A GOP congressman’s effort to get Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to condemn socialism failed spectacularly on Wednesday when she gave the same response, over and over again, to his questions about communist dictators: Donald Trump loves these guys.
Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R-Pa.) went after Waters during a House Rules Committee hearing on a resolution that “denounces socialism in all its forms, and opposes the implementation of socialist policies in the United States of America.” It’s a nonbinding measure, but Republicans decided it is a priority to send the message that dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong and Kim Jong II were bad.
The problem for the GOP is that Trump, who remains their party’s presidential front-runner despite inciting an insurrection after he lost the 2020 election, openly admires dictators like Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Republicans know this, but they weren’t ready for Waters to relentlessly call them out on it in Wednesday’s hearing.
“The American public is going to wonder why Republicans are wasting our time today with this divisive resolution instead of focusing on the real threats to our economy and democracy,” Waters told the panel, speaking in her role as the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. “What is this all about? Is it about saying you want to cut Social Security? You want to cut Medicare? You don’t care about the debt ceiling? Please.”
“You can’t condemn socialism?” Reschenthaler said. “In your opening remarks, you were talking about Putin, Kim Jong Un and Xi. You know what they all have in common, right?”
“Trump,” Waters said flatly to a few laughs in the room.
“Trump?” Reschenthaler said. “North Korea, China and Russia?”
“He loves Kim Jong Un,” Waters said, “who is condemned in the resolution. Regarding North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Trump said Kim ‘wrote me beautiful letters, and they’re great letters and we fell in love.’ You sure you want to hear the rest of this?”
Reschenthaler tried to pivot by suddenly talking about former Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Zedong being responsible for tens of millions of people starving to death. “Do you denounce that?” he asked Waters.
“But Trump loves him,” she replied. “That’s your leader.”
“Do you denounce the genocide and starvation in communist China?” he shot back.
“Trump is your leader,” Waters continued. “He speaks for you. He says he loves him.”
It went on like this for a while to the point of becoming comical, with the Pennsylvania Republican trying ― and failing ― to pivot away from Trump.
“Stalin. Tens of millions died,” said Reschenthaler. “Do you want to denounce that?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t deal with yes or no questions,” replied Waters.
“Why don’t you explain your support of Stalin,” he said.
“No, why don’t you explain it,” Waters countered.
Eventually, the California congresswoman elaborated on why the resolution was as much a waste of time as GOP efforts to appear to care about defending democracy after the role they played in fueling lies about fraud in the 2020 presidential election ― the same lies that motivated a pro-Trump mob to attack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
Reschenthaler himself was one of the 147 Republicans who voted to throw out the results of the election based on a lie about widespread voter fraud.
“Your Republican leader, Donald Trump, is friends with, supports Putin. Kim Jong Un, he loves him. And he led this country in being basically undermined by Jan. 6, including … telling his supporters to go after our own police officers here and use the American flag,” Waters said. “I haven’t heard one denouncement on the Republican side. Nobody has denounced that.”
The room was silent as she continued.
“Are you afraid of Trump? Do you agree with Trump?” Waters asked Republicans in the room. “Ask him the questions, don’t ask me.”
Unbelievably, Reschenthaler tried to pivot again, this time to the former Cambodian communist dictator Pol Pot.
“Do you denounce the killing fields of Cambodia or not?” he asked.
“Don’t ask me silly questions,” Waters fired back. “I told you, I’m a capitalist. I’m not like Donald Trump. I’m not like Republicans who claim to support this democracy but at the same time refuse to condemn those who attempted to destroy this democracy. You need to talk to your leader, Donald Trump, about what he’s doing, about why he loves Putin so much, why he loves Kim Jong Un so much.”
“You ask him the questions,” she added.
Somehow, Reschenthaler still could not help himself as Waters kept pointing out his inability to say anything about Trump and his base of racist, radical conspiracy theory supporters.
“For the record, you’ve refused to denounce Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez,” he finally said. “That’s amazing.”
“For the record, you refuse to denounce Donald Trump. You refuse to denounce the insurrection that tried to destroy our democracy. You refuse to denounce the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, QAnon, the KKK,” Waters shot back. “You refuse all of that.”
“When you do all of that,” she added, “then we can talk.”
Reschenthaler, perhaps realizing the hole he’d been digging himself into the entire time, ended their exchange by turning to a Republican colleague and asked him to explain free market capitalism.
You can watch their full exchange in the House Rules Committee hearing in the clip above, starting around the 32:50 mark.