There has been a lot of focus on the exchange during the Michael Cohen hearing between freshman Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) and Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC). Meadows practically burst into tears at the suggestion by Tlaib that his act of propping up of a single Black person who did not think Trump was racist as PROOF Trump was not racist was in and of itself racist. The fact that she is correct is apparently irrelevant. But another sort of racism was on display in a different exchange. In my opinion, it was more hidden, and therefore, more insidious. The perpetrator was Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) and the exchange was between him and Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD).
I'm not going to parse all the hypocritical and false things he said in his opening either to Cohen, or about the purpose of the hearings themselves. I don't have all day. What struck me as indescribably painful as a white person to watch, (and I can't imagine for a Black person to receive) was the condescension and disrespect with which Jordan treated Cummings. To illustrate, let's look at the moments at the beginning and end of Jordan's opening statement:
CUMMINGS: Mr. Jordan is recognized for his opening statement.
JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, here we go. Here we go. Your first big hearing, your first announced witness, Michael Cohen. I want everyone in this room to think about this. The first announced witness for the 116th Congress is a guy who is going to prison in two months for lying to Congress. Mr. Chairman, your chairmanship will always be identified with this hearing, and we all need to understand what this is.
"Your first big hearing"??? Jim Jordan has been a member of the House of Representatives since 2007 — twelve years. He is 55 years old. Cummings has been a U.S. Representative since 1996 — for 23 years. Nearly twice as long as Jordan has. He is 68 years old, 13 years Jordan's senior. As Chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Cummings is Jordan's superior, people. And he dared open his statement addressing Cummings like that? Cummings sat stone-faced, staring straight ahead of him, as Jim Jordan addressed him like he was a teenager screwing up his first big presentation in front of the class.
How. The. F*ck. Dare. Jim. Jordan.
After all the crap in the middle of his statement, Jordan ended and yielded back. Turns out, though, he remembered he had more he wanted to say. He wanted to get back to the motion the Republicans were trying to get passed to delay the hearing because of a rule regarding the length of time they should have to review evidence. Mind you, this motion had already been defeated by voice vote AND a recorded roll call vote, but Jordan wanted time back after he yielded to the Chairman whom he'd completely disrespected to whine about it some more. That's when Rep. Cummings showed him what's what.
JORDAN: So now Clinton loyalist, Clinton operative, Lanny Davis has persuaded the chairman of the Oversight Committee to give a convicted felon a forum to tell stories and lie about the president of the United States so they can all start their impeachment process. Mr. Chairman, we are better than this. We are better than this. I yield back...
CUMMINGS: I wanted to note --
JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, actually I have a motion.
CUMMINGS: The gentleman is not recognized.
BOOM. "The gentleman is not recognized." Did Jordan accept his superior's ruling? No. He spoke right over and attempted to make his motion.
JORDAN: I have a motion. I have a motion under rule 2 k 6 --
CUMMINGS: You yielded back, sir. You yielded back.
JORDAN: Mr. Chairman, you took seven minutes. I took four.
CUMMINGS: The gentleman yielded back.
Cummings, stoic, continued to stare straight ahead, and explain, "The gentleman yielded back." As in, "YOU f*cked up, Jim, not me. Don't give me your whining about how many minutes I took. I'm the damn Chairman." Jordan couldn't accept that from Cummings, though, so he went into bully mode. And check out the look on Michael Cohen's face when Jordan starts in on Cummings in this next section. Like he's thinking, "Man, I used to threaten people for a living, and even *I* wouldn't be up there messing with this man this way."
JORDAN: That's how you're gonna operate? First you don't follow the rules and now you're going to say -- so you don't -- you get to --
CUMMINGS: Point of order. Regular order.
JORDAN: You get to deviate from the rules?
CUMMINGS: Regular order. (Gavel) Thank you.
JORDAN: I just have a simple motion, Mr. Chairman. It's a regular order to have the testimony 24 hours in advance.
CUMMINGS: Excuse me. (Another Member to Jordan: We've addressed that.) I wanted to note under rule 11 clause 4 all media and photographers must be officially credentialed to record these proceedings and take photographs. I also wanted to briefly address the spectators in the hearing room today.
Finally, Jordan sits back, takes off his glasses, folds his arms and shuts up in defeat as a calm, cool-as-a-cucumber Representative Elijah Eugene Cummings continues on with the proceedings of the day.
Now, it is possible, I suppose, that Jordan might have tried that nonsense, in that tone, with that degree of dismissiveness, bullying, and condescension with a white Democratic Chairman of that committee, too. He might be that much of an a$$hole. I highly doubt he would, though. One thing I DO know, however, is that his having behaved that way with a Black Chairman of that committee, is absolutely "a racist act."
I will give Jim Jordan credit for one thing he got right in his opening statement. "Mr. Chairman, your chairmanship will always be identified with this hearing..." How prescient that turned out to be.
It's my considered opinion that the second half of Rep. Cummings closing statement — the part that built to a crescendo with anger and passion about how this was NOT the first hearing of this Congress? How Jim Jordan (though not named) stole his words — STOLE THEM — and used them against the Democrats (a too-common M.O. amongst us white people, frankly)? I truly believe that was the cathartic release of a man who had been belittled and insulted the entire hearing, beginning with these moments from Jim Jordan of Ohio.
Man, oh, man, will Rep. Cummings closing statement EVER be remembered and associated with that hearing. Thank you for your service, Representative.