NY Times Lays on Hero Schtick for Trump Foe, ‘Spiritual Man’ Rep. Elijah Cummings

May 10th, 2019 3:58 PM

Reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg buttered up another influential Democrat, House Oversight Committee chairman, Rep. Elijah Cummings. Rep. Cummings, who is aggressively, some would say recklessly, going after the Trump administration and threatening the president with impeachment, was hailed in a profile in Thursday’s New York Times: “Evenhanded Chairman Changes His Tone as the President Tests His Patience” (click “expand”):

Even after President Trump sued him last month to keep his business records secret, Representative Elijah E. Cummings kept his cool and urged Congress to move slowly on impeachment. But with Mr. Trump manning a full-scale blockade of Democrats’ access to documents and witnesses, the ordinarily careful Democrat is, like the rest of his caucus, growing impatient.

“It sounds like he’s asking us to impeach him,” Mr. Cummings, the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and a top lieutenant to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in an interview last week. Ticking off all the ways Mr. Trump is stonewalling Congress, he added, “He puts us in a position where we at least have to look at it.”

Mr. Cummings’s remarks, which have been echoed by Ms. Pelosi, represent a significant shift for top Democrats, who have been trying to maneuver carefully around the impeachment issue. But with Mr. Trump standing in the way of their investigations -- on Wednesday he asserted executive privilege over the unredacted version of the special counsel’s report and on Tuesday he tried to block the former White House counsel from handing over documents -- their strategy of holding impeachment-like hearings without declaring a formal impeachment process is looking like a dead end.

The frustration is showing.

Stolberg didn’t question Cummings over-the-top rhetoric:

Mr. Cummings called the White House effort to block multiple lines of inquiry “far worse than Watergate.” He sees a “constitutional crisis” that even the founding fathers did not envision when they created the system of checks and balances that has kept American democracy intact.


He is a spiritual man, which comes through in the speeches he delivers in his booming baritone voice. When the president’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen, testified before his committee in February, Mr. Cummings’s closing statement brought the room to a hush. “We have got to get back to normal!” he cried.

(It's hard to imagine the paper treating a conservative figure’s “spiritualism” in such flattering fashion, and it didn’t in a March 2019 story by Edward Wong, “The Rapture and the Real World: Pompeo Mixes Beliefs and Policy.”)

Stolberg really laid on the hero schtick, and again relayed an anecdote that would have surely been portrayed as bizarre if coming from, say, Sarah Palin or another religious conservative Republican:

“He tells us all that this is the fight of our lives,” said Representative Jamie Raskin, Democrat of Maryland. “He has a sense of destiny about this moment.”

That sense may stem from his health challenges; when he was in the hospital for two months in 2017 after complications from a heart valve replacement, Mr. Cummings was convinced, he said, that he was “living on borrowed time.” He likes to tell the story of how one day, when he was in so much pain he thought he might faint, a hospital worker turned up at his bedside, saying the Lord had sent her to deliver a message: “I’m just trying to get your attention. I’m not done with you.”

Stolberg left out less flattering aspects of Cummings’ career, like the time earlier this year when he tried to review the editorial decisions of a media outlet he disagreed with. Here was columnist David Limbaugh:

House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings wrote to a former Fox reporter demanding she produce documents concerning Trump's alleged affairs. But Cummings is reportedly going further, also seeking information that could be used to review Fox's editorial decisions.