Lucky for them that global terrorism has been defeated. Otherwise this would have been deeply embarrassing, a real-life punchline to a joke about how obsessed Democrats are with taking down Trump.
It’s not Republicans who leaked this news to try to score a point on Pelosi’s caucus, either. This is Democrats themselves boasting to reporters about where their priorities lie. Trump first, then terrorism somewhere down the list. Down below the, ahem, “Green New Deal” somewhere.
Congressional committees, like the priorities of the politicians who run them, change with the times. On Wednesday morning, Eliot Engel, the Democratic congressman from New York who has just taken over the chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, sank into an oversized leather chair in his office and told me that his first act as chairman will be to create a new subcommittee devoted to investigating President Trump.
After the 9/11 attacks, Engel’s predecessors on Foreign Affairs set up a new terrorism subcommittee, which underscored America’s sudden, obsessive focus on countering such threats. It is telling that this is the subcommittee that Engel will now eliminate in favor of his new investigative panel. There “wasn’t a great clamor” to keep the terrorism panel, Engel told me, whereas there is no end to the Trump foreign-policy scandals that his members are pushing to investigate. “We just thought, if we’re going to do something relevant in this era where Congress is going to reassert itself, where there are so many questionable activities of this Administration vis-à-vis foreign policy, that it made sense to have this.” Trump, in other words, is a bigger threat than terrorism. At least for now.
Terrorism’s never a big threat until it is. Engel might be calculating that there’s no political risk to shutting down a House terrorism watchdog when the president belongs from the other party. If, after all, God forbid a bomb goes off somewhere in America tomorrow, the public won’t be clamoring to know why some House subcommittee didn’t sniff out the plot. They’ll want to know why and how Trump and Kirstjen Nielsen dropped the ball.
But what about all the grief Engel and Pelosi will take for this move before any bombs go off? There was plenty of indignant chatter yesterday, understandably, about POTUS saying that he finds fascist China “frankly in many ways, to be far more honorable than cryin’ Chuck and Nancy.” Meanwhile, “Trump, in other words, is a bigger threat than terrorism” in the Democratic mind. We have the leaderships of both parties comparing domestic enemies unfavorably to foreign ones. If Engel’s hellbent on investigating Trump, he should have found a way to staff that subcommittee without sacrificing the terrorism subcommittee to do it.
But there’s another question. Why does the Foreign Affairs Committee need to investigate POTUS in the first place? The House Oversight Committee is already on the case, as is the House Intel Committee, as is the House Judiciary Committee. Literally every committee in the chamber will end up with an arm looking into Trump, if only to show progressives that they’re capital-R Resisting. Maybe it’s Pelosi who should start eliminating redundant subcommittees and collapse all of the Trump investigations into one big Committee to Defeat the President.
Anyway. It’s political malpractice, it’ll be targeted soon by POTUS as glaring evidence of Trump Derangement Syndrome, and inevitably the terrorism subcommittee will be quickly and quietly reinstated. The next time you hear Dem leaders grumbling that Rashida Tlaib went off-message by howling that it’s time to impeach the MFer, remind them that at least Tlaib didn’t try shuttering any terrorism watchdogs to feed her impeachment fantasies. Good lord.