I have had my critic’s eye on Ohio Republican Congressman Jim Jordan since the February House Oversight Committee hearing with Michael Cohen, the former personal attorney to President Donald Trump.
What captured my attention was the way Rep. Jordan, the ranking member of the committee, immediately went after Chairman Elijah Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, at the start of the televised hearing, trying to steamroller the Baltimore congressman with parliamentary challenges and unwarranted insults, claiming Rep. Cummings showed a lack of integrity.
I had been dismissive of Mr. Jordan, with his trademark shirtsleeves and snarls, before this attack on Mr. Cummings. But watching him go after a man who had just come out of the hospital and was still obviously ill, put him in a different category in my mind. No longer was he just a showboat trying to get some media attention, Mr. Jordan was now an unprincipled, vicious and dangerous politician in the same ugly way Sen. Joseph McCarthy was before he was censured in the Senate and died in disgrace.
All of which, of course, makes Mr. Jordan the perfect choice to the be the face of the Republican Party in the impeachment hearings. He represents what the party has become for all those adherents who have put on moral blinders and pledged their allegiance to Mr. Trump.
Intellectual consistency, grand vision for the nation? Forget about it. Mr. Jordan is the embodiment of the post-tea-party Republican politics of phony populism, anger, resentment, hypocrisy, derision and attack. It is impossible to miss the chip he wears so prominently on his shoulder.
Remember the idealism and belief in the fundamental fairness and sense of decency of the American “common man” in the 1939 film “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington"? Mr. Jordan is what it has sadly devolved to; he wears the cosmetic trappings of populism, but serves the the interests of Mr. Trump and the elites of the elites, fighting for tax breaks for the rich. I hope he is only a barometer of how far conservativism has fallen, not the nation.
Consider his interview with Anderson Cooper in April when the CNN host asked him point blank if he has ever heard Mr. Trump tell a lie to the American people. After several minutes of attacking others Jim Comey and Andrew McCabe, former director and deputy director of the FBI, respectively, as liars and trying to tell Mr. Cooper what the “American people” believe, Mr. Jordan finally answered.
“Have you ever heard the president lie?”
“I have not,” Mr. Jordan said in a voice smaller than usual.
“Really?” Mr. Cooper asked not trying to hide his incredulity."So, when the Washington Post counts hundreds and hundreds of times, none of those are believable to you?"
“I’ve not see what the Washington Post reported ... "
And on it went with Mr. Jordan saying anything but the truth about the leader he so obsequiously serves. Mr Jordan is not the working class champion. He’s the working class lackey and stooge for Trump.
Also instructive are the Twitter hashtags #GymJordan and #JimJordanKnew for a sense of the widespread incredulity over his claim that while he was an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University he saw and knew nothing of the serial sexual assault of wrestlers by the team’s physician.
Mr. Jordan’s wardrobe is supposed to visually identify him as the self-made man, once a proud and even inspirational strain of identity in the American mind. Self-made men or women were celebrated in popular culture because they were seen as proof of the American Dream ― that anyone from any station of life can rise above the circumstances of their birth though hard work and talent. We now understand upward mobility is a little more complicated than that when it comes to issues of privilege, and, in fact, the playing field was never nearly as level as that narrative promised.
In TV terms, it is easy to see why the Republicans wanted Mr. Jordan front and center in the impeachment hearings. He is a visual link between Mr. Trump and his supporters in attitude, words, actions and wardrobe.
Elijah Cummings, in his morally righteous closing remarks at the Michael Cohen hearing, represented many of the best impulses of the American character.
Mr. Jordan, in his words and actions during the impeachment hearings, has come to represent some of the worst.
David Zurawik is The Sun’s media critic. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @davidzurawik.