Friday, April 21, 2017
Poor Jason, so scared
Poor Jason Chaffetz says he's quitting because of all the violent protesters who are trying to kill him:
Police had warned him not to bring his family. In secret, Facebook groups agitation had been growing for weeks. More than 1,000 protesters stood outside: soccer moms who’d driven from Provo, bearded granolas in Patagonia fleece with spray-painted signs demanding he keep Utah wild, lefties who’d driven up from California and Arizona. A few protesters were masked and dressed in black. They worried Chaffetz most. They carried guns and, he would later learn, were prowling the parking lot trying to find his car.
Out on the stage the fire marshal was getting nowhere. He was trying to point out the exits, in case of mayhem, but the crowd had no interest. Let them in, they chanted of the protesters outside. Utah was known for being civil and calm. This didn’t feel like Utah. This didn’t feel like home.
Jessica Mamey approaches the stage to ask Rep. Jason Chaffetz a question during a town hall meeting in Cottonwood Heights on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017. | Ravell Call, Deseret News
Something had flipped after the election, Chaffetz had noticed, an ugly impulse unfurling across America. He had seen anger directed at him before, but nothing like this. He’d been getting death threats, on his voicemail and in his inbox, and in the ensuing weeks it would only get worse.
He had become a target, the face of Republican fecklessness. At his D.C. office, his young staffers fielded calls from all over the country, hundreds a day, demanding he investigate Trump. As chairman of the House Oversight Committee and Government Reform Committee, Chaffetz had risen to national prominence for his aggressive inquiries into missteps by the Obama administration, making him a hero to the “Fox and Friends” crowd.
He’d hammered the Secret Service, demanded documents on the Fast and Furious gun running scandal, and most notably, grilled Hillary Clinton for hours on the deaths of four Americans at a compound in Benghazi, Libya. So why wasn’t he investigating Donald Trump? People asked him this wherever he went, at the airport, at Five Guys when he was standing in line for a burger. Tonight they wanted answers.
He stepped out from behind the curtain.
The crowd erupted in deafening boos, rising to their feet. Chaffetz smiled. He’d seen worse. As a placekicker at BYU in the mid-1980s he’d played before hostile football crowds with Ty Detmer and Jason Buck. “You think this is bad,” he thought to himself. “You’ve never been to Laramie, Wyoming.”
Besides, plainclothes police officers were standing behind the curtain, and others were scattered throughout the crowd. No one here could rattle him, not really. And even if they did, he wouldn’t let them see it. He would keep smiling, no matter what he felt inside.
Clips of the town hall were starting to go viral. For the part of the electorate who felt the Trump administration was a threat to the republic, this was a moment, #Resistance. Here was one of the few people who could bring Trump to heel, who could subpoena his tax records, force him to testify under oath, really anything he wanted, and his constituents were demanding he do it.
“Do your job! Do your job!” they chanted. Chaffetz smiled through his teeth, pleading for the crowd to calm down, but no one was listening.
In the ensuing weeks, Chaffetz insisted the protesters didn’t bother him, but those closest to him began to worry if all the unhinged Facebook posts and death threats were taking a toll. Trey Gowdy, the Republican congressman from South Carolina who Chaffetz considers his best friend, openly wondered if Chaffetz’s ever-ready smile was masking pain.
“Some of the stuff left on his voicemail,” Gowdy said, pausing. “He plays it for me and I’m trying to evaluate, do you take it seriously? What do you do about it?”
Over the years, Chaffetz’s wife, Julie, had learned to tune out criticisms of her husband, but what she saw at the town hall was different, something that she had not witnessed before, and this time, she couldn’t just tune it out. “I felt it,” she said.
Chaffetz began seriously thinking about his political future. He publicly toyed with the idea of running for senator, and then governor. What no one outside of a very tight circle knew is that he was also considering something else: quitting.
On Wednesday morning, Chaffetz showed up at the KSL Broadcast House in downtown Salt Lake City for a spot on the “The Doug Wright Show,” the most respected talk radio show in the market.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, leaves after giving an interview on the KSL Newsradio's Doug Wright in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, April 19, 2017. | Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Chaffetz just turned 50, but he carries himself with a youthful energy and the gait of an athlete. Ready for the cameras (as always), he was dressed in a tailored, pin-striped suit, his curly, dark hair perfectly coiffed as usual. He flashed a smile at a reporter he recognized, gave a nod to a cameraman that looked familiar, and stepped into the studio.
Earlier that morning, he had shocked the nation by announcing on Facebook that he would not run for re-election. Now he was here to answer the question on everyone’s minds: why?
He said that after “prayerful consideration,” he had decided he wouldn’t run for any office in 2018 (killing speculation he had an eye on Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat), but didn’t rule out returning to political life sometime in the future.
It is highly unlikely that this is the reason he quit. Politicians get crank calls all the time and I have strong suspicion that he got plenty of criticism before the election when he was chomping at the bit to become Hillary Clinton's executioner. He wasn't afraid of criticism then. All this does is gin up the fatuous notion that townhall protesters are violent.
No, he's playing the victim now for some other reason. To me, it makes him look childish, but to right wingers, it's a wink and nod, "I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I" little bit of hand-wringing to turn liberals inside out. They love phony concern about their personal safety at the hands of hippies, whom they all concede are worthless wimps but it's kind of a kick to call for the smelling salts and pretend like their are being persecuted.
I think Chaffetz is quitting because he sees no future in being the guy who refuses to investigate Donald Trump.
He's right about that.
digby 4/21/2017 11:00:00 AM