Bill McEwen

Rep. Devin Nunes stricken by political amnesia. We have the quotes to prove it

I wonder if the secret health-care bill Mitch McConnell is writing up in the U.S. Senate covers amnesia.

If it doesn’t, Rep. Devin Nunes will have to foot the bill himself – should he desire treatment.

To no one’s surprise, the congressman from Tulare pins the blame for the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise on the fiery rhetoric of Democrats and a mainstream press that Nunes says carries the water of left-wing causes without separating fact from fiction.

“It was almost predictable,” Nunes said Monday on KMJ radio’s Ray Appleton show.

“I could tell by the amount of visceral emails and daily threats we still receive. I am worried for the country. This level of civil discourse – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

I won’t defend some of the commentary from the Bernie Sanders’ wing of the Democratic Party. It’s over the top and does nothing to move America forward.

But has Nunes forgotten the tone that Donald Trump set during the 2016 presidential primary and general election? Has he forgotten Trump’s mocking of opponents, peddling of disproved conspiracy theories and promise to pay the legal bills of people who forcibly removed protestors from his rallies?

And has Nunes forgotten his own words?

In 2014, he described fellow Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan to Politico as “al-Qaida’s best friend in the Congress.”

Amash’s sin, in Nunes’ eyes, was his criticism of the National Security Agency and Amash’s desire to limit the agency’s ability to collect phone data from Americans. For the record, Amash remains in Congress despite Nunes’ attempts to smear him.

Then there was what Nunes had to say about Reps. Jim Costa and Dennis Cardoza, both Valley Democrats, reported in 2010 in a story by McClatchy’s Michael Doyle.

“They are part of this totalitarian regime in Washington,” Nunes said, adding that “we know their votes are for sale, but we didn’t know for how much.”

Nunes also said in the story that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her lieutenant, Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, wanted to cut off Valley irrigation water because “they are radical environmental crazies,” and he explicitly likened the House leaders’ water policies to those of Saddam Hussein.

Totalitarian? Votes for sale? Saddam Hussein?

That kind of loaded, fact-free language serves only one purpose: To fire up Nunes’ base and to demonize opponents. It does nothing to bring about solutions to the real problems that Americans face every day. And it does nothing to raise the level of civil discourse that Nunes says he is worried about.

Then there was Nunes’ appearance on Fox Business Network in 2011.

While discussing the battle between farmers and environmentalists over how much water to keep in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta to preserve endangered fish, Nunes characterized fish-saving efforts as “eco-terrorism.” He also suggested that his constituents had “been put into their liberal concentration camp.”

Here’s something else about Nunes. The guy who uses hysterical language at the drop of a hat is quick to call it out in others – just as he has been doing after the Scalise shooting. His 2011 speech on the House floor after the passage of Obamacare was a classic:

“Instead of improving the lives of all Americans by fixing our broken health-care system, starting with Medicare and Medicaid, the Democratic majority subjected the American people to class warfare, anti-capitalist hate speech and vitriolic rhetoric.”

Poor Devin. I hope all that Democratic hate speech didn’t rob him of sleep.

Nunes’ testosterone-fueled words are a key ingredient in an image he has carefully cultivated. He’s fighting for farmers. He’s fighting against high-speed rail and the delta smelt. And if you’re a Republican, he’s protecting you from the big bad Democrats and the liberal press.

That image, however, masks reality.

Nunes isn’t a brawler. Far from it. He prefers the comfort of news outlets that toss him softball questions and fundraisers where he can preach to the choir. His favorite reporters are stenographers. The last thing he relishes is a fair fight. He loves the power of congressional incumbency and his important position on the House Intelligence Committee. Most of all, he loves to unleash the flame-thrower that is his tongue.

Understand: In Nunes’ world, people can’t have disagreements or honest differences of opinion. If you’re not on his side, you are the enemy.

Or, as Nunes would describe you, al-Qaida’s best friend.