After the Republican National Committee last week endorsed the violent Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, GOP lawmakers have been at pains to distance themselves from the RNC declaration that the assault was "legitimate political discourse." The language was included in a resolution censuring Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois for their participation on the select committee investigating Jan. 6.
In a sticky interview Sunday on ABC's This Week, Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas—who voted against impeaching Donald Trump for inciting the insurrection—danced around questions from Martha Radditz on whether he stood by the RNC's censure resolution.
"As I understand it, they were referring to the peaceful protesters when they said that," McCaul offered. "I do not agree with that statement if it's applying to those who committed criminal offenses and violence to overtake our shrine of democracy."
McCaul stopped short of condemning the resolution, but asked if Cheney and Kinzinger should have been censured, he gave the RNC the Heisman.
"I'm not a member of the RNC," McCaul said, repeatedly expressing frustration that Republicans were being forced to confront the issue.
"Why are we talking about this resolution?" he posited, questioning why Republicans weren't focused on "the failures" of the Biden administration.
In so many words, McCaul lamented the political landmine the national Republican Party and RNC chair Ronna McDaniel had set for GOP lawmakers, who hope to retake control of Congress and the White House over the next two election cycles.
"From a messaging standpoint, Republicans need to unify," McCaul said, "about what are we going to do for the country to get the majority back in Congress, to get the White House back in 2024. It's not helpful when they see us divided as a party rather than unified."
All of that is indeed difficult when the Republican Party has no actual plans to make life better for Americans. Instead, the RNC is devoting itself to pursuing Donald Trump's political vendettas even as he promises to pardon the domestic terrorists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6 if he's reelected in 2024.
Over the past week, Republican lawmakers have been forced to dodge a briar patch of questions about Trump's pardon pledge and the RNC censure resolution, while also choosing sides between Trump and former vice president Mike Pence on whether Pence had the legal authority to overturn the 2020 election.
All of those issues can be categorized under one basic question: Do you support law and order?
The RNC threw its hat in the ring for lawlessness Friday with its censure resolution of Cheney and Kinzinger, and Trump has never made any bones about where he stands.
Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a Trump golfing buddy and perennial sycophant, took a shocking stand for law and order last week—a sign of how well Senate Republicans believe an embrace of Trump’s unhinged lawless will play to the suburbs in November.
GOP Sen. Todd Young of Indiana, who’s running for reelection this cycle, also prioritized law and order over Trump's vendettas during a Monday interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. Asked if he believed the storming of the Capitol was "legitimate political discourse," Young called the RNC’s position un-American and fringe.
“I don’t know any American that regards that as legitimate political discourse. I certainly haven't encountered them here in the state of Indiana,” Young said. “That is a fringe group—we must make absolutely clear.”
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, also facing reelection this year, declined to say whether the Jan. 6 attack was a "legitimate" form of protest, offering only, "If you entered the Capitol and you committed acts of violence and you were there to hurt people, you should be prosecuted." (Some three-quarters of voters believe attackers who committed acts of violence and hurt people should be prosecuted.)
But Rubio topped off his answer with a dash of pandering to Trump’s base, saying prosecutors should be handling the matter, not the Jan. 6 panel.
“This commission is a partisan scam," Rubio said of the select committee that includes two House Republicans. "The purpose of that commission is to try to embarrass and smear and harass as many Republicans as they can get their hands on.”
Another GOP Senator up for reelection this year skipped Rubio's chicken dance.
"What happened on Jan. 6, 2021, was an effort to overturn a lawful election resulting in violence and destruction at the Capitol," Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska tweeted Saturday. Murkowski was one of seven GOP senators who voted last year to impeach Trump for inciting the attack. "As Americans, we must acknowledge those tragic events, and we cannot allow a false narrative to be created," Murkowski added, noting that suggesting the violence was "legitimate" was "just wrong."
Speaking to CNN Sunday, Murkowski also distanced herself from the RNC, saying she represents the people of Alaska and is "not here to be a representative of the Republican Party."
Must be a proud moment for RNC chair McDaniel to have pushed through a resolution so politically treacherous that members of her own party are now disassociating with the national party.