Republicans have degraded congressional hearings into opportunities to craft the perfect Hannity clip
They turned the performative outrage up to 11 during AG Merrick Garland's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Wednesday’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing featuring Attorney General Merrick Garland highlighted a trend that’s become increasingly apparent in recent years — Republicans using high-profile hearings as opportunities to craft 20-second soundbites for Fox News.
The fake outrage du jour is a memo Garland wrote earlier this month outlining steps the Department of Justice (DOJ) intends to take to curb “an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools.” This came after a summer and fall when mask policies and objections to schools teaching about America’s history of racism (“critical race theory”) culminated in scenes of school board members being berated and threatened, and in violent altercations at meetings.
It might seem uncontroversial that the DOJ is working to protect school officials. But Republicans clearly sense an opportunity to stoke the culture wars by framing Garland’s memo as a threat to free speech and representing federal government overreach into areas better handled by local authorities and parents (never mind that many school board members are also parents). They’re no doubt encouraged by school-related grievances emerging as a relatively successful issue for Republican Glenn Youngkin ahead of Virginia’s bellwether gubernatorial election next week.
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So as Democrats asked calm and measured questions during Wednesday’s hearing on topics ranging from the DOJ’s investigation of the January 6 insurrection to the FBI’s mishandling of the Larry Nassar case, Republican after Republican turned the performative outrage up to 11 to hammer Garland on his schools memo. At times it wasn’t even clear what exactly they were mad about.
“Judge, this is shameful. This testimony, your directive — your performance is shameful. Thank God you are not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, judge,” said Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR).
Cotton then left the hearing room in a huff as Garland said, “We are only trying to prevent violence against school officials."
That was just the beginning.
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