You may have noticed some establishment political media types feigning confusion over why Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy is denying Democrats like Eric Swalwell committee assignments. There are plenty of legitimate reasons to do it.
The most obvious is partisan retribution. Ever since Nancy Pelosi created a precedent by vetoing Republican picks for the Jan. 6 investigation, McCarthy had a ready-made justification for denying minority Democrats their own picks. It’s only a bonus that Swalwell, an internet troll who was once duped by a ChiCom honeypot, will be denied a seat on the Intelligence Committee. As is the fact that Ilhan Omar, the antisemitic representative who equates the United States with terror groups like Hamas, will no longer have a seat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Neither are intellectually, philosophically, or experientially suited for such roles.
(Then again, when asked whether he would assign freshman fabulist George Santos — if that’s even his real name — a committee seat, McCarthy responded, “I try to stick by the Constitution,” followed by some gibberish about the will of the voters. That is a terrible justification. Voters elect all kinds of ridiculous people. Nothing in the Constitution compels a speaker to accede to the minority party’s choices nor is he compelled to reward a man with a pathological mendaciousness reminiscent of Joe Biden. I wish there were more principled actors in D.C. But, in the end, the speakership is a partisan, managerial position. And why would McCarthy deny Paul Gosar or Marjorie Taylor Greene assignments when Democrats are picking “election deniers” to lead their own party?)
Unlike Omar or Swalwell, however, the worst offender isn’t a radical or fabulist or a person professionally unfit for the job. It’s a person who blatantly breaks his oath of office. It is basically a constitutional imperative to deny the corrupt Adam Schiff any power.
In a recent installment of “Twitter Files,” we learned from Matt Taibbi that Schiff’s office had demanded the social media platform ban users who mocked him and censor journalists like Paul Sperry, who they claimed were “repeatedly” promoting “false QAnon conspiracies” and allegedly harassing users.
Schiff’s efforts are a textbook example of how ginned-up scaremongering over “disinformation” is weaponized by politicians to quash free expression. Schiff was likely targeting Sperry for a RealClearInvestigations piece unmasking the alleged “whistleblower” behind Donald Trump’s first impeachment efforts. Sperry’s story was legitimate and ethical — much like the Hunter Biden scoop that was censored over bogus “disinformation” fears. Nothing Sperry wrote had anything to do with Qanon.
Yet, the chair of the powerful House Intelligence Committee felt perfectly comfortable demanding that a private, ostensibly independent platform censor a journalist over speech. Which probably shouldn’t be surprising in an environment where senators like Ben Cardin, purportedly a graduate of law school, feel comfortable arguing that the First Amendment doesn’t protect “hate” speech and Davos participants deem “disinformation” the “most existential” threat to society. The establishment, as it were, rejects the neutral conception of free expression. And that spells trouble.
It is one thing for a private entity to deny unencumbered free-association rights. It’s quite another for government officials to try and dictate the parameters of acceptable speech. Tech companies, often already ideologically inclined, are highly susceptible to state intimidation. Though Sperry wasn’t initially banned, he soon would be. As would many others at the behest of politicians like Schiff.
In a time when free expression mattered to journalists, this would be a huge story. But ABC News’ Jonathan Karl had Schiff on as a guest last weekend and didn’t even bother asking him a single question about his efforts to shut down dissent.
Indeed, the California representative has been one of the most consequential disseminators of genuine disinformation in American life in recent years. His deceit helped perpetuate four years of destructive paranoia in our politics. Schiff read the Steele dossier into the congressional record even though he knew it was a partisan oppo file. He accused a presidential campaign of seditiously conspiring with the Russian government to steal the presidency in 2016, on numerous occasions claiming to be in personal possession of a “smoking gun.” Schiff has never shared any corroboration for these allegations because, as he knew all along, they do not exist. He simply moved to fuel the next hysteria.
Stripping Schiff of power is a win for the country, whether the effort is driven by partisan considerations or not.