Don’t think for a moment that this cartoonish dramatic reading of a rando constituent letter on the House floor by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) is about Donald Trump. Fudge yesterday offered this distilled version of the hyperbolic and paranoid ramblings coming from House Democrats over the past two years about Trump, using the hoary rhetorical device of a constituent complaint, but it’s not really about Trump. This is all about Nancy Pelosi and her leadership of the House Democratic caucus:
During today’s Special Morning Hour, I shared a letter from an OH-11 constituent concerning the current administration. Watch the video to view the full floor speech. pic.twitter.com/D3yx7lDECP
— Rep. Marcia L. Fudge (@RepMarciaFudge) June 11, 2019
“ ‘A mobster? A con man? A gangster in the White House? I think so,’ ” Fudge read. The letter then went through a rundown of Trump’s behavior before turning attention to his followers.
“ ‘It is glaringly apparent that many who support the president’s administration are either racists, steeped in religious beliefs, ignorant, or as my mother used to say, just plain dumb,’ ” Fudge read. “ ‘I believe the crooked ascension of Trump to the Oval Office is a gauge that measures the declining patriotic and moral values of the many citizens of America.’ ” …
“ ‘My growing concern is that the Congress and Senate of the United States have more of a personal interest for themselves rather than a patriotic duty to the people they represent,’ ” she read. “ ‘The Republicans appear to have become a Trump cult, and the Democrats refuse to move against this man in a collected, decisive way.’ ”
The Washington Post covered the reaction to Fudge’s speech from House institutionalists, which formed a bipartisan consensus that Fudge crossed the line:
“Remarks and debate may not engage in personalities toward the president, including by repeating remarks made elsewhere that would be improper if spoken in the member’s own words,” said Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Tex.), who was then presiding over the House.
Veasey probably meant “personal attacks” rather than personalities, as opposed to criticisms of policies and actions. The point was clear from Veasey, regardless of Fudge’s defiant response of “what’s a personality?” If the rules forbid personal attacks, members can’t just start reading from a letter sent by a constituent that consists of practically nothing but personal attacks, not just on the president but also casting baseless aspersions on everyone who supports him. Assuming, of course, that the letter and the right reverend actually exist in the first place, and isn’t Fudge’s equivalent of Cory Booker’s “T-Bone.”
Attacking Trump was only part of Fudge’s ambition in this speech, though. After the midterm elections, Fudge emerged as the most significant potential challenger to Nancy Pelosi’s election as House Speaker. She put herself forward by arguing that Pelosi wasn’t progressive enough and that the House Democratic caucus under her leadership had “an undertone of racism.” A few days later, Fudge beat a hasty retreat when someone released a letter of support Fudge had written for a man accused of domestic abuse — who went on to murder his wife.
That was then, however, and this is now. If Trump himself can bluster through personal character scandals, Fudge has to figure she’s at no risk, either. If House Democrats get so frustrated with Pelosi that they’re willing to depose her in the middle of the session, Fudge would be the most likely rallying point. Fudge’s speech may have wildly overdid it on attacking Trump, but a careful listen demonstrates that the real target of this criticism is House Democratic leadership and their reluctance to take on Trump with impeachment.
Fudge is declaring her speaker campaign all but open for business. And don’t think for a moment that Pelosi didn’t hear it.