It’s entirely possible that I care about the legacy of Frank Church more than is reasonable, but I am writing about him extensively in my Pacific Northwest book. And for Gym Jordan to compare his bullshit witch hunts to Frank Church investigating the horrors of the CIA around the world is beyond gross. It’s like know my assistant is molesting kids and I don’t care level of gross.
Both the work of the Church Committee and the collapse of the Pike Committee spotlight the flaws in the House GOP’s investigative plans for 2023. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), the expected subcommittee chair, bears little resemblance to the well-respected Church. Even Church’s critics conceded that he was deeply knowledgeable about international matters. By contrast, Jordan is primarily known as a partisan warrior. And unlike the overwhelmingly bipartisan vote that created the Church Committee, the House empaneled the Jordan subcommittee on a strictly party-line vote, with the new panel under the umbrella of perhaps the most partisan committee in an exceptionally partisan Congress, the House Judiciary Committee.
Another major difference: The Senate had laid the groundwork for the Church Committee through long-standing efforts to address concerns about the activities of the intelligence community. House Republicans have done nothing of the sort.
Consider, for instance, perhaps the most troubling incident involving “weaponization” of the government in recent years — an FBI lawyer who falsified evidence to obtain a surveillance warrant against 2016 Donald Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
The Page incident exposed a potentially serious abuse of power. But it’s not as if Page was the first person whose civil liberties were violated by the surveillance state, and until the victim was a Trump operative, most House Republicans seemed content with post-9/11 national security laws — a sharp contrast with the record of Senate critics of the intelligence community in the years before the Church Committee inquiry.
The Church Committee’s work also exposes a potential danger for Republicans who serve on Jordan’s subcommittee. In 1980, Church narrowly lost his Senate seat, partly because of a backlash against his foreign policy record. Two years before, Clark similarly went down to defeat. The Democrat’s efforts to check CIA involvement in Angola almost certainly hampered his reelection bid, as outside anti-Clark spending — ranging from the newly created NCPAC, a conservative political action committee, to (covertly) the South African government — poured into Iowa.
Church and Clark discovered that however important providing oversight is in theory, in practice, aggressive congressional investigations of the intelligence community require consistent levels of public support. And that support can be fickle, lest congressional activism be seen by the public as threatening legitimate security concerns. In this case, such risk could extend to all House Republicans, especially if Americans perceive their investigation as partisan.
These are some evil motherfuckers and they are both unserious as people and very serious as fascists. Sounds like the kind of people Church would have worked hard to stop.