression lasted only one day, witnesses said, and was both imposed — and lifted — in an internal attempt to follow company policy. There were no orders from the FBI, as Republicans have claimed.

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But one of the former Twitter executives, Anika Collier Navaroli, said she knew of a government attempt to censor content: In 2019, she testified, a White House official leaned on the company — unsuccessfully — to take down a tweet by model Chrissy Teigen that insulted then-President Donald Trump in vulgar terms. Navaroli also testified that when Trump posted a tweet that clearly violated a policy against demonizing immigrants, Twitter relaxed the rule to avoid having to paste a warning label on the offending missive.

A former Twitter employee testified on Feb. 8 to the House Oversight committee that the company changed its policy to allow President Trump’s offensive tweets. (Video: The Washington Post)

Meanwhile, MAGA loudmouths on the committee made sure that no one could confuse the hearing with an actual search for truth. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) threatened the former Twitter execs with arrest. Reps. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) complained endlessly about their own accounts being “shadow-banned.”

I try to keep track of polls that show what issues U.S. voters care most about. The alleged shadow-banning of Boebert and Greene doesn’t show up on any of those lists, I’m afraid.

Oh, I forgot to mention that there was a brief power outage in the committee room during the hearing, and that Twitter had some system issues later in the day. “Coincidence?” tweeted Rep. Troy E. Nehls (R-Tex.). Uh, yes. Except maybe in the MAGA twilight zone.

You might think that all of this amounts to enough Republican self-sabotage for one week. But you would be wrong.

Dana Milbank: House Republicans bring the bread and circuses

On Thursday, the House Judiciary select subcommittee on the weaponization of the federal government, chaired by Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), held its first hearing, with the aim of proving that the FBI and the Justice Department have somehow become … well, I don’t know exactly what, but Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) testified at the hearing, and this is what he wrote in his prepared opening remarks:

“They operate as vital partners of the left wing political movement that includes most members of the mainstream media, Big Tech social media giants, global institutions and foundations, Democratic Party operatives and elected officials.”

I will posit that every day Republicans spend trying to convince voters that the FBI is part of some global, hydra-headed, Bond-villain leftist cabal is a good day for the Democratic Party.

I can think of ways House Republicans could more profitably go about trying to highlight mistakes or shortcomings of the Biden administration. I suspect that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) can, too. But McCarthy owes his job to the MAGA extremists in his caucus, so the GOP majority’s one chance to make a first impression is being squandered on conspiracy theories and personal grievances.

Eugene Robinson: George Santos is a fraud. Expel him from the House.

McCarthy can’t afford to alienate any of his members, so he can’t even rid his caucus of a confessed impostor, Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), despite calls by GOP leaders in Santos’s own district for his ouster. Offended by Santos’s presence at the State of the Union, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) confronted him publicly and then later described Santos as a “sick puppy.”

“We need a strong Republican Party,” former House speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told me Wednesday. She was serious — and she was right.

I did not share the GOP’s philosophy, back when it had one. But I’ve always believed that progressive ideas are sharper, and progressive policies more effective, when they are challenged by thoughtful conservative ideas and policies.

Right now, we have one center-left political party — the Democrats — and one flaming hot mess of ego, resentment and paranoia. It’s going to be a long two years.