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VOL. 46 | NO. 35 | Friday, September 2, 2022

‘Law and order’ champions need some consistency

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Consider the cases of two Republican politicians, two federal investigations and two completely different responses by their fellow Republicans.

The first case: The former speaker of the Tennessee House, Glen Casada, and his former top aide, Cade Cothren, were hauled before a federal judge last week – in ankle chains and handcuffs – and charged with a corrupt plot to siphon public money for their private gain.

Their defense lawyers made the usual pro forma assertions for reporters.

Ed Yarbrough said he would “present a vigorous defense at trial” for his client, Casada. Cynthia Sherwood said her client, Cothren, “looks forward to being vindicated.”

We’ve all heard that sort of thing before, and sometimes things work out for the people charged. Maybe that will be the case for these guys. It could happen. More often, though, it seems that a “vigorous defense” and efforts to be “vindicated” end up in some kind of plea deal before trial.

Meanwhile, if you’re looking to read the political tea leaves on this episode, consider the response of the current speaker of the House and fellow Republican, Cameron Sexton, after the arrests:

“Today is a good day for Tennesseans because we did not turn a blind eye on these criminal activities.”

The House majority leader, William Lamberth, and the House Republican caucus chairman, Jeremy Faison, said that they “stand with federal law enforcement and are grateful for their efforts to hold those responsible for these crimes accountable.”

Should Casada go to trial, as scheduled in October, do not expect to see any of those guys on his list of character witnesses.

The second case involves The Former Guy, whose Mar-a-Lago redoubt in Florida was searched by FBI agents last month to retrieve what they believe to be highly classified documents. These documents were in addition, mind you, to hundreds of previous ones TFG had – grudgingly and slowly – already turned over under pressure.

What any potentially secret government documents are doing stored – unsecured – in a place that includes a resort and hotel catering to the (very rich) public is a question worthy of exploration. And Tennessee’s congressional Republicans are indeed outraged – not by the presence of such documents in TFG’s digs, but by the audacity of the government for trying to get them back.

“This is a political witch hunt,” said Marsha Blackburn, the state’s senior senator. The junior senator, Bill Hagerty, called it “unprecedented” and “beyond comprehension.”

The state’s seven Republican House members were similarly upset, with Rep. Chuck Fleischmann calling it “a clear political hit job.”

“The double standard is egregious,” he added.

Retribution was in the air.

“Next year when we control the House, I will make it my top priority to slash the budgets of most federal agencies including FBI, DOJ, ATF and the IRS,” Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R-Kingsport) said in a Facebook post.

The common thread among those government agencies, you will note, is that they all exist to enforce the law. Remember way back in history when Republicans billed themselves as defenders of law and order?

Remember much more recently, when the fevered response by TFG’s faithful to any mention of Hillary Clinton’s name was a raucous call to “Lock her up!”?

Republicans obviously have a selective view of who at the national level should be investigated and prosecuted, largely limited to people with the last names of Clinton, Obama or Biden. It’s the “whatabout” defense, and they are masters. Nothing cheers their hearts quite like another excuse to mention Hillary’s emails or Hunter Biden’s laptop.

It’s also part of a larger strategy, best espoused by the right-wing provocateur Steve Bannon: “The Democrats don’t matter,” he told a writer.

“The real opposition is the media. And the way to deal with them is to flood the zone with s***.”

The zone is getting floodeder and floodeder.

Based on my observation of events over the past seven years or so, I have no expectations that any real consequences for any of this will befall TFG.

He seems to be impervious to normal rules, as expressed by his own comment in 2016 that he could shoot somebody in the middle of New York’s Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. This says much about his attitude of being above the law.

And it says much more about his supporters.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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