+

Jason Chaffetz is no Devin Nunes even if both are casualties of the Trump era

0

By heading back to the private sector Chaffetz risks lowering his public profile, which could impede any gubernatorial effort. No one knows this better than Chaffetz, who sought the spotlight in DC and who built a career in public relations before running for Congress in 2008.

But Chaffetz's rise in politics was hardly conventional, and it was aided by a publicist's eye for reputational pitfalls and opportunities. His curious retreat should not lead any political observers to count him out of future contests. In fact, it's probably best interpreted as a sign that he's very carefully planning his political future-not abandoning it.

While the quick turn of events would spell trouble for 99 percent of lawmakers, Chaffetz has a history of hasty shifts.

Chaffetz spent more than a decade at Nu Skin before leaving the company abruptly in 2000 without any obvious next stop.

He also volunteered for Jon Huntsman's gubernatorial campaign, moved to communications director then campaign manager and, finally, after Huntsman triumphed, was tapped to become chief of staff.

But Chaffetz only lasted a year in the job.

Chaffetz also isn't a loyalist to anyone but himself-meaning he wouldn't stand by any politician (think Trump) who might permanently dent his reputation. Getting "Chaffetzed"-as in getting back stabbed-is a verb on the Hill. GOP Rep. Darrell Issa, who served as House Oversight chair immediately before Chaffetz, found that out the hard way.

Issa had seen potential in Chaffetz and had helped him early in his congressional career by making him the chairman of the national security subcommittee. [...]

Within the Republican caucus, Chaffetz campaigned for the chairmanship as the anti-Issa, implicitly critiquing the oversight chairman's combative style and suggesting that he could bring to the committee an element of media savvy that Issa lacked. Once again, Chaffetz stabbed a mentor in the back and won. In 2015, he became one of the most junior members of the House ever to chair the high-profile committee.

After assuming the chairmanship, one of his first moves was taking down the portraits of past chairmen, including Issa, that hung in the hearing room.

In short, what seemed highly unlikely just a couple days ago, now seems possible, if not probable: Jason Chaffetz is taking his empty vessel out of the spotlight for now, lest it get overexposed. That's not so much a scandal as it is a sign of the times. When the dust settles after Trump, Chaffetz aims to still be standing.

And if his public relations savvy is truly on target, it means there's a lot more Republican casualties of Trump to come.