In the race to the political bottom, Sen. Ron Johnson is sprinting. He’s overtaking Cancun Ted Cruz, who blamed his teenage daughters for his Mexico vacation fiasco while his constituents suffered a winter disaster, and Josh Hawley, who gave a raised fist salute to the insurrections as they prepared to assault the Capitol on January 6.
Those insurrectionists roaming the halls of the Capitol chanting “Hang Mike Pence” were just a fun-loving, patriotic bunch of good ol’ White guys, in Johnson’s view. Like himself.
This wasn’t an “armed insurrection” he insists; they were a “jovial” and “festive” gathering of peaceful “patriots” who “love this country” and wouldn’t do “anything to break a law.”
Ignore the gallows they erected for the vice president or the calls to kill the Speaker of the House, the Confederate flags, the Auschwitz sweatshirt, the murdered cop, six others who died, the 140 or so police officers who were injured, hundreds of rioters arrested, plus the assault weapons and thousands of rounds of ammunition collected by the FBI and other authorities. There was no “armed insurrection,” he insisted, because he saw no guns. The FBI refuted that as well.
If there was any violence at the Capitol it was the work of leftist “agent provocateurs” and “fake Trump protesters,” said the Wisconsin Republican, repeating what right-wing media have been saying. He felt safe facing the White mob invading the Capitol wearing red MAGA hats and carrying Trump flags, he insisted. He’d have been worried, he explained, if instead they’d been carrying Black Lives Matter signs. If ever a statement spotlighted raw racism in high places, that comment was it.
Credibility has never been Johnson’s strong suit. He has long been known as a purveyor of conspiracy theories, white supremacist grievances, election fraud lies, smear campaigns and fruitless investigations of Hillary Clinton, Benghazi, Hunter Biden and Ukraine.
On the other hand, when the Department of Labor Inspector-General released a report late last year accusing Secretary Elaine Chao of using her position to aid her family’s privately own shipping business and to do political favors for her husband, Johnson and not a single Republican seemed to notice, much less call for an investigation or ask why Attorney-General Bill Barr’s Justice Department refused to touch it. Could it be that Secretary Chao was married to Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell?
Johnson is notorious for leading endless and fruitless investigations, but in the case of the unsuccessful insurrection, he had substantive evidence, but apparently he has only been interested in going after Democrats.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s declared Johnson has a “tenuous” “grasp on reality” worsened by aligning himself with Trump and he “must go.” His state’s largest paper called him a “featherweight” who should “do the honorable thing and resign after violating his oath.”
The paper also called for freshman GOP Reps. Scott Fitzgerald and Tom Tiffany to resign or be defeated for giving “aid and comfort to an insurrection.” It called the senator and the two freshman representatives “cowardly” and a “threat to democracy” for their roles in inciting the violence.
NOT ONE of the Senate’s 94 brightest bulbs, only the notorious Joseph McCarthy rivals Johnson as the worst senator in Wisconsin’s history.
It may be that he’s simply not smart enough to tell the difference between insurrection and racial justice demonstrations in Portland and other cities. One was a response to the killing of innocent civilians by police and attacks on some small buildings, while the other was a violent attempted coup incited by the president of the United States, a clear effort to subvert the same Constitution self-proclaimed conservatives like Johnson claim to cherish.
Johnson said Trump personally has urged him to break his two-term limit pledge so he can remain in Washington to save the nation from “the devastating and harmful effects” of Democratic rule.
Johnson has been obsessed with investigating Hunter Biden. As chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee in the previous Congress, he conducted ham-fisted investigations solely intended to aid Trump’s mission of smearing the former vice president’s son to discredit and defeat his father. Johnson set out to demonstrate Joe Biden’s “unfitness for office” but ultimately had to admit finding no “massive smoking guns.”
He also held bogus Senate hearings to “investigate” 2020 election “irregularities,” and “perpetuate the myth that voter fraud” cost Trump the election, the Journal Sentinel noted. The only result was further destroying any lingering credibility Johnson might have on his unobstructed dive to the bottom.
Morning Consult Political Intelligence tracking data shows Johnson could be in trouble if he decides to break his two-term pledge next year. His downward plunge has given him “one of the weakest approval ratings (61%) among GOP voters” and he is “the most unpopular Republican among the broader electorate who is up for re-election next year.” Four of his Senate colleagues already announced their retirement.
Some Democrats believe he is such damaged goods that he would be easier to defeat than someone new. Especially as the pandemic is brought under control, the economy makes a strong recovery, Johnson’s racist rants grow worse, the president remains popular (his approval rating is already 20 points higher than four-year Trump’s best) and Hunter Biden keeps his nose clean.