There continues to be a virtual news blackout on coverage of the scandal involving House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Eric Swalwell reportedly having a long intimate relationship with a Chinese spy named Fang Fang. Some however were not content to simply ignore the story. In a more worthy of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brad Woodhouse, the former DNC Communications Director, went on Fox News not to bury Swalwell but to praise him. Asked whether Swalwell should have been left on the House Intelligence Committee after an alleged intimate relationship with a Chinese spy, Woodhouse declared Swalwell did everything right after being notified by the FBI. He then added “we should give Eric Swalwell the congressional medal of honor his conduct.” As a military history buff, the comparison did not sit well with me, but it was particularly odd coming from Woodhouse.
The Congressional Medal of Honor recognizes brave corporals, not corporeal bravery. Just in case there is a need for the distinction, consider Corporal Mitchell Red Cloud Jr. Red Cloud was a Ho-Chunk Native American born in Hatfield, Wisconsin. He served in combat with the Marines in World War II and was wounded. They wanted to medically discharge him but he refused and went on to fight with the Marines at Okinawa. He then enlisted with the Army in 1945 and fought in Korea. He was shot eight times and kept fighting.
He wrapped himself around a tree to keep firing at the massive wave of Chinese. That is an encounter with the Chinese that is worthy to repeat to our children unlike Swalwell’s brave encounter with Fang Fang.
While not ignoring any distinction Swalwell achieved in his “action,’ the CMH is meant to recognize some who “distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” Whatever call Swalwell was answering, it was not the call of duty for a CMH.
I am sure that Woodhouse did not mean to insult CMH winners and this was just a comment that he would now take back. We have all had such moments. It is the peril of live television. The more important aspect however is how Democrats (and many in the media) are dismissing this story despite the endless coverage of previous and analogous scandals. It is the fact that Swalwell should be complimented for his conduct. Why? Swalwell did not go undercover in any intelligence-gathering sense. What was his alternative when the FBI contacted him? Woodhouse makes it sound like our expectations of our elected officials are so low that Swalwell is a hero for not refusing to speak with the FBI and continuing to sleep with a Chinese agent. The fact that he agreed to cut off ties to a foreign agent and answer questions of the FBI is deemed extraordinary conduct by Woodhouse.
Even as hyperbole, Woodhouse’s statement shows the level of galactic spin required to dismiss this story, which is being buried by most of the media. In addition to his relationship (which included her fundraising for his campaign and successfully pushing forward an intern for his congressional office), Swalwell ran for president and never mentioned the controversy. Swalwell later used national security laws to refuse to explain the nature and scope of his relationship in public, claiming that such information was “classified.” It was an absurd claim. Clearly the Chinese – and presumably Fang Fang – know whether he had a sexual relationship with this spy. The only people who do not know are the voters.
For me, that was the real lie. I do not believe that Swalwell knowingly slept with a spy. It was his insistence on staying on the House Intelligence Committee while using national security laws to shield himself from questions on the relationship.
It was impressive that Swalwell kept the scandal out of the public as he was endlessly for investigations and articles of impeachment over discredited Russian collusion theories. He was particularly adamant in calling for investigations of an alleged Russian asset meeting with Don Trump Jr. in a single meeting at the Trump Tower. Swalwell declared on MSNBC in January 2019: “Stated plainly, the President’s son met with a Russian spy. We now have the best evidence of that in our minority report the Democrats put out that Ms. Veselnitskaya was going all over the world and bumping into Dana Rohrabacher, which is a sign of a spy, someone who tries to create a coincidence encounter, and now we know that she was working at the behest of the Russian government.”
Swalwell was also one of those calling for an investigation into an accused Russian asset seducing a NRA official. Even when NRA moved to address the relationship between Butina and 57-year-old Republican activist named Paul Erickson, Swalwell appeared on countless shows to demand more information and investigation. He told CNN’s Don Lemon that further investigation was needed to explore the extent of such influence..
Indeed, when the NRA story broke, Woodhouse was not handing out CMHs but charges for a FEC investigation. So one seduction should be the subject of recognition while the other should be the subject of investigation.
The only thing more impressive than Swalwell’s hypocrisy is his audacity. Perhaps that is what should earn him some type of congressional recognition. After all, Mark Twain said “heroes are men who do thing which we recognize, with regret . . . that we cannot do.” Swalwell is a congressional hero because he did what no other politician has been able to do: sleep with a foreign agent and survive.