Viewers who came to their TVs Friday looking for clarity, accountability or even just a few straight factual answers from acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker came away frustrated, if not seething, in the face of his arrogance and obfuscation.
In attitude, tone and posture, he reminded me of John Ehrlichman, the top domestic policy aide to Richard Nixon who went to prison after being convicted for conspiracy and other crimes in Watergate.
I felt like my head was going to explode by late afternoon when Whitaker started dodging questions about the failure of his Department of Justice to keep records of the children separated from their parents at the southern border as the adults came under his department’s jurisdiction. His denial of even knowing how many parents and children remain separated was almost too much to bear.
But as angry as I was by the end of the day, I remain convinced these hearings are valuable and will ultimately make a difference in exposing the incompetence, callousness and disregard for the rule of law by the Trump administration.
Just keep putting them in front of the cameras under questioning from the Democrat-controlled committees, and before long only the most blind Trump devotees will be able to deny what's happening on the screen. It happened with Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy during the Army-McCarthy hearings in the 1950s, and for all the revolutionary change in media, I believe TV still has that kind of power to expose incompetence and evil.
Forcing flunkies like Whitaker to publicly answer questions will eventually expose the cruel damage Trump is doing to democracy as effectively anything the media can do, short of great investigative reporting.
Some of Whitaker’s answers were laughable, like the one about him not knowing who was writing the checks for his $1.2 million salary at a right-wing advocacy organization that had exactly one employee: him.
Kudos to Maryland Rep.Jamie Raskin for asking the question and demanding Whitaker not try to run the clock on his five minutes.
Ranking member Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, objected, saying this was not a confirmation hearing. But, with the Democrats now in control, his objection was rejected. Collins was a one man clown show from the time he opened his mouth Friday, talking about hiding Easter eggs for his kids as a weird metaphor for what the committee was doing. Don’t ask me to explain it.
My rage started building early in the proceedings when Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler asked Whitaker if he had ever been asked to approve any request or action taken by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in a probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
“Mr. Chairman, I see you rive minutes is up, ” Whitaker outrageously responded, invoking a five-minutes rule for questioning established by the committee as if he were running the hearing.
My optimism for the ultimate effect of these hearings is also based on the tenacity and focus of some of the Democrats asking the questions Friday.
One of the most focused was New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.
“Mr. Whitaker, who are you, where did you come from and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice?” he asked.