Trump Extends His Losing Streak
McCarthy's long surrender
As we start a new day of performative chaos, Kevin McCarthy continues to self-geld, which guarantees that if he hangs on to the speakership, he will merely be the Superintendent of Crazy Town.
This, of course, is a parody.
But the reality is only a shade less pathetic. Early reports suggest that McCarthy’s remarkable surrender campaign now includes an agreement to let any single member force a vote on ousting the speaker, and plum committee slots for the lunatic caucus. His Super-Pac also cut a swampy deal with the Club For Growth to stand down on primary races against nutjobs.
But it’s far from clear that this will be enough to get him to the 218 votes he needs. Meanwhile, the House remains paralyzed.
Conservative Inc. is pleading: Don’t let the crazies win.
But, ICYMI, they already have.
As my colleague, Mona Charen pointed out yesterday, the fight over the speakership “is not between the extremists and the establishment. It’s between two camps of extremists.” The grownups are gone: excommunicated or self-exiled. What’s left is MTG and George Santos vs. Matt Gaetz and Paul Gosar — nothing but deplorables as far as the eye can see. And whatever happens now, the extremists/grifters/crazies/nihilists on both teams are going to feel emboldened and empowered. And, no, there won’t be a deal with the Dems.
The problem any GOP leader faces today is that too many Republicans don’t really want to hold and keep political power. They’re much more comfortable in opposition in the minority, which is easier because no hard decisions or compromises are necessary. You can rage against “the swamp” without having to do anything to change it. This is the fundamental and sorry truth behind the Speaker spectacle and the performative GOP politics of recent years.
(If only they had been warned.)
So this Congress will continue the way it has begun, and if you think this is messy, wait until they get to the debt ceiling.
It’s a Thursday Night Bulwark supersized panel with a special guest appearance by Jonathan Martin, a senior political columnist for Politico, and co-author of the bestseller This Will Not Pass: Trump, Biden, and the Battle for America's Future.
The show starts at 8:00 p.m. ET, Thursday, January 5th. Exclusively for Bulwark+ members.
Trump’s Damp Squib
First, a caveat: Trump is not irrelevant, because he still has the power to destroy. A single statement on his fail-site could kill all of McCarthy’s ambitions.
But his shrunken clout was remarkably obvious yesterday. Trump threw his weight behind His Kevin, only to be blown off by his most loyal supporters:
“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY,” Trump wrote. “REPUBLICANS, DO NOT TURN A GREAT TRIUMPH INTO A GIANT & EMBARRASSING DEFEAT.”
And…. he failed to move a single vote. He pressed the red button. And nothing happened.
Actually, it was worse than that. Longtime toady, Matt Gaetz, mocked him. “Sad!” Gaetz said in a statement to Fox. “This changes neither my view of McCarthy nor Trump nor my vote.”
On the House floor, Lauren Boebert (!!!) pushed back on the Orange God King. "Let’s stop with the campaign smears and tactics to get people to turn against us — even having my favorite president call us and tell us we need to knock this off," Boebert said. "I think it actually needs to be reversed; the president needs to tell Kevin McCarthy that, sir, you do not have the votes, and it’s time to withdraw."
Other insurgents were also unmoved.
“I would suggest that of the 20 who’ve been voting against Kevin McCarthy, they are friends with President Trump. They like President Trump, they support President Trump. However, this is a vote of 222 members of the Republican Party,” said Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.). He declined to comment on any calls with Trump but added, “I’m voting against Kevin McCarthy because it’s what I believe to be right for the country.”
Meanwhile, some of Trump’s most fervent allies — and election deniers — issued a letter calling for new House leadership. Signatories included Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.
Rather than engage them in a good faith negotiation, Rep. Kevin McCarthy has instead maligned both the requests and the messengers. He has publicly and through proxies leveled attacks against members of his own party, including threatening to deny committee assignments for those who continue to oppose him. Moreover, he has failed to answer for, or commit to halting, his coordinated efforts in the 2022 elections to promote moderate Republican candidates over conservatives.
I had some thoughts about all of this:
Nota bene: the resistance of the MAGAites may be a tell.
Trump has Red Lines that Must Not Be Crossed. His fluffers know this. But they have decided that Kevin McCarthy is not one of those Red Lines. And MAGA insiders are quick to point out that the former guy has not gone “full Trump mode” for his boy Kevin.
“I know a lot of people are focusing on Trump’s ‘waning influence’ regarding this speaker vote,” said the person. “I think it would be a different story if Trump was attacking someone and they still wouldn’t budge. That would signal waning influence. … If anyone wants to suggest waning power or influence then I think they’re off base because Trump hasn’t gone full Trump mode.”
The problem with this spin is that Trump has been “attacking someone” — and they haven’t budged.
On the morning of December 22, Trump posted a video calling on “every single Republican” to reject the passage of a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending bill that he described as “over 4,000 pages crammed with left-wing disasters, Washington betrayals, and special interest sellouts all designed to keep the corruption going.” It included a denunciation of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as “an absolute disaster” who is “more of a Democrat than a Republican.”
This was a true test of Trump’s hold on his party, and the result was revelatory. Later that day, 18 Senate Republicans joined their Democratic colleagues in voting for the bill; it then passed the House on a nearly party-line vote. Trump would later call passage of the bill “so bad for our Country, so bad for the Republican Party!”
Trump continues to rail against McConnell, and this week repeated a racist slur about McConnell’s wife… twice.
1. Phantom Candidates and Ghost Newspapers
The paper, whose staff had been hearing rumors of various Santos concoctions for a while, followed up with that stinging editorial calling him a fraud.
Then . . . nothing happened. No other media outlets pursued the story. Not the six local TV stations or WNYC, or Politico, New York, the Times, the Daily News. Not even Newsday, the formerly-august news source for Long Island. Grant Lally, the publisher and owner of the North Shore Leader, told me he didn’t get a single call from another publication inquiring about it. “If this had run 25 years ago, it would have been gobbled up,” he said. “There’d have been 20 follow ups from Newsday and other publications and the weeklies.”
2. Why Incels Love Putin
One of the most prominent and most troubled of Putin’s Western boosters is the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, who doesn’t hold back on his admiration for Putin’s war in Ukraine, and considers him to be a beacon of hope for the white race. Earlier this year, before he was fanning the flames of Kanye “I like Hitler” West’s anti-Semitic meltdown, Fuentes made comments about sex with women that eerily echo the ideology of the Kremlin.
Fuentes also refers to himself as an incel, although he also states that he deliberately stays away from women, because he is heterosexual. One might think this makes him voluntarily celibate, but Fuentes explains: “The only really straight heterosexual position is to actually ‘incel’. . . What’s gayer than being ‘I like cuddles, I need kisses?’”
3. Pennsylvania’s New Dem Gov. Picks Republican to Oversee State Elections
While Republicans in Washington continue to fight among themselves over who will (nominally) run the U.S. House of Representatives, there have been some interesting developments in the states, our laboratories of democracy. In Ohio, Democrats in the state House of Representatives this week sided with moderate Republicans to deny the speakership to Derek Merrin, a far-right member who was picked for the job last year by his party colleagues. Something similar happened in Pennsylvania, where closely matched party caucuses in the state House of Representatives couldn’t reach an agreement on a speaker until Republicans joined with Democrats to elevate a moderate who pledges to serve as an independent.
And this morning, Pennsylvania’s incoming governor, Josh Shapiro, who is set to be sworn in on January 17, added to the spate of surprising reaching-across-the-aisle news with the announcement of his pick to be secretary of the commonwealth—the official who, among other responsibilities, is tasked with overseeing elections. Shapiro, who promised his administration would be “diverse” and “bipartisan,” announced the selection of a Republican by the name of Al Schmidt.