With the advantage of a week of hindsight, the resolution of the House Republican's Speaker fight was always pretty clear. The Speaker, for a variety of reasons, needed to be Kevin McCarthy, and he needed to agree to rules and other arrangements that ensured that the house would no longer be the ironfisted, establishment-friendly Speaktatorship of Boehner, Ryan, and Pelosi. McCarthy had to compromise, and the Rebels had to accept a compromise, and the standoff had to end.
And it did. And the new rules were passed. Ever the optimist, in retrospect we Republicans may be off to strong start.
Or the GOP could blow it. As Wesley Snipes famously said in “Passenger 57,” “Always bet on Republicans to screw up.”
In any case, I am just a little surprised they managed to pull off a deal in five days. It could have dragged on and on and ended up with some pinko installed by Dems and collaborators. I am glad about the outcome. I do not trust McCarthy – or anyone else who would want that miserable job (though Paul Ryan claimed not to want it and it is hard to imagine someone else sucking worse than him) – and therefore I want McCarthy neutered by the conservatives. Now we can go forward to a future of owning the libs, and hopefully not as before when they owned us.
Let’s assign kudos and criticism.
This was all McCarthy’s fault – but you will be confused further on as I critique the Rebels so let me explain the legal concept of joint and several liability. Basically, in some cases, the law provides that a variety of people can all be equally to blame, here for whatever negative results (if any) came from the short public phase of the fight.
McCarthy wanted the job, and it was on him to earn it. He did get it eventually, so he won. He was the only one who really ever could win enough votes – no one else who could have possibly won and not turned our conservative stomachs would have taken it. It’s a terrible job. You have to be one like of those weirdos who put aside girls and beer to try to be student body president. McCarthy is. This was his dream, which I was perfectly content to see his dream die if it became necessary. He wanted to be the guy on the phone 18 hours a day trying to wring a few bucks out of donors. He is undeniably good at that. And he wanted it. More power to him. Well, less power, actually.
Anyway, as January 3rd approached, McCarthy had not yet wrapped up the vote. There were only two dozen Rebels, but there were enough. While he increased the GOP House caucus in 2020 and 2022 (meeting the minimal threshold for his leadership position of having won elections, something RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has failed to do in five election – learn how to retire her at www.HireHarmeet.com), McCarthy did not increase his caucus enough to dictate the terms of his accession. That’s on him. Coffee is for closers, and so is not having to grovel before the off-putting likes of Matt Gaetz.
Next time win more seats. In any case, McCarthy eventually caved, and that’s good. I wanted him emasculated because if he was not gelded, we would see more last-minute Omnibuses and secret deals and never get back to anything like regular order.
He also blew it by not getting this dispute resolved back in November. This schism was always real, but it seemed like he was in denial and felt the Rebels would roll over when they actually had to vote. If McCarthy wanted to avoid a floor fight – because it was not clear the Rebels did – he needed to figure out how to avoid it. If that meant giving in earlier, so be it. Again, McCarthy wanted the job and to the extent he only got it after some brutal public sausage-making, that was on him.
McCarthy’s allies were not always helpful. Mike Rogers probably should have controlled himself and not created the evocative but unrepresentative photo of that other guy grabbing him. And people needed not to throw gas on the fire. Dan Crenshaw was a great SEAL, but his SEALness does not always translate well to what he needs to do in Congress. Calling terrorists” terrorists” and shooting them – good. Calling other Republicans “terrorists” on the shows – not good. His emotions got involved, spinning up their emotions. Take it from somebody who negotiates for a living – ticking people off is a tool, but not your only one and it is frankly rarely the one to use when trying to get a deal. Crenshaw is already on the wrong side of many conservatives; he has a safe district, but Senate? I think many Lone Star conservatives would prefer John Cornyn to him and that tube supported gun control. Chill, Dan.
Now the Rebels. I like some of them and I supported their demands. The issue was, to some extent, their acting ability. Negotiation is acting. You strike a pose and maybe you will move, but maybe you won’t. With some of the Rebels it was hard to tell. They had to say no, nope, never, but the question was whether that was for real or an act to get concessions. Frankly, some of the Rebels made it seem so personal that it was unclear that any concessions could work. Part of the panic was that people believed that they would never, ever vote for McCarthy, or at least not against him. They acted too well. The smirkiness did not help. That went far to make what was a necessary and proper debate into something that looks like chaotic Calvinball.
The Rebels should have produced a public list of their requirements to get McCarthy elected, in writing with their signatures, so it was all there, in the open, and there was no question of them trying to wheedle personal goodies out of the Speaker-in-waiting. They needed to make sure that the regime media could not blue-wash a substantive rules debate into a personal spat, or at least minimize that predictable narrative. Otherwise, without an unequivocal list of asks, we were supposed to simply trust them. I don’t trust anybody. To the extent they looked like they were out for attention, that’s on them.
The Rebels were a mixed lot. There was a mix of showboatery, smirking, and seriousness. Chip Roy is a sober and smart legislator who had a majority of the Rebels willing to get to “Yes” if McCarthy met his demands. And McCarthy did. Roy made it happen. We owe him.
I hear good things about Bob Good. I get that he hates McCarthy personally. He came around for the good of the caucus when he got the right compromises. Scott Perry is a former general and fellow Army War College grad, so I immediately assumed the worst, but he came around too when he got what he needed.
Matt Rosendale came off like a crank and a jerk, especially when he did the “Kevin- psyche!” thing during one roll call. Not cool, and not funny. The Montana Senate primary will be lit enough without him in it.
One person who deserves respect is Lauren Boebert. She’s a serious legislator who cares not just about the big stuff that gets TV hits but the minutiae that matters to getting conservative policies enacted. She did not win big and her district is definitely not safe, but she fought at great personal risk that the other Rebels in safe seats did not face. And when she got her deal, she took it though it is clear she is no McCarthy fan.
Finally, let’s talk about Matt Gaetz. First, his shameful treatment by the FBI and DOJ was a major disgrace that was fully in line with their total abdication of any trust or credibility. No one deserved what he has endured with remarkable poise and good humor. Second, some more real talk. Most people find him slightly creepy. I care about politicians only to the extent they are useful, so his vibe matters to me only to that extent. But he does give normal the shivers for whatever reason and that makes him hurt our brand when he is the face of things. That did not help here.
This fight had to happen. We cannot have another business-as-usual GOP House. The establishment did not win big enough to do it without the conservatives, and the conservatives got their price. It was not clear they would ever get to “Yes,” but they did. Did the fight – which was always going to be played by the regime media as chaos – have to happen this way? No, McCarthy could have had it out of sight months ago. He did not, and the Rebels did not back down. Did it go on too long? I thought it was headed that way, and I was frankly unsure whether it was going to end before a bunch of moderates got with Hakeem Jeffries and sold us out to elect some “compromise unity” GOP Speaker who would essentially be Hakeem Jeffries in a Republican skinsuit. You rarely go wrong overestimating the stupidity of the Republican Party.
This whole “THE GOP CANNOT EVEN ELECT A SPEAKER” thing will fade, to be followed by “THE GOP IS UNABLE TO GOVERN” thing that will follow when conservatives flex their new-found muscles. There are going to be more fights, and while we should not engage in dumb ones, some fights are necessary.
Was this one? Yes, maybe not exactly as it went down, but in the end, we got the right Speaker and the right rules.
I was not sure we would. So, it’s a good beginning. I hope.
Follow Kurt on Twitter @KurtSchlichter. Get Inferno, the seventh book in the Kelly Turnbull People's Republic series of conservative action novels set in America after a notional national divorce, as well as his non-fiction book We’ll Be Back: The Fall and Rise of America.