This headline from the Washington Post comes directly from the Someone Left the Irony On Department, with apologies to Mad Magazine. The most hilarious part of the headline is that none of the editors there saw the flaw in the argument. Let’s see if our readers can:
I screencapped it in case the Post suddenly finds an answer to the chicken-egg question they raised. Unlike that purely philosophical argument, it’s possible in this instance to determine which one came first. Democrats have launched an unprecedented number of investigations into Donald Trump, and not just his actions in office but also his personal business and finances. There’s an all-out war going on, all right, but it wasn’t Trump that launched it. One might think that a Beltway editor would see the “more than 20 separate Democratic probes” part of the story and figure that much out.
Their lead seems a bit less contradictory but still lays all the blame at Trump’s feet:
President Trump and his allies are working to block more than 20 separate investigations by Democrats into his actions as president, his personal finances and his administration’s policies, according to a Washington Post analysis, amounting to what many experts call the most expansive White House obstruction effort in decades.
Trump’s noncooperation strategy has shifted from partial resistance to all-out war as he faces mounting inquiries from the Democratic-controlled House — a strategy that many legal and congressional experts fear could undermine the institutional power of Congress for years to come. All told, House Democrats say the Trump administration has failed to respond to or comply with at least 79 requests for documents or other information.
The president is blocking aides from testifying, refusing entire document requests from some committees, filing lawsuits against corporations to bar them from responding to subpoenas and asserting executive privilege to keep information about the special counsel’s Russia investigation from public view. One such case will come to a head in court on Tuesday, when a federal judge is expected to rule on whether Trump can quash a House Oversight Committee subpoena demanding financial records from his personal accounting firm.
As Paul Mirengoff explains at Power Line, a significant part of their story relies on spin, too. For instance, in two cases cited by the Post, the administration has been open to appearances before House committees, but under normal operating procedures. For Attorney General William Barr, Democrats insist on having Barr answer questions from staff attorneys; Democrats also want DoJ official John Gore to appear without a Department of Justice attorney present to advise him on areas of executive privilege. Democrats refused to budge in either case from their unusual conditions, which prompted Barr to decline in both cases.
Paul makes the broader point on the chicken-egg argument as well:
Moreover, the Post has the big picture backwards. It is House Democrats, having launched more than 20 separate investigations of the president, including many relating to his personal and business affairs (and those of family members), who are waging “all-out war” against Trump. They are engaged in the most expansive harassment campaign against a president in decades, and probably ever.
It’s natural — a matter of simple math — that the more investigations the House launches against a president, the more instances of resistance it will encounter. That’s especially true when House committees insist on unreasonable conditions like refusing to let witnesses bring White House lawyers with them.
Moreover, at some point any self-respecting White House will conclude that the House is acting in bad faith. At that point, the pattern of harassment will be countered by a pattern of resistance.
That’s what has happened here. The Democrats’ all-out war on Trump has resulted in an all-out defensive war by the president.
Congress has a responsibility to conduct oversight on the executive branch, and has constitutional authority to do so to the extent that it meets legislative purposes. This is something entirely different. House Democrats are trying to impose a parliamentary system through an oversight back door by rejecting a president elected by the states. Having lost the argument that Trump rigged his electoral victory, Democrats plan to force him out of office anyway by relentlessly “investigating” Trump, his family, and his administration and humiliating anyone who might work for either. This will set a precedent in which no governance is possible when presidents come from the opposing party of the House majority.
Small wonder that Trump is responding in kind. Regardless of his personal merits and demerits, it’s entirely understandable that Trump has concluded that there’s no point in trying to cooperate with the House on its “investigations.” Lindsey Graham told the Post that this has gone from oversight to something else entirely:
Republicans on Capitol Hill also defend Trump’s decision to resist congressional inquiries, with Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) calling the investigations the result of a political party still embittered about losing the White House in 2016.
“If I were Trump, I’d protect my family, and I’d protect my interests of the presidency and fight it out in court,” Graham said. “Oversight’s one thing. Revenge is another.”
Indeed. Reasonable oversight is one thing, and perhaps this administration can use it more than some others. What is happening here, especially after the collapse of the Russia-collusion hypothesis in the Mueller report, is far from reasonable. Democrats declared war on the president, not the other way around. The Post’s complaining headline is the journalistic equivalent of the adolescent cri de coeur, “Mom — he hit me back!”