Comedians and pundits are having a field day lampooning Kevin McCarthy’s quest to become second in line to the presidency. His naked obsession to be Speaker of the House of Representatives has become an exercise in futility and self-neutering.
The American tragedy we are witnessing is much more than the story of an ambitious politician thwarted by radical forces he helped cultivate and shield from recrimination for conduct unbecoming any elected official. What makes this a national crisis is that the Constitution bestows upon the Speaker the opportunity to ascend to the White House if misfortune strikes not once but twice, to the president and vice president.
By backtracking on his immediate condemnation of Donald Trump for fomenting the January 6 assault on the Capitol, only to kneel before the insurrectionist-in-chief two weeks later in Mar-a-Lago, McCarthy has shown himself to be a pol without scruples or backbone, someone so in pursuit of power that now he has negotiated away almost all of the prerogatives of the Speaker. That such a politician could possibly be responsible for leading our country, for negotiating with domestic and foreign leaders, is a chilling possibility to consider.
The dysfunction exhibited by House Republicans runs deeper than just McCarthy’s embarrassment. Among the more important duties of the House is the power to declare war, to pass an annual federal budget and to establish a debt ceiling so that government can operate and world financial markets would not be plunged into free-fall madness.
Whether it is McCarthy, Stephen Scalise or any other Republican sitting in the Speaker’s chair, the future of the House during the next two years under GOP control is clear. Expect investigations of President Biden and his family, of his cabinet secretaries and executive appointments. Expect passage of any legislation, especially budget matters, to be linked to budget cuts in social welfare entitlement programs and in our support of Ukraine.
To be honest, those were the expectations way before McCarthy’s self-immolation. Aside from basking in the memory of how pleasant and functional their rule in the House was under Nancy Pelosi, Democrats may be beneficiaries of the Republican mess. By showcasing their legislative record 2021-2022 against that of the Republicans in 2023-2024, Democrats might enjoy solid election results the next rime the House and Senate are at stake.
But two years of McCarthy-led extremism is a hefty price to pay.
Republican. McCarthy. Investigations of government personnel. Where have we seen that shameful combination before? Ah, yes, the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954 that ultimately exposed Wisconsin Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy as a charlatan. What’s that old saying?, “The more things change the more they stay the same.”
Here’s a Wikipedia summation of the dramatic 1954 hearings: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Army–McCarthy_hearings