On Friday's edition of CNN's "New Day," John Avlon laid into the "epidemic of situational ethics" in Washington, noting that the party in control has dramatically shifted politicians' views of executive power and legislative oversight.
"Situational ethics is the opposite of real ethics, which are moral principles you try to apply regardless of self-interest," said Avlon. "For example, here's Lindsey Graham back in 1998 invoking the sins of Republican Richard Nixon to try to apply them to Democrat Bill Clinton."
"Article III of impeachment against Richard Nixon, the article was based on the idea that Richard Nixon, as president, failed to comply with subpoenas of Congress," said the younger Graham in the clip. "Congress was going through its oversight function to provide oversight of the president. When asked for information, Richard Nixon chose not to comply."
"Sound familiar?" said Avlon. "Now, is course, Graham is singing a very different tune, saying that Donald Trump should 'fight like hell' to resist subpoenas issued by congressional Democrats, who he calls 'political hacks.'"
"How about the decision to hold an attorney general in contempt of Congress?" continued Avlon, putting up a 2012 clip of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on the screen. "Here's one senator's righteous indignation."
"I think that it is outrageous that any attorney general, Republican or Democrat, refused to comply with Congress' constitutional right to hold them accountable and the Justice Department accountable," said Rubio. "I would say that if this was a Republican, just like I do now because it's a Democrat."
"That applies almost perfectly to the situation with Bill Barr today," said Avlon. "But, as you may have guessed, that's Marco Rubio back in 2012, raging against Obama AG Eric Holder for refusing to hand over documents relating to the 'Fast and Furious' gunwalking scheme. Now, the key line is Rubio insisting that 'I would say that if this was a Republican, just like I do now because it's a Democrat.' That's the way it should work. But it doesn't. Instead, Rubio's calling the Barr contempt vote a 'political stunt.'"
Avlon adds that Democrats are not perfect either, noting that at the time, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and House Judiciary chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) opposed the contempt proceedings against Holder — although he says "you can reasonably argue there is a magnitude of difference." A botched ATF operation is not the same thing as a president potentially obstructing justice, and Holder did not actually refuse to give Congress documents, the GOP just disagreed with the terms he offered for giving them.
Nonetheless, Avlon adds, "the echo is unmistakeable," and quotes former Chief Justice Earl Warren's refrain that "the power of the Congress to conduct investigations is inherent in the legislative process."
"Trump-era politicians are betting that people won't remember their ethical flip-flops," said Avlon, "or we'll be too busy hating on the other side to care about their hypocrisy."
“Trump-era politicians are betting that people won't remember their ethical flip-flops or will be too busy hating o… https://t.co/WIVGBaFZRL— New Day (@New Day) 1557493829.0