I remember thinking as the 2010 election approached that John Boehner was a drunken clown reeking of corruption and the American public would never make him speaker of the House. The Democrats didn't villainies him so they could run against him-- the way the Republicans always run against a version of Pelosi they have created for their base. The election came along, after the public was turned off to a weak, feckless Democratic Party that was incapable of standing up for its own values and its own voters, and... the voters made Boehner speaker by defeating dozens of Democrats. They wisely wiped out the Blue Dogs, but more than a few decent Democrats in swing districts were swept away with them. It was the largest Republican swing since 1948-- and it wasn't all about gerrymandering. 44,829,751 voters picked Republican House candidates (51.7%) and 38,980,192 picked Democrats (44.9%). It was a bloodbath, one that the Democrats earned, the same way they're earning one this cycle. In the end only 3 red seats flipped blue, while 66 Democratic seats flipped red. Some of the worst slime in the Democratic Party lost or were forced to retire before the election-- from Chris Carney (Blue Dog-PA), Jim Marshall (Blue Dog-GA), Bobby Bright (Blue Dog-AL), Travis Childers (Blue Dog-MS), Allen Boyd (Blue Dog-FL), Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (Blue Dog-SD), to Gene Taylor (Blue Dog-MS), Brad Ellsworth (Blue Dog-IN), Artur Davis (Blue Dog-AL), Baron Hill (Blue Dog-IN), Bart Stupak (New Dem-MI) and all the Tennessee Blue Dogs. So then we had Boehner... thanks to them.
And now the same kinds of corrupt corporate whores the DCCC has brought into the party since then are going to give us an even worse and more pathetic speaker than Boehner: jellyfish Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield, California. Yesterday, reporting for the Washington Post, Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey took a deep dive into the ugliness that is Kevin McCarthy, someone who has always worked for his special interests donors and now has to contend with the annoying Señor Trumpanzee as well. Deep behind closed doors, McCarthy paints himself as the hero in an epic battle he had with Trump because Trump endorsed a vanilla real estate agent who was friends with Mark Meadows' wife for a North Carolina House seat while McCarthy backed an actual Nazi (not a neo-Nazi), Madison Cawthorn for the same seat. Trump immediately realized the Cawthorn was his kind of guy and if he told Cawthorn to slip some cyanide into McCarthy's gin and tonic, Cawthorn wouldn't hesitate for 2 seconds. In McCarthy's telling, though, Trump learned a lesson to not endorse candidates without McCarthy's approval. I can't imagine anyone taking this seriously since Trump keeps attacking McCarthy allies in the House and has already forced on-- Anthony Gonzalez (OH)-- to announce his retirement and has his own candidates running against several others.
Scherer and Dawsey wrote that "With only a handful of seats needed for Republicans to win control of the House next year-- and the likely prospect of McCarthy becoming speaker-- he has been selling himself as a singular leader of the party, able to stand up to the unpredictable former president without breaking their bond. 'I stay close to him. We have a good relationship. But he and his team don’t have a veto power on what we do,' McCarthy, 56, tells the donors, according to the witness. He even contrasts himself with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who has distanced himself from Trump and earned his public scorn. 'I can do it,' McCarthy has assured his donors about the balancing act before him, according to the witness. As he casts his challenge in heroic sweep in private, McCarthy’s effort to lift his party beyond its circumstances has looked a bit more painful in public. He has repeatedly contorted himself to take principled stands against Trump’s most radical behavior, then reversed himself to woo Trump and his allies as they push false claims of election fraud and defend Capitol rioters as 'patriots.'"
McCarthy called for Trump to be censured after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol by the president’s supporters, only to later visit the former president at his Florida resort to solicit his help in next year’s campaign. He called for a fact-finding effort to investigate the insurrection, only to block a bipartisan investigation because, he said, its scope did not extend beyond the attack.
Trump has complained to allies about McCarthy’s support of his censure, and recently told a talk radio host that he planned to push the minority leader to stop financially supporting Republicans who voted for his impeachment. A spokesman for Trump denied that McCarthy had ever cursed at Trump, as McCarthy told donors.
“I have a great relationship with Kevin,” Trump said in a statement to the Washington Post.
McCarthy’s delicate alliance with Trump has the potential to deliver Republicans a major victory in 2022 that reclaims Congress as a step to retaking the White House in 2024. Democrats, faced with internal dysfunction and declining approval numbers, hope it will backfire, and some of McCarthy’s former allies have joined their call.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), McCarthy’s former leadership deputy, whom he first supported and then pushed out and sought to isolate because of her criticism of Trump, argues that McCarthy has chosen a path that threatens both the party and the republic.
Not really because of her criticism of Trump. McCarthy broke with her because he is too weak to stand up to Trump and Cheney's insistence on telling the truth about the Big Lie was making it tougher on McCarthy in his dealings with Trump. As he always does, McCarthy didn't look at Justice vs Injustice but at what would be less personally difficult for himself. It's the kind of guy he has always been. Conservative Republican Bill Thomas, who once represented the Kern County district McCarthy’ does now and who first hired him into politics, called McCarthy a "hypocrite" for indulging in Trump’s election falsehoods. "Republicans led by Kevin McCarthy voted not to accept the Pennsylvania electoral college votes," Thomas said in January. "It was as though they went on an extended lunch and came back to resume their mission: Reinforce by your votes the lies of the president." McCarthy caters to donors, not to the GOP grassroots.
On his far-right flank, members of the Freedom Caucus have begun staging news conferences to demand that he take more radical action. Even some of the party’s 2022 candidates have begun to criticize him.
“If it’s true, and it continues to be true, that Kevin McCarthy is backing supporters of the impeachment, then no, he won’t get my vote,” said Florida state Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R), a Trump acolyte who is running for Congress outside Orlando. “It’s taking sides against a new Republican Party that is emerging.”
...[McCarthy] is a master of the glad hand and a compulsive connecter, rarely dining alone or spending idle time without someone on the other end of the phone, often one of the dozens of members he checks in with regularly. He spends days jetting to far-flung locales, people who know him say, to see some of the country’s top donors. Several Republican officials said he fundraises far more than any other elected official in the party. He often has stacks of polls on his desk, trying to suss out how to win certain districts.
...Even from his days in Sacramento, transcending the ideological divides that have riven his party has been a goal. McCarthy positioned himself as a bridge-builder for the last two Republican speakers, Ohio’s John Boehner and Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, helping communicate the concerns of the party’s newcomers with leadership. It’s a role he has tried to maintain since.
“He pays attention. He knows my wife and kids,” said Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN), the head of the conservative Republican Study Committee and a close McCarthy ally. “He has a pulse on where the majority of the conference is.”
That has meant riding the wave of the Republican Party’s multiple transformations over the past 15 years, taking the positions that seemed necessary at the moment.
During the Obama administration, amid the tea party uprising, McCarthy would lead Republicans on field trips to the Bureau of the Public Debt to watch government traders auction off Treasury bills and savings bonds-- a dramatization of American decline.
Then when Trump arrived, he embraced Trump’s agenda to “prime the pump” and the debt rose another $8 trillion, or 36 percent, including spending on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. McCarthy supported increases in the debt ceiling under Trump but opposes them now during Biden’s presidency.
The most jarring recent turnabouts came as McCarthy navigated Trump’s election tantrums. Two days after the election, McCarthy went on television to embrace Trump’s fantasies about the vote count, saying without proof that “President Trump won this election” and falsely warning Americans of the potential theft taking place.
“Do not be quiet. Do not be silent about this. We cannot allow this to happen before our very eyes,” McCarthy told Fox News viewers, in a clip that his office helped go viral by embedding it in a tweet.
A day later, he quietly repudiated his own words in a little-noticed interview with David Wasserman, a journalist for the Cook Political Report, who tweeted that McCarthy said he never meant to declare Trump the winner, but was arguing that Trump deserved credit “for helping us win House seats.”
Weeks after that, McCarthy told one colleague that he would not sign a December amicus brief to a lawsuit from the Texas attorney general seeking to overturn the election “because it wasn’t constitutional,” according to a person familiar with the exchange who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the private conversation. McCarthy later signed the document after many of his colleagues went public with their support. (A McCarthy adviser contested this account, saying the leader always wanted to litigate legitimate challenges to the election.)
Then came the Capitol riot. A week afterward, McCarthy announced that Biden had “won the election” and clapped back at his own party members who falsely claimed antifa was responsible for the attack. He also said that Trump “bears responsibility” for the insurrection and should be censured.
He embraced a “fact-finding commission,” only to later object to the bipartisan one that Rep. John Katko (R-NY) negotiated with Democrats because the scope did not address other incidents, including the killing of a Capitol police officer on April 2 by a man who rammed his car into a barrier outside the building. A McCarthy adviser blamed Democrats for poisoning the process.
...[T]he omnipresence of Trump has still kept McCarthy maneuvering to keep the party from splintering. The roots of his relationship with Trump date to 2016, say people involved, when McCarthy was the first member of House leadership to endorse him for president after it was clear the New York businessman would be the nominee. Weeks later, McCarthy was captured in a private audio recording with Ryan and others, saying that he believed Russian President Vladimir Putin was paying then-candidate Trump.
“Swear to God,” McCarthy said, before Ryan asked everyone in the room to make sure McCarthy’s comment never leaked. Aides said McCarthy was joking.
Once McCarthy became minority leader in early 2019, he made courting Trump a top priority, convincing him to endorse every GOP incumbent in the House-- because they all voted against his first impeachment-- and to record more than 50 telephone rallies and endorsements for GOP House candidates.
“Kevin McCarthy and President Trump would go through each race, one by one, with McCarthy making his asks,” said a former White House official familiar with the process in 2020. “Sure enough, week after week, you’d see batches of primary endorsements.”
The relationship remains hot and cold. The former president has leaked word about McCarthy’s visits to Trump’s homes in Bedminster or Mar-a-Lago to drive public interest, while also privately bad-mouthing McCarthy to advisers and entertaining the possibility that someone else might make a better speaker, according to the former president’s aides.
Aides say Trump has learned to be wary of McCarthy’s different interests, even as they continue to work together. Trump, these aides say, has still not forgiven McCarthy for his proposed censure for the Capitol riot. “He’ll never get over that,” a Trump adviser said. “It’s really their main disagreement.”
More ominously, Trump has declared vengeance on the 10 House incumbents who voted for his impeachment, even as McCarthy has tried to defend some, according to people familiar with their conversations. Trump has endorsed primary challenges against Reps. Fred Upton of Michigan and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington and, before his recent announcement that he would not seek reelection, Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH).
“1 down, 9 to go,” Trump said in a statement soon after Gonzalez bowed out.
Despite Trump’s rages, McCarthy has continued to fund Trump critics in his party, following financial agreements signed with them before Jan. 6, based on a formula that determined how vulnerable incumbents could be in 2022.
Through a committee called Take Back the House, which has been used in other recent election cycles, McCarthy has been channeling money to the reelection campaigns of eight of the 17 Republicans who signed on to either impeach or censure Trump for actions that led to the Jan. 6 attacks.
The group has also sent checks to nine other Republicans who voted to support the bipartisan commission to investigate the attacks. Trump warned of “consequences” for that “wayward” and “weak” group. Some of Trump’s fiercest defenders, including Cawthorn and Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), have also benefited from joint fundraising agreements.
A Trump adviser said the former president is displeased with McCarthy supporting any of the Republicans who voted for impeachment. Trump said in a Sept. 23 radio interview that he wanted to find out more about where McCarthy’s money was going. “I’m going to see who he is funding,” Trump said. “If he is, I will stop the whole deal.”
The former president has nonetheless agreed to headline a November fundraiser for the National Republican Congressional Committee, a separate House effort that McCarthy helps to lead.
...McCarthy is widely viewed among his colleagues as the overwhelming favorite to become speaker if Republicans retake the majority. But opposition has at times bubbled up on the margins. Joe Kent, a Trump-endorsed rival for Herrera Beutler, is the first prominent candidate to say he will not support McCarthy for speaker.
“He is not a leader,” former Trump adviser Stephen Bannon said in June of McCarthy on his daily podcast, which has become an anti-establishment rallying point for Trump devotees. “He is the pledge chairman at the fraternity. He is drinking what the client’s drinking.”
McCarthy has moved delicately as he tries to lay out boundaries for his own caucus. He removed then-Rep. Steve King (R-IA) from his committee assignments in 2019, after King appeared to defend the term “white nationalist.” Then this year he fought unsuccessfully to keep Rep. Marjorie Traitor Greene (R-GA) on one of her two committees after old offensive statements by her surfaced, including a comment about killing Pelosi.
Months later, McCarthy condemned Greene’s comparison of the Holocaust to mask mandates. He has told some people close to him that she was a big problem, according to people familiar with the conversations, although he has not said that publicly.
“He is trying to balance factions,” said one Republican strategist, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to reflect the strategy. “It is almost an impossible job, before you put Trump into it.”
Scherer and Dawsey closed with a quote from Bill Kristol about the likelihood of the Republicans winning back the House from the even more dysfunctional Democrats next year-- which would make McCarthy speaker. "People like me look at it and kind of find it repulsive," said Kristol, who has compared McCarthy to the piano player in the House Republican brothel. "But there is a sense that it might work."
McCarthy still isn't well know nationally-- a big mistake the DCCC has made. The committee should have been working to make McCarthy better known and more of the embodiment of the House Republicans since he's an unscrupulous and thoroughly corrupt hack with no ethics, no character and no empathy. The more people that learn about him, the more it helps progressive Democrat, Bruno Amato, who is challenging him in their Kern County-centered Central Valley district this cycle. Blue America has endorsed Amato and recently, he told me that "Kevin McCarthy is a 'do nothing' representative for the majority of his district and the problems that everyday working class people deal with. While continuing to support the fossil fuel cartels, Kevin has ignored unemployment, rising crime, drug addiction and behavioral health. For over a decade the lack of helping veterans with something tangible, like the modern clinic he promised have been glossed over with empty words and photo ops. Kevin is now more concerned with salvaging his unethical career than actually doing the hard work that his district is in desperate need of."
Last month, non-partisan good government organization CREW-- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington-- filed a complaint against McCarthy, and his train wreck of a crony Marjorie Traitor Greene, with the Office of Congressional Ethics for their blatant violation of House rules by "threatening to retaliate against companies that comply with legal requests for documents from the House select committee investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol." If the select committee invites McCarthy to testify, he could actually become a prominent enough national figure to help the Democrats lose fewer seats in the midterms. Does the Democratic establishment have the balls to do that? No. They need to go almost as badly as the Republican do. Use the thermometer above to help progressive candidates like Bruno Amato, beat conservatives of both parties.