House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has reintroduced a slogan from the Democrat wave year 2006, the year Democrats retook the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. Pelosi seems determined on a resurrection of that successful strategy, even though former President Barack Obama arguably embodied the culture of corruption she excoriates.
“Some may recall that in 2005, 2006, one of our mantras during the campaign was to drain the swamp, to end the Republican culture of cronyism, corruption, and incompetence, and that is exactly what we did,” Pelosi said in a press conference April 12. In that particular case, she had switched a few terms, but the substance remained the same: “the culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence.”
She argued that President Donald Trump has “misappropriated that term of art, ‘drain the swamp,’ and what does he do but have an administration that is wallowing in it.”
Pelosi started bringing back the 2006 slogan in early April. “EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s tenure has been a part of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism and incompetence. Pruitt must resign,” the House minority leader said in a statement April 6.
The House minority leader doubled down on the “culture of corruption” narrative, even in the April 12 press conference. “Almost every week, we see new evidence of the Trump Administration’s culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence. At EPA, Administrator Scott Pruitt has displayed a staggering ethical blindness,” she declared.
Pelosi even smuggled the “culture of corruption” into her Earth Day statement, condemning the Trump administration.
The “culture of corruption” narrative played well in 2006, an off-year election five years into President George W. Bush’s tenure. Americans had grown tired of the Iraq War, then in its third year, and a trail of Republican scandals in the House left the GOP extremely vulnerable to this attack.
In 2005, news broke that the Bush administration had payed conservative columnists with public funds for positive stories. Also that year, the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) audited a political action committee backing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), breaking open a long-running scandal. While DeLay would eventually be acquitted, that came nearly a decade later. The Jack Abramoff Indian lobbying scandal also broke that year, and the next year, a controversy involving Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and a lobbying firm burst open.
In September 2006, news broke that Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) had sent soliciting emails and sexually suggestive messages to teenage boys who had served as congressional pages. That scandal grew to encompass the response of GOP congressional leaders to previous complaints about Foley’s contacts with pages. Other allegations claimed that a second Republican congressman, Jim Kolbe, had improper conduct with two teen boys.
“Choking your mistress. Touching little boys. Taking money from the Russians. Questionable business dealings. You name it, we had it. On and on, never ended,” a Republican strategist who worked at the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) in 2006 told the Huffington Post.
Another former NRCC aide told the Huffington Post that the Foley scandal in September effectively ended GOP hopes that year. “Literally overnight, everybody’s polling data went down 20 points. I’ve never seen anything like it,” the former aide said.
The Huffington Post’s Amanda Terkel attempted to make connections between 2006 and 2018, but the state of American politics is utterly different. Terkel suggested that scandals surrounding EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson could play the same role as GOP scandals in 2006.
Most of the Pruitt “scandals” — laid out in an expansive Huffington Post list — come down to a difference of opinion about climate change. While big government types suggest that the science is “settled” — that, as Bill Nye told Tucker Carlson, humans cause “100 percent” of changing weather patterns — little is concretely known about just how much the burning of fossil fuels impacts the global climate. The climate change narrative boils a complex atmospheric debate into a sound bite precisely calculated to argue for expansive government intrusion, and Pruitt’s rejection of this narrative makes him particularly noxious to Leftists.
Due to his conservative perspective, Pruitt has attracted ire — and death threats — from climate change Leftists. For this reason, he has had to spend large amounts of money on various security measures, including private flights and a big security team. While these explanations do not cover all of the Pruitt scandals, they do suggest that the Left has twisted its perspective on the true struggles a conservative EPA administration faces.
Similarly, while many Republicans in Congress have announced that they will not seek re-election this coming fall, no big scandal comparable to 2005-2006 has erupted in the GOP ranks. Those caught up in the #MeToo movement against sexual assault have resigned — both on the Left and on the Right.
While Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore might have created a long-term stain on the GOP, Republicans dodged that bullet, with many actively supporting his opponent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) publicly urged Moore to withdraw from the race.
2018 is not 2016, but the biggest problem with the “culture of corruption” narrative may be former President Barack Obama. Despite liberals’ constant refrains, Obama’s tenure was far from “scandal-free.” The Internal Revenue Service had to pay $3.5 million to Tea Party groups following the 2010 scandal. There were at least thirteen incompetent failures in the Obama administration. The Department of Veterans Affairs had no less than 17 scandals under and shortly after Obama. The FBI favored Hillary Clinton — before and during the 2016 election.
While Pruitt is far from perfect, the Obama EPA denied Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for conservatives, while co-operating with Leftist groups, it facilitated the leak of 3 million gallons of sludge into the Animas River, it facilitated email alter egos for Lisa Jackson, and it attempted a power grab over all U.S. water in the Waters of the U.S. rule.
Then there was Obamacare. Even former President Bill Clinton said it “doesn’t make any sense.” Nearly 22,000 truly needy Americans waited behind 10 million able-bodied adults served in the Medicaid expansion.
Obama’s big government policies involving for-profit colleges, railroads, airlines, and finance all profited his best friend, Marty Nesbitt, who now leads the Obama Foundation.
Finally, between 2012 and 2015, Obama embraced same-sex marriage and the Supreme Court wrote it into the U.S. Constitution. Obama’s Department of Justice reinterpreted federal law from the 1960s to defend transgender identity, while his Department of Education launched a ridiculous sex bureaucracy on the insistence that police could not be trusted to handle rape and sexual assault.
Obama may not be on the ballot, but President Trump does deserve praise for reversing a great deal of Obama’s excesses. Trump needs a Republican Congress to continue down that path. Donald Trump did not know how things are done in Washington — the people elected an outsider for a reason. The president is draining the swamp, but the swamp is effectively fighting back.
Americans still associate Nancy Pelosi with that swamp. Her unpopularity helped Karen Handel defeat Democrat golden boy Jon Ossoff last June. She represents the Democrats’ own “culture of corruption.” President Barack Obama enshrined that “culture of corruption, cronyism, and incompetence” in government in a way not seen since President Woodrow Wilson or President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Let the American people not forget what the Democrats did after they won the House and Senate in 2006. Let the American people not forget Obama’s culture of corruption. Does it not stand to reason that Republicans need more than two years of unified government to reverse it? Neil Gorsuch and the tax cuts represented solid victories against the swamp. If the GOP can hold Congress, and maybe pick up a few seats — with solid conservatives — they can continue.