The Humiliation of Kevin McCarthy
Lordy, there were tapes
Watching Kevin McCarthy over the last 24 hours has been like peeling an onion of humiliation. And there is no reason to think we are anywhere close to being done.
The story so far:
In the wake of the January 6 Insurrection the GOP Leader had a spasm of conscience and a momentary sense of duty. It faded quickly.
But, before it passed, McCarthy told colleagues that he was going to tell Donald Trump he would be impeached, and that the president should resign. Within days though, McCarthy had wrestled with his conscience — and won.
The result, as you know, was this:
And for the last 16 months, it has been humiliation all the way down. McCarthy made the calculation that all of this groveling was worth it, if it got him the gavel. But last November, I ventured this question: “What will happen to a speaker who rose to power by shrinking himself? What sort of power will be wielded by a man who obtained it through displays of weakness?”
Which brings us to yesterday’s rolling revelations, denial, and taped coup de grâce. The morning began with the bombshell report from the NYT”s Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin about the comments that McCarthy and GOP Senate Leader Mitch McConnell had made to colleagues about their disgust with Trump’s behavior, and their belief that he had to go.
McConnell remained mum. But McCarthy understands that his speakership hangs by the thread of Trump’s favor, and he moved quickly to reassure his audience of one that he had never, ever said the things that the NYT claimed. By mid-day, McCarthy had issued a blanket denial, calling the report “totally false and wrong,”
But, Lordy, there were tapes. And they showed him saying exactly what he had just denied saying.
The recording, obtained by New York Times reporters Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin — and heard publicly for the first time Thursday on MSNBC — shows McCarthy preparing to formally break from Trump in the aftermath of the deadly riot and as House Democrats started drawing up an impeachment resolution.
On the tape, McCarthy says: “Now, this is one personal fear I have. I do not want to get into any conversation about Pence pardoning. Again, the only discussion I would have with him is that I think this will pass, and it would be my recommendation you should resign.”
Here it is:
The episode is, of course, filled with special irony, because he’s having this conversation with… Liz Cheney. As my colleague, Sarah Longwell tweeted last night, “Kevin McCarthy is casually discussing 25th Amendment, telling Trump to resign, and making sure Pence won’t pardon him…WITH LIZ CHENEY. Only to, weeks later, kick Cheney out of leadership for saying the same things he did.”
So what happens now? Politico’s Playbook is asking: “Is Kevin McCarthy toast?”
For years now, through controversy after controversy, House Minority Leader KEVIN MCCARTHY has bent over backward to stay in former President DONALD TRUMP’s good graces, all to serve one major purpose: He wants to be speaker someday.
That hope may have just blown up on the launchpad.
But, if he is toast, it’s not because he has just been caught in a lie, because that’s not really a disqualification in today’s GOP. If his dreams of becoming speaker have been torched, it’s only because he’s seen as disloyal by Trump. And because he’s a cynical moron.
The karma would be delicious, indeed. As our friend Jonah Goldberg tweeted last night:
Before the tape was released, I also had some thoughts about political cowardice and cynicism:
Exit take: In a brilliant alignment of the political planets, McCarthy’s humiliation came on the same day that the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library announced its 2022 Profile in Courage Award.
One of the winners: Liz Cheney.
Profiles in Courage
This year’s awards are a reminder (1) how vanishingly rare genuine courage is in our politics, but also (2) how inspiring and uplifting it can be.
For the first time ever, the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award will honor five individuals — President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, U.S. Representative Liz Cheney, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, Arizona Representative Russell “Rusty” Bowers, and Wandrea “Shaye” Moss — each for their courage to protect and defend democracy in the United States and abroad.
President of Ukraine
In February 2022, as Russia mounted a massive, unprovoked military assault on Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marshaled the spirit, patriotism, and untiring sacrifice of the Ukrainian people in a life-or-death fight for their country - a struggle that endures to this day. From the first moment of the invasion, Zelenskyy and his family became targets for assassination by Russian forces. In the face of this constant danger, Zelenskyy has led a courageous defense of democratic ideals and political independence.
With candor and clarity, he has focused the eyes of the world on the existential threat facing Ukraine, and on the need for robust, uncompromising international engagement and cooperation to safeguard all democratic societies. His principled leadership has strengthened the resolve of Ukrainians and people around the globe to protect and defend the fragile human right of self-determination.
Congresswoman, At-Large, Wyoming (R)
When the President… rejected the lawful, certified outcome of the election, she broke with most in her party, urged fidelity to the Constitution, and stood her ground with honor and conviction. She stood against the lawlessness and violence of January 6th, and voted to impeach President Trump, concluding: "The President of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob, and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing.”
Cheney received numerous death threats after casting her vote in favor of impeachment, and yet refused to take the politically expedient course that most of her party embraced. Because she would not remain silent or ignore the events of January 6th, Cheney's congressional colleagues stripped her of her leadership position in the GOP caucus. She now serves as the Vice Chair of the Select Committee investigating the January 6 insurrection, and remains a consistent and courageous voice in defense of democracy.
1. Sham Elections and Shameless Lies
In today’s Bulwark, Will Saletan notes that the crowd that casts doubt on American votes loves fake Russian referenda.
On the night of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Le Pen congratulated Trump as the victor even before the outcome was announced. But in 2020, when Trump lost, Le Pen stood with him in suggesting the results were fraudulent. More than a week after the election, and several days after every news organization had called it for Joe Biden, Le Pen still refused to acknowledge his victory, claiming there were discrepancies between the real and reported vote counts. She didn’t concede the outcome until after the attack on the U.S. Capitol in January.
Now, as Putin’s forces massacre civilians in Ukraine, Le Pen continues to insist that Crimea belongs to Russia. “There was never a military invasion in Crimea,” she declared on Monday, absurdly. “There was a referendum in Crimea.”
2. Is There Any Way for the Dems to Win the Kids Back?
Tim Miller has some thoughts, and they mostly involve legalized pot.
I do not see it as cowardice or cynicism that puts Republican or Russian ambition and greed for raw power ahead of everything -- everything human or humane or moral or ethical or rational. I see it simply as a satanic-level lack of character. All else stems from that, and from its attendant hubris. How America got to elevating such debased people to such high positions, and why they are succeeding in their quest, is the question.
The real problem isn't actually Kevin McCarthy, it's the republican base that's the real problem. As long as the actions of the leadership satisfy the anger and ignorance that the base has, this will get continually worse until the democracy is simply a memory.
I don't like Cheney's politics but by God I respect her for her dedication to the country. But the base of her former party? No, It's disgustingly thoughtless, racist, homophobic and seeks retribution for it's inadequacy to be the best they could ever become. Idiocracy was Prescient as a movie. We'll wallow in the loss of intellect.
But McCarthy? He's really pretty stupid. McConnell on the other hand isn't stupid, he's just disgusting.