Clip: House hearing erupts in chaos after 'Fake eyelashes' and 'bleach blonde' comments

May. 17, 2024 AT 8:46 p.m. EDT

A House committee hearing erupted in chaos this week after lawmakers traded personal attacks. The panel discusses how the incident is another sign of the dysfunction in Congress.

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Notice: Transcripts are machine and human generated and lightly edited for accuracy. They may contain errors.

Jeffrey Goldberg: We should find out next week if the probable 2024 Republican nominee for president will be running as a convicted felon. The trial in New York, most likely the only Trump trial before the election, is our main subject tonight.

Joining me at the table, Laura Barron-Lopez is the White House correspondent for PBS NewsHour, Eugene Daniels is a White House Correspondent for Politico and a co-author of Playbook, Susan Glasser is a staff writer at the New Yorker and Steve Inskeep is a host of NPRs Morning Edition.

First of all, Steve, 20 years, morning edition, you're getting used to it?

Steve Inskeep, Host, NPR's Morning Edition: Sure. Sure, I'm getting plenty.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Yes. The internship is over?

Steve Inskeep: Yes.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Congratulations.

Steve Inskeep: Thank you. Thank you. It's been an honor to do it, really. And you keep getting to talk to all kinds of people. It's really, really amazing.

Jeffrey Goldberg: That's good. I can't understand how you get up there.

Steve Inskeep: There's nowhere to go with the conversation from there,.

Jeffrey Goldberg: I can't, there's no way to go, yes. But we're going to go somewhere.

Steve Inskeep: Okay.

Jeffrey Goldberg: I'll tell you where we're going to go. We're going to go to this moment in American political history, not since the Lincoln-Douglas debates, if we had a moment, this elevated and enervating. I want you to watch this scene from the Capitol that came last night.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA): Do you know what we're here for?

Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-TX): You know, we're here about the --

Marjorie Taylor Greene: I don't think you know what you're here for.

Jasmine Crockett: Well, you're the one talking about --

Marjorie Taylor Greene: I think your fake eyelashes are messing up what you're --

Rep. James Comer (R-KY): Hold on, hold on.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY): That is absolutely unacceptable. How dare you attack the physical appearance of another person? Move her words down.

Oh, girl, baby girl.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Oh really?

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: Don't even play with me.

Marjorie Taylor Greene: Baby girl? I don't think so.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: We're going to move and we're going to take your words down.

Jasmine Crockett: I'm just curious, just to better understand your ruling. If someone on this committee then said starts talking about somebody's bleached blonde, bad built, butch body, that would not be engaging in personalities, correct?

James Comer: A what now?

Jeffrey Goldberg: A what now is right.

First of all, I just need to establish some rules here Washington Week is not Congress. We are going to be civil here. And I'm looking at you, Glasser, okay? I'm looking at you. But, you know, we're not going to go to that depth.

So, here's the thing that I wanted to ask you all about. It's like that is obviously an entertaining moment. It's also appalling. I mean, Steve, you've been thinking about these kind of issues since 1860.

Steve Inskeep: It's not -- since the 1860s, me personally. That's how long I've been hosting Morning Edition.

Jeffrey Goldberg: You personally have been thinking about this.

Steve Inskeep: It's not terribly surprising, given the climate that we're in. And if you think about what they're arguing about, they're arguing there about the rules of Congress. You're not supposed to engage in personal attacks. There's even a very old fashioned word that was used in the debate, personalities, by which they don't mean Jeff Goldberg's sparkling personality, they mean personal attacks. You're not supposed to engage in them.

Representative Jasmine Crockett even is asking in that hypothetical question, would it be a personality if I were to say this terrible thing that all begins with B's? And she's asking that question, and you're not supposed to do that. The reason you're not supposed to do that is, A, in the old days, you could end up fighting a duel, but, B, in more modern times, you might sometimes need to cooperate with the other person on the other side, so you attack the issue and not the person.

And the reason that I say that it's relevant now, or not surprising terribly now, is because in the House of Representatives, what's the point? There are very few occasions where some members seem to be inclined to work with the other side and seem to think that there's any point in it, so why not launch on somebody's eyebrows?

Laura Barron-Lopez, White House Correspondent, PBS NewsHour: Yes. And I think it's also important to state like where it started, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene made the insulting comment about Jasmine Crockett, which is why then Representative Ocasio-Cortez was asking about can we have that stricken from the record, which is what --

Steve Inskeep: Because it's inappropriate, right.

Laura Barron-Lopez: Right, because it's inappropriate and that's tends to what happened when another lawmaker does engage in a personal attack, then it will be struck from the record and then it devolves from there.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Right. Is Marjorie Taylor Greene such an outlier in Congress, or is she just a manifestation of a larger devolution? I don't know what you would call that.

Eugene Daniels, White House Correspondent, Politico: I think she's the obvious continuation, right? Like this is something that we've been seeing and people learn from Donald Trump that you can kind of say whatever you want and nothing matters. And she is probably does it maybe the best, I guess, if you're going to say it, like she's the one that gets away with it the most, most people don't. And I think Comer doesn't know how to control her. No one knows.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Comer was the chairman. Comer has been flummoxed.

Steve Inskeep: What was his quote again? A what now?

Jeffrey Goldberg: A what now. Yes, the name of our show, a what now?

Eugene Daniels: You don't have Mike Johnson who's able to control her, right, as much as everyone is supposed to be doing that when they're in leadership. And so she is kind of an outlier but a continuation of what was kind of already happening.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Susan?

Susan Glasser, Staff Writer, The New Yorker: Yes, that's right. I mean, look, we have a long way. They have not reached the floor, let's say, of congressional behavior. It was back in the 19th century that Charles Sumner, the Senator, was caned on the floor of the United States Senate.

Jeffrey Goldberg: Almost beaten to death.

Susan Glasser: Yes, exactly. And so, you know --

Steve Inskeep: But no one has yet been caned in the --

Susan Glasser: You know, we have seen the world's most creative use of baby girl as an insult.

Jeffrey Goldberg: I think George W. Bush would call this -- George W. Bush have called that the soft bigotry of low expectations.

Susan Glasser: Exactly. Well, we have a ways to go in our national devolution.

But I do think that this is representative of a new way in which our politics is going to be mediated going on. Institutions are unraveling, not just the institution of the U.S. Congress. In fact, you see the Trumpification arguably of the Senate Republican conference, where the traditions have held up of cross aisle civility much stronger up until more recently.

I think that this is -- you know, we can, and we'll talk more about the Supreme Court, we're seeing not only the hyper politicization of our institutions, but a kind of constant playing to the crowd, to the cameras, to the social media. And Marjorie Taylor Greene is a very effective example of this strand in our politics. It's not going to go away.

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