Senate Republicans aren’t swathing themselves in patriotic glory these days, undergoing ridiculous contortions to try to avoid the subject of Donald Trump and the high crimes and misdemeanors he commits and confesses to on practically a daily basis. Even when their careers might hang in the balance. Take Iowa’s Joni Ernst, up for reelection in 2020. Three times on Wednesday, a CNN reporter tried to get Ernst to answer the simple question: “Is it appropriate for a president to ask a foreign power to investigate a domestic political rival? Yes or no?” Three times Ernst dodged the question. “I think we are going to have to go back, just as I said last week, we’ll have to wait. All that information is going to have to go to Senate Intelligence,” she said at first.
After repeated pressing for a simple yes or no, all avoided, Ernst finally gave a nonanswer: “What I am saying, though, is that we have a picture that’s painted by media and we don’t know what’s accurate or not, so what I would rely on is the information that’s coming forward both through the whistleblower report through any complaint that has been given and through the transcript, all of that will go through Senate Intelligence.” The reporter tried one more time:”We’re just asking you if the ask itself is appropriate.” “Let’s move on,” Ernst said, walking away from the reporters.
Ernst doesn’t win the callow politician award for the week, though. Check out Sen. Cory Gardner, also up in 2020, being brilliantly tag-teamed by reporters in Denver, all demanding to know the same thing: Yes or no, is it appropriate for Trump to ask Ukraine and China to investigate a political rival? He refused to answer, every time, throwing up a flurry of nonresponses. The matter is under investigation, he said over and over. Never mind that Trump’s been doing it out in public. Then he tried to throw up a smokescreen about this all being political, all about next November. “It’s all about politics,” he said, turning way from reporter No. 1, who was trying to get a yes or no. “I’ve answered your question,” Gardner said.
Cue reporter No. 2: “It is a yes or no?” Gardner got a little rattled here and launched back into “very partisan process” and started filibustering on politics. Back to reporter 2: “But the question is, is it appropriate …” and Gardner went back to, “We’re going to have an investigation.” Reporter 3: “But would you be okay with it if it was a Democrat asking a foreign government …” and Gardner immediately cut him off, again talking about investigations and partisanship. Back to reporter 1: “Is it okay?” “You know what I said before.” “But you’re not answering the question! We want to hear from you. You’re a smart guy. You know the debate.” “It’s about the politics of the moment,” Gardner said again.
This is the kind of reporting that we need to see everywhere with these Republicans, by the way. Agree to one key question and keep on it. It exposed Gardner better than any other interview could. And it demonstrated, just like CNN’s work with Ernst, that Senate Republicans are both shameless and flailing. Because this is not a hard question. At all.
About author A lifelong Blue girl in a Red state, I’m now Senior Political Writer for Daily Kos. On any given day, I’d rather be horseback, but there’s more demand for political writers than cowgirls.