Don't You (Forget About): Jason "iPhone" Chaffetz

The HRC-obsessed Oversight chair Bill Barr'd the Comey letter.

IT WAS OVER SO QUICK. On 19 April 2017, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, the chair of the House Oversight Committee and one of the more recognizable Republicans on Capitol Hill, announced that he would not run for re-election in 2020. A week later, he took a leave of absence from Congress to recover from foot surgery. And then, on 18 May 2017, the 50-year-old gave notice, resigning from the House on 30 June—just six months into his two-year term. Good morning, good afternoon, goodnight, as they say in baseball.

All of this was strange, to say the least. As Amber Phillips wrote in the Washington Post at the time, “Chairmen of House committees don't just leave for no reason.” Like then-Speaker Paul Ryan, who followed a similar course, Chaffetz was relatively young and incredibly ambitious, even by Washington standards. Unlike Paul Ryan, he represented one of the most staunchly Republican districts in the country, and his re-election was a near lock. Why leave? Phillips can only come up with one possible reason: boredom. “His job as chairman of the oversight panel is to investigate the government, and it probably would have been a lot more fun for this tea party-leaning Republican to investigate Hillary Clinton's government than President Trump’s.” But she doesn’t seem convinced. Indeed, his abrupt resignation had the look of a made outlaw getting out of Dodge.

There is speculation that Chaffetz may run for Senate in 2020. But, as Phillips points out, he “could certainly run for the governor’s mansion from Congress, but maybe he just decided that his name recognition was high enough to do it from the private sector (where in-the-know members of Congress can make millions) than a so-so job. Also, he was bored.”

That analysis made more sense in April 2017, when it was written, than on 1 July 2017, his first day as a private citizen, when Chaffetz joined FOX News as a contributor. This is like resigning as head coach of the Jets four games into the season and taking a studio gig on one of the pre-game shows, to angle for a job next year coaching the Patriots. It makes zero sense. No one is that bored.

It could be that Chaffetz chafed at well-deserved criticism from his constituents. On 10 February 2017, he held a town hall at which pissed-off residents of his district turned up in droves to demand answers, angrily chanting DO YOUR JOB. He chalked up this “bullying” to paid protesters from beyond Utah, which he certainly knew was a Trumptastical lie. A month later, he uttered one of the stupidest and most tone-deaf sentences in recent Congressional history, when he tried futilely to justify the GOP dismantling the ACA, telling CNN’s Alisyn Camerota:

Well we’re getting rid of the individual mandate. We’re getting rid of those things that people said they don’t want. And you know what? Americans have choices. And they've got to make a choice. And so, maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest it in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions for themselves.

This unforgivable gaffe, combined with the jarring unpleasantness of the town hall, may have convinced Chaffetz that he would be more comfortable in the Impenetrable Fortress of Stupid that is FOX News, where he could safely ignore his constituents, than in his current gig. But the easier solution to that pesky problem is to do as most Republicans have done, and suspend town halls altogether. Is the uber-ambitious Chaffetz such a snowflake soy-boy cuck that he would rather take his ball and go home than keep playing the game? Well, his was one of the first high-profile accounts to block me on Twitter, so it’s certainly possible.

In the event, much like a Trump-appointed cabinet member, Chaffetz was not particularly interested in the committee he headed up. The tireless Benghazi Truther wasted untold millions in taxpayer money on charade investigations the GOP admitted were purely political…but once an inveterate enemy of the United States had sabotaged our election in order to elect a compromised and corrupt Donald John Trump? Crikketz. 

WaPo’s Dana Milbank summed it up nicely:

Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has offered a bevy of excuses: He doesn’t need to probe the Flynn affair because “it’s taking care of itself”; other panels could better protect “sources and methods”; he didn’t want to pry into the “private systems of a political party”; and he won’t “personally target the president.” As for Russian hacking, Chaffetz echoed a Chris Farley skit on “Saturday Night Live”: “It could be everything from a guy in a van down by the river down to a nation-state.

Another possibility is that, as Phillips suggests, Chaffetz wanted to provide oversight only on Hillary Clinton, whom he relentlessly pursued like some combination of Javert chasing Jean Valjean, Captain Ahab hunting Moby-Dick, and Borat stalking Pamela Anderson. There was something almost lustful about his obsession with Clinton—and certainly futile. One would not be surprised to learn that the fantasy of her capture and capitulation formed the fodder of his masturbatory fantasies. “Every Breath You Take” might as well have been written about Chaffetz’s relationship with the former Secretary of State. I mean, look at this photo, which he proudly posted on his Insta like a lovelorn fanboy:

So pleased she is not the President. I thanked her for her service and wished her luck. The investigation continues.
January 20, 2017

Dude, she’s just not that into you.

While Chaffetz scuttled any attempt to investigate Trump at Oversight just as alacritously as Devin Nunes did at HPSCI, the rodentine Republican will go down in the history books as a leaker. For it was Jason Chaffetz who leaked the infamous Comey memo to the press, adding his own disingenuous and misleading spin for good measure:

The “case,” such as it was, was not “reopened.” Chaffetz created and helped drive that deza narrative, making a mountain of a molehill of duplicate emails. In this subtle, sneaky, mendacious way, he Bill Barr’d the Comey memo and helped defeat his nemesis, Hillary Clinton.

And maybe after that singular triumph, Chaffetz felt that his work was done. Maybe he really did want to move to broadcasting, in the way that fired football coaches come to prefer the cozy studio to the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Fox News is notorious for hiring pretty blondes to sit behind the desk, but their male talking heads are allowed to look like woodland creatures, which is to Chaffetz’s benefit. He has been guest-hosting Sean Hannity’s show, and maybe he will take it over when the feds finally come for that bosom friend of Paul Manafort, Julian Assange, Michael Cohen, and Donald John Trump. A few terms in the House can be good experience for a successful news-show host—ask Joe Scarborough. Maybe Jason in the House determined that he could make more of an impact as Jason in the FOX hole.

Whatever the case, we should never forget the critical role that Jason Chaffetz played in the election of 2016—or stop asking why he left as abruptly as he did, like a thief in the night.

Photo: Michael Jolley.