Email #320: “season of war”?

Karl Rove, former chief strategist to President Bush, wrote in the Wall Street Journal last week: “Steve Bannon, the failed presidential adviser and alt-right sympathizer, has declared war on incumbent Republicans.”

Rove then mocked Bannon’s selection of primary challengers, including Michael Grimm, “who was forced to resign his New York seat in 2015 after pleading guilty to tax fraud. Recently released after seven months in the federal pen … Presumably Mr. Grimm won’t campaign in his orange prison jumpsuit”; Senate challenger Danny Tarkanian, “a perennial candidate who has lost five races for four different state and federal offices”; and gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo, “a nativist who once said President Obama was ‘a more serious threat to America than al Qaeda,’ and who earlier this year accepted a speaking invitation from a white-nationalist group.”

Bannon refered to Rove’s “very unfriendly” op-ed during a speaking engagement on Friday: “I don’t like punching down, so I’m not going to say anything.”

Bannon instead attacked former President Bush for his speech last week that, while not referring to him by name, has been read across the political spectrum as criticizing President Trump. Bannon said President Bush “embarrassed himself” and “didn’t understand anything he was talking about” as he read the “high falutin” speech prepared by his writers while having “no earthly idea of whether he’s coming or going … just like it was when he was President of the United States.”

I’m no fan of President Bush either, but it is surreal to hear President Trump’s former chief strategist describe Bush in the same manner that so many describe President Trump, as someone mentally incapable of understanding the complexities of the Presidency. More surreal, Bannon attacked Bush and the Republican establishment while simultaneously imploring his Republican audience “to hold that coalition together.” And more surreal still, while openly dividing the GOP and promising what he has termed a “season of war” in the primaries, he mocked Democratic the “fools” who “are going to drag [their party] so far to the left that we’re going to hold those districts. And Nancy Pelosi is not going to get the chance to impeach the President of the United States.”

But it’s not former Speaker Pelosi who will be impeaching President Trump. It will be you. While you have refused to open House Judiciary Committee investigations into the Trump administration, four other House and Senate investigations are underway, plus special counsel Mueller’s. While your inaction has the appearance of politically motivated obstinacy, it has one benefit. It will require you to respond swiftly when these five investigation reports are released early next year since you will not have the excuse of having to conclude your own investigation first. If any of the reports include evidence of impeachable offenses, you will have to either proceed with articles or openly thwart that constitutional process.

You will also be facing reelection and Bannon’s “season of war” with a potential June primary. Do you know yet whether Bannon has identified a challenger for you? Although your quarter century in Congress makes you a defining example of what Bannon calls “the permanent political class that runs this country” and that he says “is one of the great dangers that we face,” so far your selective silence and inaction has allowed you to avoid the wrath of the alt-right voters that Bannon represents here in Virginia’s 6th district.

But when the eye of impeachment centers on you as chair of the House Judiciary Committee solely in charge of the process, you will no longer be able to avoid that scrutiny. Will you place your reelection before the duties of your office? Have you drafted your explanation for why you won’t be impeaching the President yet?

And regardless of your own nationally televised choice, how do you think these multiple investigative reports–including the likely indictments of at least two former Trump campaign and administration figures, Manaforte and Flynn–will affect the “fools” of the Republican party demanding “to hold that coalition together” while simultaneously declaring war on it? Will you be siding with Rove and your “permanent political class” or Bannon’s “alt-right sympathizers”? If your only concern is reelection, which do you think will better serve your personal interests?

Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an associate professor at W&L University, comics editor of Shenandoah, and series editor of Bloomsbury Critical Guides in Comics Studies. He has published two novels: School for Tricksters (SMU 2011) and Pretend I’m Not Here (HarperCollins 2002); and six books of scholarship: On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa 2015), Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury 2017), Superhero Thought Experiments (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Iowa 2019), Revising Fiction, Fact, and Faith (with Nathaniel Goldberg, Routledge 2020), Creating Comics (with Leigh Ann Beavers, Bloomsbury 2021), and The Comics Form (Bloomsbury forthcoming). His visual work appears in Ilanot Review, North American Review, Aquifer, and other journals.

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