Tag: john boehner
There's No Pretending That Kevin McCarthy Is 'Mainstream' Or 'Moderate'

There's No Pretending That Kevin McCarthy Is 'Mainstream' Or 'Moderate'

With Rep. Kevin McCarthy finally winning a ballot for House speaker, after so many humiliating delays, it is important to understand why his "victory" no longer matters much and probably never did. The Beltway narrative that positions him as a symbol of "governing" and his erstwhile opponents as isolated agents of chaos is badly mistaken.

The Republican Party, at least as constituted in the House of Representatives, is today a vector of nihilism. Its stated objectives, articulated by both supporters and opponents of its current leadership, are hostile to democratic values and pose an ongoing threat to American security. Election deniers and coup supporters predominate, including "my Kevin," as Trump dubbed him.

No significant GOP faction can be described accurately as "moderate" or "mainstream" or even "conservative," although media outlets persist in using those familiar terms to frame them.

They're nearly all crazies now.

Even if real distinctions could once be drawn between those who steadfastly backed McCarthy and those who resisted him, they've been erased by his wholesale submission to his adversaries' demands. By awarding them unprecedented power over rules, votes, appropriations and even his own tenure, he has elevated a gang of hard-right yahoos into the ultimate congressional authority.

McCarthy's reign as speaker may be comically brief, but the chaos and peril that ensue will be just as damaging as if he had stepped aside for the likes of Jim Jordan or Andy Biggs. His weakness has emboldened the GOP's most deranged figures, who veer erratically between anarchy and authoritarianism — and who will continue to seek the spotlight they've enjoyed lately by any means available.

None of this is mitigated by the fact that McCarthy, once a slavish acolyte of former Speaker John Boehner, lacks any discernible beliefs, let alone firm convictions. His rise epitomizes the Republican abandonment of principle during the Trump era. The premise of his career has nothing to do with policy commitments or leadership qualities, resting solely on his skills as a smiling fundraiser and recruiter.

Unlike Boehner, who was booted from office for trying to control the far Right, McCarthy has rarely gotten in their way. That's why Mick Mulvaney, a founder of the House Freedom Caucus who played a major role in Boehner's ouster, has urged his former colleagues to stop fighting and accept the victory that a McCarthy speakership represents.

As Mulvaney noted in a recent op-ed endorsing McCarthy, this supposed "moderate" supports the loony Freedom Caucus agenda. He will eagerly emcee their clown show, replete with "investigations" of Hunter Biden, harassment of Dr. Anthony Fauci, attacks on federal law enforcement, attempts to justify the Jan. 6 insurrection, and an ongoing zeal to protect former President Donald Trump and his coup plotters from accountability.

What they will not do in any meaningful sense is govern.

Indeed, their principal objective is to make governing impossible. For years now, the sole aim of congressional Republicans under a Democratic presidency has been to win the next election — not to achieve legislative compromises for the good of the nation or even to ensure fiscal and administrative continuity, like a modern political party in any other country. Beginning with the Gingrich-led takeover of the House, the Republican attitude toward governance has been insurrectionary, meaning that they shun all cooperation, regardless of the destructive consequences.

That attitude was on display last month when the House considered legislation to avert a potentially ruinous railway strike. Even with many heartland Republicans warning that a strike would wreck the economy and harm their constituents severely, nearly two-thirds of the GOP caucus voted no — including Kevin McCarthy.

Now the House Republicans are poised to strike a historic blow against the United States by preventing an increase in the national debt ceiling — unless they are allowed to dictate destructive budget cuts. They are prepared to wreck the "full faith and credit" of the republic unless they can impose horrendous cuts in Medicare, Social Security and other vital programs that will also cause irreparable harm to the economy and the public.

McCarthy has signed up for that fanatical assault on the national interest. He is no more "mainstream" than his sidekick, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. It's time to stop pretending he is.

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

Speaker Fight Shows Fox Shift From GOP Insurgent To Establishment

Speaker Fight Shows Fox Shift From GOP Insurgent To Establishment

In September 2015, after then-House Speaker John Boehner announced that he would resign from Congress in the face of a coup from an intransigent caucus faction, half a dozen members of the group that had brought him down took a curtain call on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. The host, who had called for a new speaker earlier that year, toasted the efforts of the House Freedom Caucus in securing Boehner’s political demise.

Seven-odd years later, some members of the House Freedom Caucus are again demonstrating their influence as they blocked Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) from securing the speakership. But this time, Hannity was among the most prominent media supporters of the GOP leadership, championing McCarthy’s ultimately (and narrowly) successful bid and hosting his opponents only to berate them for having no plan and making Democrats and the “media mob” happy.

Hannity’s shift reflects a larger evolution in Fox’s role within the Republican Party. Commentators who once served as champions of the GOP’s insurgent wing are now aligned with its establishment, denouncing the attempted “hijacking” of the party by ”insurrectionists” and “blackmailers.” And rival right-wing media figures are filling their old role as a megaphone for the rebels, savaging “CCP RINO” McCarthy – and Fox for supporting him.

The GOP factional divide dates back to the 2008 election, as The Washington Post’s Philip Bump noted, when Republican presidential nominee John McCain selected Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate, ushering in an era of “hard-right, media-adept politicians more interested in responding to the base’s whims than in directing them.” After their defeat to Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Palin decamped to Fox. From there, she joined Hannity, Glenn Beck, and others at the network in boosting the insurgent tea party movement, which the GOP harnessed to win sweeping gains in the 2010 midterms. Mitt Romney, formerly an establishment figure, moved to the right to garner tea party support and, with Fox founder Roger Ailes pulling the strings, Fox backed his 2012 presidential campaign.

But after Romney’s defeat, Fox again sided with the party’s outsider wing. Its personalities lashed out at Boehner (particularly over immigration reform), campaigned for his ousting, and celebrated his 2015 resignation. To Hannity, others at the network, and future hosts Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin, Boehner was a “failure” and a “tear factory” with “no one to blame but himself,” while his opponents were courageous patriots reminiscent of the American revolutionaries. This revolt was not anomalous – a year earlier, Ingraham had led a talk radio campaign that helped defeat House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), while Boehner’s replacement, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), drew scorn from the same figures.

Then everything changed when a party outsider immersed in Fox talking points was elected president – thanks in no small part to support his candidacy received from the network. Donald Trump gave the network’s personalities real power; the former insurgents gained speaking slots at the Republican National Committee, meetings at the White House, and regular phone calls with the president in which he solicited their advice on politics and policy. And after Ryan suffered through a few years of factional fights, he retired and McCarthy stepped up.

McCarthy worked harder than Cantor and Ryan, his fellow members of the establishment-friendly troika known as the “Young Guns,” to stay in Fox’s good graces. While Ryan had no idea what was happening on Trump’s beloved Fox & Friends morning show, McCarthy launched his campaign for House Republican leader on the program. He’s worked to maintain his relationship with the network since gaining that role, making at least 259 weekday appearances on the network since January 3, 2019 – nearly half of which came on the prime-time shows of Hannity and Ingraham.

Now, with House Republicans gaining a slim majority in the 2022 midterms, McCarthy is trying to convert that effort into the speakership. But he’s been foiled by recalcitrant members of his caucus, losing vote after vote this week (until late Friday night). The fight seems to offer low stakes for policy; hardline conservatives are represented on both sides of the divide and the party’s agenda is unlikely to either deviate from the whims of the right-wing press or become law with Democrats in control of the Senate and White House. Right-wing media-friendly members of Congress are similarly split – Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Lauren Boebert (R-CO) staunchly opposed McCarthy while Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) strongly supported him.

Instead, the main fault line seems to be between insiders who stand to benefit from McCarthy’s speakership and outsiders who are seeking more power. More moderate members of the House think McCarthy’s fundraising and mien will help them win reelection, while members like Greene and Jordan can expect plum committee assignments. The holdouts seem largely to want to boost their own internal power within the party, either by securing a deal that makes McCarthy speaker or by showing they can deny him the position, while garnering attention for themselves.

Fox’s right-wing stars are largely aligning with the GOP insiders. In addition to Hannity, who lauded McCarthy for supporting “the America First, MAGA agenda that so many of you I know like,” hosts Ingraham and Levin, who backed the insurgent revolt against Boehner, stood behind the would-be speaker. Levin has criticized the “kamikaze Republicans” opposing his bid, while Ingraham has argued that they are “playing with fire” and that “blocking McCarthy” doesn’t accomplish their aims. Others at the network have bemoaned the chaos on display as the party failed to appoint a speaker thanks to a “televised hijacking” by “selfish” people who “want the hostage dead.”

The primary holdout at the network was Tucker Carlson, a longtimeMcCarthy critic who called for new House Republican leadership after the midterms but has nonetheless straddled the divide. The Fox star criticized McCarthy after the first night of failed votes as “not especially conservative” and “ideologically agnostic,” while nonetheless calling him “perfectly suited’ for the role because he is “skilled at politics.” He offered up proposals McCarthy could make to secure more votes; the next night, after more failed votes, he hammered McCarthy’s congressional supporters for instead “using threats and fear to force people to support the candidate.” On Thursday night, he touted the debacle as “what democracy looks like.”

Carlson has positioned himself to either be a kingmaker or to fall in line with whichever Republican ascends to the role. That said, he seems less interested in who wins the speakership than he is in leveraging the televised collapse of an NFL player to convince his viewers that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous or fomenting anger against trans people.

Fox’s near-total support for the GOP establishment has created an opening for competitors who are eagerly seeking influence and market share by backing the insurgents.

Hosts on the far-right One America News Network have savaged McCarthy as “a lying, cheating, good-for-nothing D.C. parasite, leeching off of globalist elites for money and influence” and “the court jester conservative for the kingdom of liberalism,” while demanding “a better-suited speaker that will be more in line with America First and the MAGA movement” – perhaps even Trump himself.

Other far-right media figures are taking a similar tack, with Infowars host Owen Shroyer declaring that “it makes no difference whether it’s McCarthy or Pelosi [as speaker] to me; it’s the uniparty,” Newsmax’s Benny Johnson chronicling“loser”McCarthy’s ongoing humiliation from Gaetz and Boebert going “Savage mode,” and The Gateway Pundit’s Jim Hoft authoring a slew of pieces taunting “RINO McCarthy.”

Fox’s rivals weren’t just pummeling McCarthy – they were also hitting Fox for supporting him. Fox has been deemed “controlled opposition” that is “out to crush” McCarthy’s critics and has been “lying to you forever,” while Hannity has been tarred as “the Praetorian Guard of the establishment,” “embarrassing,” and a “sellout.”

In short, they gave Fox the treatment it typically gives to the mainstream press, warning explicitly that the network can’t be trusted to tell the truth and implicitly that its viewers and the power they bring should go elsewhere. It’s a return to the situation Fox had to deal with following the 2020 election, as Trump slammed the network for being insufficiently supportive of his election theft claims and urged his supporters to switch to its competitors.

That’s the conundrum Fox will face for the next two years: how to maintain its right-wing audience and GOP influence amid a fractious media ecosystem filled with players interested in taking both of them away.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy

Looking Right Through Kevin McCarthy

Of all the Republican politicians who have ascended to leadership in Congress during the past few decades, none is a duller and more obvious hack than Rep. Kevin McCarthy. The House minority leader possesses none of the villainous charisma of Newt Gingrich or the ruthless greed of Tom DeLay, the ideological fervor of Paul Ryan or the puppyish desire to please of Eric Cantor, the louche cynicism of John Boehner or the predatory criminality of Dennis "Coach" Hastert.

Nobody expects the transparently empty McCarthy to stand up for principle of any kind. It is giving him a lot to call him a small-minded partisan, an assiduous corporate fundraiser, and a mediocre climber for whom ideas and ideals are so much grist for the Fox News mill. His far-right rivals in the GOP caucus, such as Rep. Jim Jordan, allow him to hold power because they can manipulate him so easily. His theme song should be "Mr. Cellophane" from the musical Chicago.

Weak in both intellect and character, McCarthy embodies the most banal defects of his predecessors — and so it is that he presides over the final stages of Republican decay, as the party formed to preserve the Union and democracy degenerates into an instrument of fascist insurrection.

As a perfectly hollow hack who first rose under Boehner's tutelage, McCarthy makes the hack Boehner now seem like a big man. McCarthy was against Trump's big lie before he was for it. After denouncing Trump, he ran with his tail between his legs to Mar-a-Lago, parroted the big lie and backed a lawsuit to overturn the election results in two states. Then he denied supporting Trump's claims of election fraud and grudgingly admitted that President Joe Biden had won. And then, within hours after the January 6 attack on the Capitol that clearly terrified him, he nevertheless voted against certifying the Democratic victory in two states — after he had told a reporter that he knew Biden was the legitimate victor.

McCarthy has continued this ridiculous dance — both accepting and not accepting Biden's legitimacy — while he obviously covers up the seditious conduct of his extremist members, from Reps. Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene to. Matt Gaetz and Madison Cawthorn.

But since his attempts to block any investigation of the conspiracies that led to the Capitol takeover on January 6, have failed, McCarthy has become an even more desperate performer. This week he sought to obstruct the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack by absurdly pretending to be a mob boss, as he made an unconvincing threat against telecom companies if they comply with lawful requests from that panel. Though he didn't specify any consequences, he warned that Republicans "will not forget" when they regain the majority.

Rarely has a politician so obviously exposed such blatant consciousness of guilt. Opening himself to an ethics complaint, which has now been filed against him, McCarthy continues his bad acting, showing his fear that the suspicions and speculations about the gang of loony Republicans in the days before that insurrection are true.

McCarthy led the expulsion of Rep. Liz Cheney from her position as the chair of the House Republican Conference to satisfy his insurrectionist caucus. But there's another reason he purged her. She's got his number. And now she's the vice chair of the January 6 investigative committee. McCarthy has reason to engage in his silly threats, his obvious obstruction of Congress, his false bravado. He's scared. But the more he dances, the more everybody sees right through him.

I tell ya Cellophane, Mr. Cellophane shoulda been my name,

Mr. Cellophane 'cause you can look right through me ...

To find out more about Joe Conason and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com

​John Boehner

Former GOP Speaker: Trump Lies ‘Incited That Bloody Insurrection’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner is blasting Donald Trump, laying blame for the deadly January 6 insurrection squarely at the former Republican President's feet. True to form, Trump and his team punched back below the belt.

The New York Times reports Boehner writes in his new book that Trump "incited that bloody insurrection for nothing more than selfish reasons, perpetuated by the bullshit he'd been shoveling since he lost a fair election the previous November."

"He claimed voter fraud without any evidence, and repeated those claims, taking advantage of the trust placed in him by his supporters and ultimately betraying that trust."

Boehner, whose tenure as Speaker was focused on trying to first tamp down then ride the Tea Party wave and the growth in power of the far right House Republican Study Committee. He was unsuccessful, and exited in 2015, the same year the even more extreme House Republican Freedom Caucus formed, and Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign.

He is now warning the GOP it must "take back control from the faction that had grown to include everyone from garden-variety whack jobs to insurrectionists."

It does not appear that will happen. Just as the extremist Tea Party took over the Republican Party, Trump, Trumpism, and his MAGA acolytes have already taken control of the GOP.

In typical Trumpian fashion, the Times reports, the former president's current spokesperson, Jason Miller, "called Mr. Boehner a 'Swamp Creature' and accused him of favoring 'Communist China' (The former speaker's lobbying firm represents the Chinese Embassy in the United States). In a separate email to the Times, Mr. Trump asked of Mr. Boehner, whose love of merlot wine is legendary in Washington: 'Was he drinking when he made this statement? Just another RINO who couldn't do the job!'"