Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, accompanied by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. and other congress members speaks during a news conference on Trump Putin Helsinki Summit at Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, July 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
For all of Trump’s flaws, real or perceived, the one thing that can always be counted on with him is that he’s going to say what he thinks. He’s unfiltered and that can lead to some awkward moments, but also some gratifying moments because he’s willing to say what other Republicans won’t. He’s willing to fight battles the party formerly refused to fight.
This propensity has led to plenty of spittle flinging rants about decorum, but the lesson shouldn’t go unlearned by the GOP. One of the reasons voters got so frustrated prior to Trump was the constant fake, high-minded tripe that passed for political speech throughout the Obama years. Republicans voters felt abandoned, part of a party that was too concerned with image vs. actually doing the right thing.
Yesterday, an example of that reared its head.
It came during an interview between VP Mike Pence and Fox News’ Chris Wallace, which my colleague Elizabeth Vaughn covered earlier today. Wallace, who has basically decided he must snipe at the Trump administration every Sunday or lose his seat at the cool table, started asking some questions in an attempt to frame Trump’s decision not to inform Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff about the Al-Baghdadi raid as being improper.
“The president was asked specifically whether he had informed the Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi about this raid last night, and he said no, and then he added ‘I wanted to make sure that no American forces were lost.’ The implication seeming to be that he was worried that Pelosi or members of Congress would leak this. Does the president not trust the Speaker of the House with sensitive national security information?” asked Wallace.
Pence refused to go there. He told Wallace, “I don’t think that was the implication at all. I think from the time that we got actionable intelligence, the President’s total focus here was on a successful mission and the safety of American troops.”
Wallace asked the question again, “Why didn’t he tell Nancy Pelosi?”
What is Pence obfuscating here for? Why let Chris Wallace even control the conversation? I thought I was watching a George W. Bush interview from 2006. Pence continued to dodge the question and just refuse to say the obvious.
Wallace pressed further, “We all applaud that. I do want to ask you, it is my job as a newsman, sir, respectfully, why didn’t the President notify the Speaker of the House?”
Again, Pence dodged the question saying, “I just want to emphasize the president’s focus here throughout particularly the last several days was on the mission to bring a man who was the most wanted man in the world, a man who had brought unspeakable violence through the ISIS caliphate, who was exporting violence throughout the world to justice and that combined with ensuring the safety of our forces coming in, executing the mission and moving out was the President’s directive throughout this effort and I know it animated every decision that he made along the way.?
Ok, but that still doesn’t answer the question Wallace is asking. This is not difficult. There is zero risk in simply telling the truth here and we all know what the truth is.
Adam Schiff, under the leadership of Nancy Pelosi, has been notorious for leaking information to try to damage the President. The simple answer to Wallace’s posturing is to just tell him flat out that we do not trust Democrats to keep sensitive information secret. Period. Real lives were on the line and a real high valued target was out there. Risking some leak to The New York Times from Schiff, whose the Intel Committee Chair and would have been notified, was not worth the risk. Further, there is zero legal requirement to tell Nancy Pelosi and the rest of her leadership team anything. They simply didn’t need to know.
You know who had no problem saying that? President Trump.
President Trump on why he didn't trust Nancy Pelosi or Adam Schiff with info on the Baghdadi raid:
"I think Adam Schiff is the biggest leaker in Washington. You know that, I know that, we all know that. I watched Adam Schiff leak. He is a corrupt politician." pic.twitter.com/53Gz81Qa33
— The First (@TheFirstonTV) October 28, 2019
But I’d have gone a step further. It’s fairly easy to ascertain that the other reason Democrats weren’t notified is because of the impeachment inquiry. Why should the President give these people one ounce of professional courtesy in a situation that doesn’t legally demand it? What have Pelosi and Schiff done to earn even a modicum of good will? That would not have been controversial to say and I think voters watching would appreciate the candor. If Democrats want to have zero lines in pursuit of their partisan goals then they will pay the consequences. One of those is not being in the loop when the President makes a legal, duly appropriated decision. Pence should have told Wallace that there was no obligation and certainly no practical reason to notify the House leadership while they are in the middle of trying to destroy the administration he serves in.
Trump is not going to be around forever. Some in the Republicans party obviously hope his exit happens sooner rather than later. Disagreements about that aside, let me posit this warning to them. If you truly want to change directions from a “Trump-like” figure, the kind of mealy-mouthed, high minded political speak in this interview between Pence and Wallace is not how to do it.
All the base really wants is someone who’s willing to speak frankly and fight back. It doesn’t have to be exactly in the way Donald Trump does it. Yes, you can even be more disciplined in your approach. What can’t happen though is getting beat upside the head by Chris Wallace because you refuse to state the obvious over concerns with decorum. The truth is that House Democrats are operating like vindictive hacks and there was no reason to treat them as anything otherwise in this situation.
Just say it next time. Voters will appreciate the honesty. I promise.
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