Trump-Lewis feud could be harbinger of new round of hyper-partisanshipOh, this feud is ushering in hyper-partisanship? Because it wasn't already happening? You mean -- just to take some examples from this week -- there was no hyper-partisanship in Senate Republicans' decision to hold an Obamacare destruction vote in the middle of the night, followed by a House vote to begin the dismantling in earnest, both of which were strictly along party lines? There was no hyper-partisanship in House Oversight Committee chairman Jason Chaffetz's vow to continue investigating Hillary Clinton's emails, or in the president-elect's tweet describing Clinton as "guilty as hell"?
A public feud between Donald Trump and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) seemed to jettison any lingering hopes that the inauguration would temporarily ease partisanship in Washington....
The incident has left Democrats and Republicans bracing themselves for yet another showdown between the president and his political opponents -- one that threatens to usher in a new era of the kind of crippling hyper-partisanship that often characterized the eight years of the Obama administration.
Oh, right, I forgot: There's no hyper-partisanship when Republicans portray Democrats as people unfit to live in decent society and Democratic policies as willfully destructive -- it's only hyper-partisanship when, as Lewis did, Democrats push back, or otherwise assert themselves.
Meanwhile, over at The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof tells us who's fit to investigate Trump's Russia ties and who isn't:
The Senate Intelligence Committee has announced an investigation of Russian election meddling, and other Senate Republicans seem intent on pursuing the issue as well. That’s good: Democrats have little credibility investigating Trump, so it makes sense for Republicans to lead on this.This is an extension of the long-standing unwritten D.C. rules on special-prosecutor partisanship. If a Democrat has to be investigated (see, e.g., Whitewater), then the prosecutor has to be a Republican -- otherwise, the investigation has partisan bias. And if a Republican administration has to be investigated? Well, think of Plamegate -- again, the prosecutor has to be a Republican (and in both cases there are accusations of liberal bias if the Republican doesn't seem Republican enough). Basically, it's always partisan if Democrats (or even moderate Republicans) are doing the investigating, by definition.
... the best disinfectant will be transparency. That means congressional inquiries, led by Republicans, and a continued F.B.I. investigation.
So I was going to chide Democrats for the tentativeness dsplayed in this Times story by Jonathan Martin, but, given the way things are going, I can understand why they might be skittish:
As the candidates for chairman of the Democratic National Committee gathered here for a forum on Saturday, they wrestled with a vexing question: how to confront the asymmetrical political warfare of President-elect Donald J. Trump.I agree that Democrats should stay on offense. I agree that they should attack Trump on issues. But is Martin seriously suggesting that it was a mistake to stick up for Lewis? Is Martin saying that it was strategically unwise to defend a fellow Democrat, and express outrage that a man of Lewis's bravery and moral standing was maligned?
Be strategic, the candidates advised, and do not take him up on every feud.
“If you try to go tweet-to-tweet with him, more often than not you’re not going to succeed,” said Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, warning about going to “a knife fight with a spoon.”
Sally Boynton Brown, the executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, invoked what she called “Psychology 101” for narcissists. Every response to Mr. Trump’s provocations, she warned, risks helping him “grow more powerful.”
And Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., said simply, “We’re going to need to be smarter than just talking about how bad he is.”
Yet just as the would-be leaders of the committee ... preached prudence and calculation in the Trump era, others in the party were responding with fury to the president-elect’s latest Twitter outburst.
Mr. Trump’s ridicule of Representative John Lewis of Georgia as being “all talk” set off outrage among Democrats....
The president-elect’s willingness to attack seemingly any and all comers -- Mr. Lewis is one of the few figures revered across party lines -- nearly every day makes him an even more difficult target for Democrats.
I might argue that Democrats should have defended Lewis and gone on offensive regarding issues -- in fact, when Lewis said that Trump will be an "illegitimate president," he was going on offense on the issue of Trump's cozy ties to the Russians. But there's nothing wrong with just standing up for Lewis -- it would have been disgraceful if Democrats hadn't.
Regrettably, that's where we stand right now. Defending John Lewis is playing into Trump's hands. Attacking Trump on his Russia ties reeks of partisanship if it's done by Democrats. And partisanship truly begins only when Democrats fight back.