That was one hell of a tantrum President Barack Obama threw, wasn’t it? He had had enough. Enough of all the lies and bogus investigations. He went ahead and made like Ving Rhames in Pulp Fiction, going medieval on their asses. Oh, wait a minute. That never happened, did it?
I may have gotten a couple of those details wrong. It wasn’t Obama, but instead Trump who on Wednesday threw that pathetic, unhinged, couldn’t-make-this-up-if-we-tried hissyfit. He ended—before it had even started—an ostensible meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to discuss how to pay for $2 trillion in infrastructure (Schumer’s take was that Trump knew he had no feasible plan to pay for the spending, and that’s why he spiked the meeting).
Furthermore, The Man Who Lost The Popular Vote did what he did in response not to bogus investigations, but to very serious ones that are grounded in facts and evidence, and did what he did in response not to lies but to Pelosi telling the American people the hard truth, namely: “We believe the president of the United States is engaged in a cover-up.” Later that day, she went further:
“The investigations are reaping benefits,” Pelosi argues at CAP, saying “in order to go to” impeachment they need to build their case. “The fact is in, in plain sight, this president is obstructing justice and is engaged in a coverup. And that could be an impeachable offense.”
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) May 22, 2019
For his part, Individual 1 said that he simply would no longer work with Congressional Democrats on, well, anything—not if they continued to have the temerity to perform their constitutionally mandated directive to perform oversight regarding the executive branch. “It is not possible for them to investigate and legislate at the same time,” Trump huffed in a tweet. He also said: “I don’t do cover-ups.” I’ll let George Conway (Kellyanne’s husband) handle the response:
“I don’t do cover-ups.” pic.twitter.com/lhG8Kssmrt
— George Conway (@gtconway3d) May 23, 2019
As for Trump’s predecessor, can you imagine Barack Obama pulling that kind of stunt? Bear in mind, congressional Republicans threw all kinds of bullshit investigations at him and his administration, and slung some truly awful—not to mention groundless—charges at him. What, you don’t remember? How about a refresher?
If we’re talking only about things said by Republican members of Congress, the matter of impeaching Barack Obama (which, incredibly, 54% of Republicans wanted to see happen, according to a 2014 CNN poll) came up regarding multiple topics, including his birth certificate (Trump himself went from birther-in-chief to commander-in-chief), immigration policy, the IRS supposedly mistreating conservative groups (a myth disproven by pesky facts), and, in the case of one Texas congressman, apparently because Obama had, er, things he wanted to accomplish as president?:
Impeaching President Barack Obama “needs to happen,” Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas) told a local tea party group, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported Tuesday.
Burgess spoke, the paper said, in response to an attendee’s suggestion that the GOP-controlled House use impeachment to stop Obama from “pushing his agenda.”
“It needs to happen, and I agree with you it would tie things up,” Burgess reportedly responded. “No question about that.”
Republicans in Congress carried out a number of investigations of the Obama administration, most of them long and none of them finding any real wrongdoing by the president or top officials. That reality didn’t stop Republican elected officials from saying things about Obama that certainly compare to what Nancy Pelosi said this week about Trump—which, again, is true on its face, as the Mueller report makes clear.
For example, during the congressional investigations into the 2012 terrorist attacks committed by the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, high-ranking congressional Republicans went hard after the Obama White House:
Two top Republicans on the House Benghazi Committee blasted Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration Tuesday for “a tragic failure of leadership” in the run-up to the deaths of four Americans in the U.S. outpost in Libya in 2012.Reps. Mike Pompeo, R-Kansas, and Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, accuse the administration of covering up the true nature of the attack on Benghazi to avoid damaging President Barack Obama’s re-election race. The hardline conservatives, who were among Clinton’s toughest questioners during her testimony before the committee last year, released their own account of the attacks to complement the panel’s overall report.“What we did find was a tragic failure of leadership — in the run up to the attack and the night of — and an administration that, so blinded by politics and its desire to win an election, disregarded a basic duty of government: Tell the people the truth,” the congressmen wrote. “And for those reasons Benghazi is and always will be, an American tragedy.”
When asked in 2013 whether Obama should be impeached over Benghazi, then-Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah refused to rule it out, saying that such action was “within the realm of possibilities.”
Republicans also investigated the so-called “Fast and Furious” scandal, which refers to a “high-stakes sting operation in which the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — a part of the Justice Department — opted not to stop purchases of weapons that it suspected were intended for smuggling across the border by traffickers.” During those investigations, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Rep. Darrell Issa accused Obama of carrying out a coverup, of taking actions that were “unjustified solely for the purpose of further obstruction a congressional investigation.” Upon taking over that committee in 2011, before beginning a single investigation, Issa had bleated that the Obama administration was “one of the most corrupt.”
Despite all this, President Obama never did what Trump did this week and simply rejected working with the opposing party. It’s worth noting that some in his administration think this week’s Trump TantrumTM was a bad move in terms of strategy: “The President’s advisers and allies are worrying about the fallout of his display of anger and Trump is signaling that he is prepared to dig in, multiple sources close to him told CNN.”
The editorial board of USA Today, generally as middle-of-the-road as they come on politics, viewed Trump’s antics pretty harshly:
If there is one piece of advice that Trump’s friends and supporters should be giving him it is: Put on your billionaire britches and deal with it. His behavior makes him look weak and outmatched.
[snip] Here were Pelosi and Schumer doing their part to find common legislative ground on infrastructure spending, and it was the president who walked out. Now if nothing gets done before the 2020 election, voters will know whom to blame.
Donald John Trump, you are not doing yourself any favors. You are not doing your party any favors. And you most certainly aren’t doing your country any favors. Pull yourself together and act like a president.
But hey, who knows better than President Extremely Stable Genius?
It appears that Mr. 46 Percent of the Popular Vote has based his entire presidency on a modified version of George Costanza’s “do the opposite” philosophy. Trump believes that everything Barack Obama did was wrong, therefore he will do the opposite.
Obama handled the shenanigans carried out by congressional Republicans with aplomb and grace, and continued to work with them in order to carry out the business of the American people. Trump, on the other hand, has taken a very different approach. Seinfeld famously ended with George, Jerry, Elaine, and Kramer all behind bars. After all the investigations finally wrap up—including those involving his financial dealings—will Trump end up facing a similar fate?
Ian Reifowitz is the author of The Tribalization of Politics: How Rush Limbaugh’s Race-Baiting Rhetoric on the Obama Presidency Paved the Way for Trump (forthcoming on June 18).