A notable example of gallows humor came from Representative Morris Udall when, reacting to the bloody 1980 presidential nomination battle between incumbent Jimmy Carter and challenger Edward Kennedy, Udall observed: “When we Democrats form a firing squad, we form it in a circle.”
“Modall” spoke those words in 1980.
Today, however, we have a circular Republican firing squad. The Grand Old Party cannot come up with any debt ceiling strategy. Its investigations are slow off the ground and looking at groundless allegations. Its House and Senate caucuses are split on whether the U.S. should continue to assist or abandon Ukraine.
A trio of shortcomings have been exposed for the American people to witness. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is unable to control a fractious caucus, in contrast to Democratic predecessor Nancy Pelosi.
In the words of Representative Brendan Boyle, D‑Pennsylvania, ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, “Kevin McCarthy promised the sun, moon and stars to get elected Speaker. Now, he can’t even produce a GOP budget.”
A second shortcoming, unfocused investigations of wackos’ scandal allegations, and pursuit of conspiracy theories.. Representative Jim Jordan, R‑Ohio, grandstanding chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, is bringing a panel to New York next Monday to allegedly expose how the “pro-crime, anti-victim policies” of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg “led to an increase in violent crime.” The truth is, violent crime in the city is down. The hearing is obvious retribution for Bragg bringing criminal charges against Trump.
The third shortcoming has an angle in this Washington.
A big chunk of the House Republican Caucus simply despise all government. They are not worried, in Senator Mitt Romney’s words, “if we have a collapse of the United States and world economies without raising the debt ceiling.” They are being egged on by right wing media, notably Fox and talk radio.
The U.S. Export Import Bank guarantees borrowing by foreign countries that purchase U.S. products. It anchors Boeing’s jet sales abroad. Eight years ago, the bank’s authorization was due to run out. The far-right chairman of the House Financial Services Committee refused to hold a hearing or move reauthorization legislation. The bipartisan duo of U.S. Representatives Dave Reichert and Denny Heck, and others, had to resort to a discharge petition, signed by a majority of House members, to force the legislation to the floor. It passed easily.
“House Republicans are keeping their commitment to Americans,” Speaker McCarthy declared in a pompous tweet on Monday.
Only when it comes to keeping the country polarized and holding up the Nielsen ratings of those who sacrifice the truth for profit.
Which brings us to a third shortcoming, a pandering to extremists.
House Speaker John Boehner, a man of far greater ability than McCarthy, could not control his caucus. The Republican caucus today has a higher quotient of ultra MAGA neofascists and increased fear of being “primaried” by a challenger. The result, as seen in McCarthy’s behavior, is deference to extremism, fearmongering, firearm fetishizing, more timidity and Donald Trump.
This is coupled with kowtowing to right wing media, which has redefined domestic politics as war. I get news from the “Kari Lake War Room” as it asks for money and claims the Arizona governor’s office was stolen. Jim Jordan and Newt Gingrich are almost daily warriors on Rupert Murdoch’s FNC. A product of war is fear… fear to act. In the words of Representative Boyle, “Republicans took raising the debt limit hostage and yet have no idea what ransom they want for it.”
It’s because McCarthy and company fear their own followers and interest groups. No wonder, for instance, that almost the entire Republican caucus in Washington’s Legislature voted against tighter vaccine requirements for school children.
The country has experienced more than one hundred multiple shootings already this year. Polls show about sixty percent of Americans in favor of a ban on semi-automatic rifles, such as the AR-15 used in Kentucky and Tennessee killings.
Yet, Republicans in Tennessee chose to expel two African-American legislators in their twenties just for vocally advertising the cause of gun safety on the House floor. A third Democratic lawmaker, who is white, barely escaped expulsion.
And all of this on top of some more traditional congressional frictions.
Apparently, there’s little love lost between McCarthy and House Majority Leader Steve Scalise. The House Republican leadership tried to block infrastructure legislation backed by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell.
McConnell has become a devil figure to House crazies.
McConnell and most Republicans in Congress have supported U.S. arms aid to Ukraine in its resistance to Russian aggression. But not Representatives Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, egged on by Tucker Carlson on Fox.
It’s a traditional isolationist vs. interventionist split in the party, underwritten by those who see television ratings in public acrimony.
Who are the losers? Dead schoolchildren, to start out with. And living children who must face consequences of climate change during their lifetimes.
And investors who will see a stock market freefall if the country cannot pay its bills. And the poor if America’s already-weakened social contract is damaged further, as the price of getting a higher debt ceiling through Congress.
Kevin McCarthy is being a pander bear to the extremes in his party. He is getting no respect. Rather, he keeps facing more and more demands from extremists who perform on television and treat politics as war. They’ve forgotten or never learned that the ability to govern is the acid test of politics — the acid final test.