Hawes: Illinois GOP Rep. Adam Kinzinger targets cynical colleagues

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During an interview with Illinois Congressman Adam Kinzinger, CNN’s Brianna Keilar played remarks from Arkansas Republican U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton.

“I will confess that I did not watch that hearing,” Cotton said, “and I have not watched any of the hearings, so I’ve not seen any of them, out of the context that I see a snippet here or there on the news.”

Kinzinger, one of two Republicans on the committee conducting those hearings, didn’t hold back.

“Yeah, let me tell you how he’s thinking,” Kinzinger said. “He thinks it’s cool to be in front of the base and be like, ‘I’m not even watching the hearing, guys. I’m too cool to watch the hearings, but I already have my mind made up.’ Frankly, that probably works in the base.”

Kinzinger should know. He and fellow Republican Liz Cheney have played lead roles in documenting former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn results of the 2020 election.

What price Trump might pay for his actions is unclear, but it’s entirely possible both Kinzinger and Cheney will soon be out of office. Kinzinger didn’t seek reelection, and Cheney is facing a stiff challenge in Wyoming’s Republican primary.

“Tom Cotton has built a reputation on acting like the toughest guy on the planet,” Kinzinger said, “but he can’t even put in front of his eyes, you know, a narrative which may challenge his soul that he would have to go tell his people the truth.” Kinzinger spoke directly to Republican voters.

“Every one of your leaders that refuse to tell you the election wasn’t stolen, Joe Biden is the legitimate president and that Trump is a poison to our country… they’re abusing you,” he said. “They are lying to you.”

He urged voters to reject such cynicism at the polls.

“Because you need leaders that tell you the truth,” he said. “Be ticked at me, be ticked at Liz Cheney all you want. Fine. We can take it. We’re telling you the truth. The people that are lying to you may pat you on the head and make you feel good. But they’re abusing you, stealing your money, all to stay in power.”

Keilar showed a clip of Trump supporters in Arizona saying they didn’t believe the committee’s findings, and when the camera came back to Kinzinger, he had his head down.

“You know, I mean, your face says it all,” Keilar said. “These aren’t outliers, right, in the Trump base? What’s your thought as you’re listening to that?”

Kinzinger was overcome by sarcasm.

“I mean, facts are hard to digest, right?” he said. “This is a very one-sided hearing process. It’s very one-sided. I’ll give them that. It has only been Republicans, only mainly Republicans appointed by Donald Trump, that have testified.”

He compared Trump to disgraced former President Richard Nixon.

“He’s becoming a cancer,” Kinzinger said of Trump. “Trumpism is a cancer.”

Years after Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal, it was hard to find voters who would acknowledge supporting him. Kinzinger predicted a similar fate for Trump.

“I firmly believe in five or 10 years, you won’t find a single person in this country that will admit to having supported Donald Trump,” he said.

Kinzinger also had harsh words for Democratic efforts to capitalize on the moment by promoting some of his party’s more extreme candidates in hopes of sticking Republicans with a sure loser in the fall.

“I think it’s disgusting,” he said. “I truly believe that all these issues we argue about, they matter, but the thing that matters most right now is the threat to our democracy. It’s the thing our kids will judge us by.”

Both parties might want to take heed.

Kelly Hawes is a columnist for CNHI News Indiana.

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