Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump
Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump (from "Save America" PAC)

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.

About the author

Joel Connelly is a Northwest Progressive Institute contributor who has reported on multiple presidential campaigns and from many national political conventions. During his career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, he interviewed Presidents Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush. He has covered Canada from Trudeau to Trudeau, written about the fiscal meltdown of the nuclear energy obsessed WPPSS consortium (pronounced "Whoops") and public lands battles dating back to the Alpine Lakes Wilderness.

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