It's a dark time for Kevin McCarthy. Within the space of four years, his party lost the White House, House, and Senate-a trifecta of #Losing unseen since Herbert Hoover presided over the onset of the Great Depression. Rather than licking its wounds or trying to figure out what went wrong, McCarthy's party is now flirting with violence, binging on brain-washing conspiracies, and white washing an insurrection.
But even just in the midst of this disaster, Kevin McCarthy is attempting to make us laugh. Bless his heart.
There McCarthy was, posing for your picture at Mar-a-Lago last Thursday like an eager pledge who has no clue what the frat brothers are about to do to him. Scared, sure, but additionally totally psyched.
McCarthy's sin is well known. He acknowledged Trump's incitement of violence. McCarthy was really horrified by the January 6 attack on the Capitol. He pleaded with Trump to send reinforcements and urge the insurrectionists to stand down. He told the president that, no, Antifa and left-wing agitators were not the attackers. Days later McCarthy said the president bore some responsibility for the violence.
All of which caused Trump to lash out at McCarthy, calling him an insulting vulgarity. With a break up looming, \”My Kevin\”-as Trump affectionately calls him-walked back his truth-telling within days. He explained that not only did Trump not \”provoke\” violence on January 6, but that \”Trump continues to have that ability to lead this party and unite.\” The \”unite\” part is extra-cute, in that cheeky way McCarthy talks. Like as he told Greta Van Susteren that \”everybody\” has \”some responsibility\” for the insurrection that killed five Americans.
Following McCarthy's apology tour of Palm Beach, official statements were released to exhibit MAGA world that My Kevin was back in the Trump fold. \”Today, President Trump committed to helping elect Republicans in the House and Senate in 2022,\” McCarthy said. \”A Republican majority will pay attention to our fellow Americans and solve the challenges facing our nation.\”
CNN reported two sources close to McCarthy told him that likely to kiss up to Trump would make him look weak. And this is a man who once brought Trump's favorite pink and red Starbursts to him inside a jar -so McCarthy's dignity is long gone.
McCarthy looks weak because he is weak.
McCarthy knows Trump won't share his money, and all sorts of Stop the Steal scam donations the ex-president has amassed since Election Day will be spent on Trump, his family, his travel and his staff. But not members of Congress. McCarthy remembers 2021, when Trump campaigned in Senate races, not House races.
Come 2022, Trump might send some helpful tweets, if he's from Twitter jail. Failing that, he could, in theory, issue some perfunctory press releases about his \”complete and total endorsement\” of House Republicans. And McCarthy knows even this mild degree of \”support\” means that Trump expects a relentless and total defense waged on his behalf, starting with the impeachment trial and extending into the indefinite future and any criminal matters that may arise in the months and a long time.
And that's all cool with McCarthy while he was perfectly suited to be Trump's Apprentice all along. He knew the game even before he joined the show: To outlive in Trump World you have to be purely transactional and devoid of shame.
Lest anyone think McCarthy just knuckled under Trump's demagogic charms, recall he once posited that Trump is compromised through the Russian Federation. \”There's two people I think Putin pays: Rohrabacher and Trump,\” McCarthy was heard saying in a recording made June 15, 2021. When colleagues laughed nervously McCarthy said \”swear to God.\”
So what did McCarthy get out of the meeting? Well, he's inside a spot of trouble home in the swamp.
McCarthy's conference is currently facing the ongoing trainwreck Marjorie Taylor Greene for . . . [gestures expansively] . . . all of this.
And simultaneously there is a mounting effort to dump Liz Cheney from her position as GOP conference chair, moving McCarthy claims to be trying to head off even as Trumpy members ignore his warnings.
On Wednesday the House GOP conference will meet and Cheney will have the chance to defend her vote to impeach Trump. Roughly 115 Republicans seem to want her out of leadership. What McCarthy is going to do at that meeting is a mystery. Like GOP Whip Steve Scalise, McCarthy said he supports Cheney in her leadership post. But Trump hates Cheney, so McCarthy is attempting to walk that back, too. He now says that \”questions need to be answered,\” such as the \”style in which things were delivered.\”
Because suddenly Kevin McCarthy is deeply concerned about the style in which Republicans express themselves.
Cheney will be a big scalp to MAGA world. They're polling in Wyoming and delighting in numbers showing voters there oppose impeachment. Matt Gaetz went there to campaign against Cheney a week ago.
Meanwhile McCarthy, who knew Marjorie Taylor Greene was a nut but didn't do anything to stop her in the primary last year, seated her on the House Education and Labor committee. He claims to have found reports of newly uncovered posts \”deeply disturbing\” and plans to \”have a conversation with the Congresswoman about them.\”
Probably concerning the style in which things were delivered.
That's a tall order for you to handle and Team McCarthy wants us to understand that we ought to feel for the guy.
\”We’re eating sh*t for breakfast, lunch, and dinner right now,” Axios quoted one of his aides saying last weekend.
And that hardly seems fair. McCarthy is really a super-friendly, cheery, upbeat guy. Members will explain he's such a charmer he'll speak to your mom before you do on her behalf birthday.
But he isn't terribly reliable. \”Kevin never tells members the truth. He tells them what they need to hear,\” said one GOP leadership aide. \”If he wanted to call off Rep. Andy Biggs he could. If he wanted to deal with Marjorie Taylor-Greene he could. And they would listen to him.\” In terms of Cheney, this aide said, McCarthy is clearly not asking members to stand down.
Former Rep. Eric Cantor-who co-wrote a book in 2010 with McCarthy and Paul Ryan, called Young Guns-seemed to become taking a direct shot at McCarthy last Friday as he published a piece in the Washington Post insisting that Republicans owe voters the reality.
\”Political parties and their leaders have two options: Participate in the competition of ideas and solve problems while moving the nation forward, or continue to promote disinformation and false narratives made to undermine our democracy. The choice ought to be obvious,\” Cantor wrote.
Former Rep. Bill Thomas, who McCarthy helped as a staffer before winning his seat in Congress, issued a public rebuke of McCarthy after the attack on the Capitol, calling McCarthy out for voting to decertify the election. McCarthy's mentor called him a \”hypocrite\” who nurtured the \”phony lies\” Trump perpetuated. \”I look at it in terms of what you did, the way you did it, and when you did it. What is more important ? Ending any kind of continuation of massive lies following the Capitol was torn apart-which [McCarthy] didn't do…after which finally after months of supporting those outrageous lies from the president, he decides that actually Trump lost and Biden won.\”
And you need to remember that McCarthy hasn't just been giving aid and comfort to the liars. He was a proponent from the Big Lie. Days after the election, and one day before the networks known as the election for Joe Biden, McCarthy went on Fox on November 6 to spread the large Lie himself: \”President Trump won this election, so everyone who’s listening, do not be quiet,” he said. “We cannot allow this to occur before our very eyes.”
So yes, Kevin McCarthy is really a victim of the crazies in his caucus. But he's also a perp. He did this.
The big takeaway coming from all this is that Kevin McCarthy isn't actually the best choice of the Republican House caucus. Donald Trump is.
McCarthy blamed Trump for that insurrection; then he didn't. He encouraged a vote of conscience on impeachment and told his caucus to leave Liz Cheney alone. They ignored him. Together with his caucus turning into an insane asylum-some Republican members bringing guns to the House floor and blowing past magnetometers, other members fearing for their lives, a freshman senator who believes in Jewish space lasers-McCarthy left Washington to scurry right down to Trump's residence so that he could beg forgiveness and proclaim that Trump was the past, present, and future of his party.
Even more frightening, is that some of his conference members literally fear for his or her lives, barraged with threats from deranged wackos, simply because they voted to impeach Trump.
Kevin McCarthy is not a leader from the Republican party. He's just another Republican following a Trump cult and hoping for the very best.
Maybe there won't be too much more violence. Maybe he'll become speaker.
Maybe the snake won't bite him.
Correction, February 1, 2021, 11:18 a.m.: An early on version of this story erroneously attributed the statement \”President Trump's popularity has not been stronger than it is today” to Kevin McCarthy. That statement, following the Trump-McCarthy meeting, came from Trump’s office.