House Republicans backed away swiftly from a vote to cripple the Office of Independent Ethics this week after a wave of criticism from both the left and the right. After devising the rule changes in a behind-the-scenes meeting on Monday night, GOP reps came to work on Tuesday to find a barrage of complaints from voters.
According to reports, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy convened a meeting with Republican leaders and asked them a simple question: Did you campaign on a platform to roll back Obamacare, or did you promise voters that you would get rid of the ethics committee?
Shortly after the meeting, Republicans announced they were leaving things the way they were.
Donald Trump himself criticized the original vote on Tuesday, asking Republicans on Twitter if they really had their priorities in order.
“With all that Congress has to work on, do they really have to make the weakening of the Independent Ethics Watchdog, as unfair as it may be, their number one act and priority?” asked Trump. “Focus on tax reform, healthcare and so many other things of far greater importance! #DTS”
A few Republicans who had pushed for the measure were still defending it after the reversal.
“Gross misrepresentation by opponents of my amendment, and the media willing to go along with this agenda, resulted in a flurry of misconceptions and unfounded claims about the true purpose of this amendment,” said Rep. Robert Goodlatte in a statement.
That’s probably true, but this really isn’t about the merits of the ethics office. This is about public relations. How can it be that these politicians, who presumably got elected because they know a thing or two about the importance of public perception, thought this should be the first action taken by the new Congress?
Point being, even if the Office of Independent Ethics is an abomination, this just looks like the sleaziest possible move for Republicans to make. Of course your opponents are going to characterize it in the worst possible light. Of course the media is going to use it to make the GOP look corrupt. What else would you possibly expect?
We’re going to need to be a little bit smarter than this going forward. The playing field is not even. It is known. Deal with it. Complaining that you’re being treated unfairly by the media isn’t going to change anything. If the GOP’s success depends on their coverage in the New York Times, then they’re doomed.
Rise above it, get your priorities straight, and stop making unforced errors.