Senate Republicans need to give Sen. Joni Ernst the hook and get her off the national stage. Not only is she giving away their party’s cynical game on impeachment, she’s making herself look like a fool in the process.
Earlier today, Republican leadership held a press conference to discuss the day’s proceedings on the impeachment trial. Not surprisingly, they dismissed the House managers’ arguments as weak and ineffective.
Just before wrapping up, though, Ernst could not help herself from jumping in one last time to mock Joe Biden and the political ramifications that President Donald Trump’s actions with Ukraine have had.
Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming was making a joke about the four senators paying the closest attention during the discussion about Biden that day were the four Democratic senators running for president. Ernst’s eyes widen, she threw back her head for a quick laugh, grinned widely, then got an idea.
Pointing with both her hands, she moved back toward the microphones to make the point she found so funny.
“Okay, Iowa caucuses, folks, Iowa caucuses, are this next Monday evening. And I’m really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters,” Ernst said, her voice dropping to a sarcastic tone. “Those Democratic caucus-goers. Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point? Not so certain about that.”
To get the full effect you really need to watch the video:
ERNST: "IA caucuses are this next Monday evening. And I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa caucus voters, those Demcaucus goers. Will they be supporting VP Biden at this point?"
— Alan He (@alanhe) January 28, 2020
With uncontrollable glee, Ernst boasted to the national media that Trump and Republicans’ real goal — damaging Biden’s electoral hopes — was continuing to play out as planned. To Ernst, the underlying crime of the impeachment, of Trump withholding foreign aid from an ally to pressure them to investigate a domestic political rival, seems to boil down to a fun joke of owning the libs.
Political commentators quickly seized on Ernst’s comments, arguing she was saying the quiet part of Republicans’ plans loud, and the video totaled over a million views on Twitter in just three hours. Some even compared it to former House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy bragging that the Beghazi hearings had damaged Hillary Clinton’s White House prospects. Doing so ended up costing McCarthy his chance at the speakership because Republicans were so frustrated with his lack of message discipline.
reminds me of Kevin McCarthy’s admission that Benghazi oversight was aimed at hurting Hillary’s campaign. Cost him the Speakership at the time. https://t.co/DQR9qPsoce
— Eric Schultz (@EricSchultz) January 28, 2020
Since Ernst’s arrival in the nation’s capital, she’s quickly pivoted from her campaign image of a farm girl going to D.C. to make ’em squeal to the ultimate D.C. insider, a ladder-climber who will do and say whatever to move up the Republican ranks.
Senate Republicans rewarded Ernst’s loyalty with an important position in Senate leadership, making her the only woman who currently holds such a spot.
They may slowly be realizing they made a mistake.
The role has given Ernst a larger national platform at Republican events and press conferences, and she’s played a major role during the impeachment trial of defending Trump. But at so many of these public gatherings, she’s come off as petty and sarcastic, not to mention blazingly partisan, on one of the most serious topics that D.C. has faced in decades.
Politico reported in November that Ernst “literally danced a jig while singing: ‘Pete Buttigieg, is moving ahead!'” in reference to the impeachment holding down senators running for president.
Perhaps it’s that kind of demeanor that’s earned Ernst the distinction of being the third-most unpopular senator in America in her state. Ernst’s public attitude is particularly odd considering she faces a challenging reelection race in November.
I have never seen someone so excited to say something so stupid https://t.co/AtPAc5aNcJ
— Dan Pfeiffer (@danpfeiffer) January 28, 2020
In other remarks from Ernst earlier in the press conference, she mostly stuck to political messaging.
“What I’ve seen our House managers do and other Democrats is take that Constitution, throw it on the ground, throw it right under the bus, and oh, by the way, let’s not just throw it under the bus, let’s put it in reverse and let’s do it again,” Ernst said.
“There is so much going on good and positive for this country, and the Democrats hate it that we have a larger-than-life president that has achieved that,” she added.
When asked directly by a reporter if she believed witnesses should be called, she hedged for another day.
“We have yet another day, maybe, of discussion coming from the White House counsel,” Ernst replied. “We have our own questions that we’ll ask. And then we will make that decision.”
On the political front, if Ernst was hoping to further damage Biden, there too she came off as an amateur. Biden’s camp fired back in a statement, probably more than pleased that Ernst, reviled by the Democrats who are about to go out to caucus, seemed happy that Biden may not get the nomination.
“Senator Ernst just said the quiet part out loud: Republicans are terrified that Joe Biden will be the Democratic nominee, defeat Donald Trump, and help progressives gain seats in the House and take the Senate,” Biden campaign spokesman Andrew Bates said. “Donald Trump himself was so afraid of running against Joe Biden that he became the only president in American history who tried to force a foreign country to lie on behalf of his struggling re-election campaign. We are in a battle for the soul of this nation, and the GOP can’t stop revealing that Vice President Biden is the best candidate to win it.”
Certainly, Ernst will find something funny about that, too. But Iowa voters could well end up having the last laugh in November if they quickly tire of their senator’s antics in Washington.
by Pat Rynard