Back before Utah’s Jason Chaffetz had gone completely over to The Dark Side -- back in the summer of 2014 -- the up-and-coming congressman from Utah engaged in an exercise that was intended to appear, and perhaps actually to be, an extraordinary effort to make the House of Representatives a less toxic place.
As reported at the time by Our Man in Washington -- Thomas Burr -- Chaffetz was in line to take over the chairmanship of the key House Oversight Committee. As an act of good will, he and the ranking Democrat on that panel, Maryland’s Elijah Cummings, visited one another’s districts.
“Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz takes a tour of the liberal side," Salt Lake Tribune, July 1, 2014
" ... ‘We’re going to disagree,’ Cummings says of his Utah colleague, ‘but I can tell you when you know something about a person and where they’re coming from and why they have the motivation they have, it makes it easier to work together. It’s only common sense.’
"For his part, Chaffetz says the two get along ‘fabulously.’
" ‘I think it will be a strength, not a negative,’ the Utahn says of their relationship. ‘You break bread with him and you get to know him.’...”
That didn’t last very long.
After the election of 2016, when it turned out that he was not going to have Hillary Clinton to kick around any more, Chaffetz lost interest and wandered off to a much more lucrative gig at Fox “News.”
Cummings stayed in Congress and, after the House flipped in 2018, regained the Oversight Committee chairmanship. From which he has been dutifully haranguing officials of the current administration for, among other things, their inhumane treatment of refugees coming across our southern border.
The tweeted reply of the president attacked Cummings for his conduct, falsely saying that the border detention centers were clean and that Cummings’ 7th District was “a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.”
....As proven last week during a Congressional tour, the Border is clean, efficient & well run, just very crowded. Cumming District is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 27, 2019
Well. There is some poverty in MD-7. That was the focus of the Chaffetz visit and the coverage of it. And, like any urban area, there must be a few rats.
And there are slums in Baltimore. Some of them are owned by the president’s son-in-law.
But that district also is home to Johns Hopkins University, Camden Yards and the tony Inner Harbor. Median household income there approaches $60,000 a year. That’s a smidgen below the national average, and less than the $71,000 found in UT-3, Chaffetz’ former stomping ground.
Cummings’ district is 59 percent black, with 66 percent of workers holding white-collar jobs and 37 percent holding a bachelor’s degree or higher.
There can be no question that the president’s tweet is based on the idea that any congressional district represented by a black person, particularly a black Democrat, must be a horrid slum. No need for him to check the facts before saying so. His supporters, the base he is working to lather up before the 2020 election, will believe it.
And, of course, there is also the irritant, from the president’s point of view, that Cummings has been given leave by his committee to subpoena records relating to -- wait for it -- Ivanka’s private emails.
As of Sunday morning, I saw no comment, on Twitter or elsewhere, from @jasoninthehouse.
To help fill that awkward silence, something very useful from the quick-turnaround desk of editorial writers at The Baltimore Sun.
Damn. I wish I’d written that.
George Pyle, editorial page editor of The Salt Lake Tribune, has written some quick burns in his career.