“A Gaping Void Of Their Own Making”: No Republican Is Fit, Able, And Willing To Run The House Of Representatives
If House Speaker John Boehner secretly had no intention to resign, and was instead using the threat of retirement to teach Republican House members that they need him—not the other way around—he’s doing a masterful job. But Boehner was engaged in no such ruse, and the Republican Party is drastically worse off as a result.
After making a series of ill-considered remarks over the past week that underscored his unfitness for the job, Boehner’s heir presumptive, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy for the Speakership at a conference meeting Thursday afternoon. McCarthy, who helped recruit a huge class of conservative freshmen ahead of the GOP’s 2010 midterm landslide, had significant support within the conference. But he lacked the trust of a few dozen conservative hardliners, some of whom comprise the House Freedom Caucus, who have grown frustrated with the existing leadership team for its strategic reluctance to use legislative deadlines—especially those governing appropriations and the debt limit—as leverage to seek substantive concessions from Democrats. As doubts about McCarthy’s candidacy grew, it became clear that conservatives would resist a clean succession and fight his election on the House floor.
This creates a void almost nobody in the House Republican conference is fit, able, or willing to fill. Minutes after McCarthy announced his decision, Representative Paul Ryan, whom most House Republicans consider the only senior member with the skill to bridge strategic divisions in the party, reiterated his absolute unwillingness to run.
“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan’s statement read. “Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”
The most rational outcome, and the most ironic, would be for Boehner to rescind his own resignation, and to cite the chaos that took hold after his announcement as a reminder that the reactionaries who deposed him are completely lost without his leadership. When the people who threatened to fire you beg you not to quit instead, their bluff has been called.
But Boehner’s decision to resign was almost certainly not a feint. He has vowed to serve as Speaker until a replacement is selected, but not on a permanent basis. Somebody else—a somebody we don’t yet know, and whose motives and capabilities won’t be well understood—will have to emerge to fill the power vacuum. Representative Jeb Hensarling—a wily, far-right Republican from Texas—has played footsie with the idea. As a Boehner surrogate, Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole’s name has been kicked around, too, but he’s probably been too critical of Boehner’s antagonists to easily secure the gavel. None of the plausible candidates enjoys Ryan’s unique mix of support among conservatives and trust among the party establishment. But as willing members with broad support begin to express interest, the leadership race will resume, and the election that was supposed to occur today will be rescheduled.
What’s more clear now than it was two weeks ago—and it was fairly clear back then—is how crucial it is for Boehner to use his numbered days to clear the deck for the next Speaker, and most importantly to increase the national debt limit in advance of an anticipated lapse in borrowing authority early next month. The consequences of a default on the national debt are too high to hand the debt limit to an untested speaker, or to allow Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives to hijack the issue. Boehner has committed, again, to remaining Speaker until a new one is selected. If Boehner hands responsibility for the debt limit over to this crew, instead of increasing it unconditionally while he has control, it’ll be his most reckless, cowardly, shameful moment.
Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, October 8, 2015
“The Lesser Of Ben Carson’s Two Gun Policy Evils”: In Many Respects, He’s A Lot Scarier Than Trump Or Cruz
So this morning I expressed not just concern but some actual fear over Dr. Ben Carson’s recently announced conviction that the Second Amendment was necessary to prevent “tyranny,” mostly because Dr. Carson’s definition of “tyranny” seems to include the kind of things readers of this blog support routinely.
As it happens, over at the Plum Line Paul Waldman takes a closer look at a second Carson point-of-view on guns: the idea that he or anyone else on the scene of a gun massacre might well stop or prevent it if armed heavily enough.
Was it unspeakably insulting to the victims of the Oregon shooting and their families to suggest that they were killed or injured because they didn’t have the physical courage and quick thinking that a hero like Carson would have displayed had he been in their shoes? Of course. And is it an absurd fantasy that in the instant he was confronted by a gunman, Carson would in the space of seconds organize a bunch of terrified strangers to mount an assault on someone ready to kill them? You bet it is.
But this fantasy is nothing unusual at all. In fact, it lies at the heart of much of the efforts Republicans have made at the behest of the National Rifle Association in recent years to change state laws on guns. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” says the NRA, and Republicans believe it, too. So they push for laws to allow guns to be brought into as many places as possible — schools, government buildings, churches, anywhere and everywhere. They advocate “stand your ground” laws that encourage people to use guns to settle arguments. They seek both open-carry and concealed-carry laws on a “shall issue” basis (meaning the government presumes that you should get the license unless it can prove you fall into certain categories of offenders) to put guns in as many hands as possible.
All of this is driven by the fantasy of the gun owner as action hero.
Carson’s argument that the way to stop gun violence is by more guns is, as Waldman notes, pretty much the default position of Republicans these days. That’s true whether or not they also, like Carson, go on to embrace the additional argument that guns are needed to remind liberals there’s only so much Big Government that good patriotic Americans should be expected to accept no matter what voters or judges say.
Put the two arguments together and you see the hopelessness of any “compromise” over gun regulation. You also see how many people look at Ben Carson’s stirring biography and observe his mild-mannered habits of speech and really don’t listen to what the man is saying. In many respects he’s a lot scarier than Trump or Cruz or any of the rest of the GOP presidential field.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly October 8, 2015
“Why Ben Carson Is White America’s Perfect Black Candidate”: Murdoch’s Tweet Reflects View Held By Many Conservative Whites
To hear Rupert Murdoch tell it, what America needs is a “real black president.” In a string of tweets Wednesday, the chairman and CEO of the News Corp signaled his support for Dr. Ben Carson, who is among the top tier of 2016 GOP candidates. The media mogul’s use of the word “real” was met with outrage on social media and particularly offensive to the sitting president (Murdoch quickly apologized).
Murdoch might be a troll with a billion dollars, but he is not alone in celebrating Carson’s political fortunes. In recent weeks, on the heels of controversial remarks about Muslims, a head-scratching deluge of money—said to be in the millions—poured into Carson’s campaign coffers. He has watched his poll numbers triple. He bounced from one warmly lit television studio to another—unfamiliar territory for a man most renowned for his heroics in a Baltimore operating room.
Can he actually win the Republican primary? The answer—depending on whom you ask—varies between “damn right, he can” and “hell-to-the-nawl.”
“Everywhere pundits keep underestimating Ben Carson,” tweeted Murdoch. “But [the] public understand[s] humility as admirable, listen to the multi-faceted strong message.”
Carson is quick to confess that he is no politician. His genial tone is so low and comforting that it’s easy to miss how closely he aligns with far right-wing activists. Though his style could not be more different than Trump’s over-the-top ranting, both men appear to be benefitting from widespread Republican angst about topping the ticket with another D.C. insider. Grassroots activists are looking for someone they can trust in the proverbial foxhole: one who won’t bend on Republican principles. No one expected the soft-spoken, retired neurosurgeon to eclipse former Florida governor Jeb! Bush or Sen. Marco Rubio.
“I don’t think he has ever met or had a conversation with [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell or [Speaker of the House John] Boehner,” said conservative radio host and commentator Armstrong Williams, who serves as Carson’s business manager and personal adviser. “The establishment doesn’t know what to do with him. He’s baffling to them.”
That may well be, but the lure of a Carson candidacy could not be more appealing to some party leaders, Republican influencers like Murdoch, and rank-and-file voters—all of whom have been looking for a way to attract more non-white voters. For them, Carson is the perfect ambassador: an American success story, who spares no breath in deriding liberal economic policies, is ardently pro-life, and knows his way around a Bible.
These people will tell you that Carson, raised by a single mother in hard-knock Detroit, is proof positive that the American Dream is alive and kicking, much like the conjoined twins he brilliantly separated as a surgeon. “You can’t question his intellect. You can’t question his accomplishments,” Williams continued. “He loves this country. He’s the genuine article and people are in tune to that.”
If Williams is right, his candidate is polling “around 17-18 percent” among black voters. In a general election, that’s game over. Those numbers come as no surprise to Joy-Ann Reid, a national news correspondent for MSNBC.
“I think the black community, writ large, and particularly those of us who are Generation X and older, viewed Dr. Carson as an icon,” Reid recalled. “[He was] a favorite son who made good, and reflected glowingly on the potential for black folk to excel, even from humble beginnings.”
However, if history is any indication, black conservatives do not draw any more support from the black community than their white counterparts. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) trounced his Democratic opponent to become the first African-American senator elected from the South since Reconstruction. But he did it with marginal backing from black voters. That hasn’t stopped Scott from becoming a critical voice on key issues, such as criminal justice reform and police body cameras, and working to earn the support that has eluded him.
“Scott is the real deal,” said former South Carolina lawmaker Bakari Sellers, who is a Democrat. “Ben Carson is no Tim Scott.”
To be sure, there is a solid conservative streak running through the African-American community, especially among people of faith. Many, however, still consider the Republican brand toxic and find many tenets of the national platform antagonistic to their interests. Then too, the GOP owes much of its modern-day success as a national party to its stronghold in the South, gained largely through acts of defiance against the Civil Rights movement.
Against that backdrop, Reid is skeptical about how much black support Carson can actually deliver.
“Now, I think many black Americans look upon Dr. Carson with a mix of puzzlement and disappointment,” Reid said. “The fact that he has made himself nationally prominent by insulting the first black president of the United States, and that he is now building on that with strange utterance after strange utterance leaves many African-Americans just shaking their heads.”
That might not be the real point, Reid said. As Murdoch’s messages seem to suggest, Carson may in fact hold the keys to attracting more white voters who may have been previously turned off by some of the more extreme, virulently racist voices in the discourse.
“Ben Carson is the ideal candidate of color for the right,” Reid said. “He rejects race as a construct for explaining social and economic mobility, just as white conservatives do; and he even rejects the public programs that helped his own family survive, mirroring the donor class of his party who want to get rid of those programs.”
“[Carson is a] vessel that alleviates some aversion guilt,” Democratic pollster Cornell Belcher asserted. “Most mainstream, middle-class Americans don’t want to vote for racists. There is something inoculating about Carson.”
Williams rejects that and says Carson’s appeal within the GOP is based on the fact that “his life story is more like most Americans’ than anyone who is seeking the GOP nomination.”
While Trump is out “Making America Great Again,” the man who hopes to topple the current GOP frontrunner is quietly holding a roving tent revival of the party faithful. In at least one national survey, Carson now leads the billionaire casino magnate by seven points.
Yes, it’s too soon to take a victory lap around an Iowa cornfield. Though, maybe somebody should gas up the truck just in case. And while they are at it, they should change Murdoch’s Twitter password.
By: Goldie Taylor, The Daily Beast, October 8, 2015
I suppose it’s as good a time as any to recall that under the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives, the Speaker does not have to be a Member. And so, you get this entirely non-humorous tweet from a Washington Examiner reporter:
— Al Weaver (@alweaver22) October 8, 2015
He wouldn’t need any OJT, and all the rumors about his infidelities have long been confirmed, right?
But if you’re going to think “outside the box” for a House Speaker, there are other options, too:
Soeaker Carly Fiorina. would finally have that missing item on her resume–you know, remotely relevant qualifications for the presidency–and could symbolize the fact that just because the House GOP is trying to shut down Planned Parenthood and opposes pay equity is no reason to assume there’s any “war on women” going on.
Speaker Bobby Jindal could draw on his past House experience, and he’d have an excuse to leave Louisiana for good!
Speaker Sean Hannity could cut out the middle-men in Fox News/GOP message communications.
Speaker David Koch could cut out the middle-men, period.
So many options! Who else can you think of, dear readers?
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 8, 2015
“One Reason To Think It May Be True”: Is #Benghazi The Real Motive Behind Jason Chaffetz’s Bid For House Speaker?
Notable among Rep. Trey Gowdy’s many egregious abuses of power as chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi was his manic grilling of witness Sidney Blumenthal about Media Matters for America – which had everything to do with politics and Hillary Clinton and nothing to do with the tragic events of September 11, 2012.
As Gowdy’s pal Jason Chaffetz mounts a rump campaign for House Speaker against inadvertent truth-blurter Kevin McCarthy, that episode behind closed doors on Capitol Hill may have fresh significance. As he acknowledged in yesterday’s Washington Post, Gowdy remains furious with McCarthy for his now-infamous boast to Sean Hannity about the political motivations behind the committee’s long, expensive, redundant “investigation” (at least the eighth probe of the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three American colleagues in Benghazi):
“I heard from him at 6 a.m. the next morning…How many times can somebody apologize? Yes, he’s apologized as many times as a human can apologize. It doesn’t change it. It doesn’t fix it…
“Kevin is a friend, which makes the disappointment, frankly, even more bitter. If faith tells you to forgive somebody…It’s tough.”
Perhaps Gowdy is unable to forgive the blabbermouth McCarthy for ruining his charade – and perhaps he and his friend Chaffetz now think McCarthy is not quite bright enough to lead the House.
In that vein, it is worth nothing that according to my sources, Gowdy asked Blumenthal dozens of specific questions about a series of Media Matters posts that embarrassed Chaffetz in 2012 — one of which called attention to the hypocrisy of the Utah Republican for attacking Clinton and President Obama on Benghazi when he had voted to cut funding for embassy security. (Politico reported this line of questioning last June, but only mentioned the chairman by name once.)
Anxious to learn who wrote those mean posts about Chaffetz, Gowdy asked Blumenthal why he had called attention to them in an email to Clinton, and much more – even though none of those protected First Amendment activities bore the slightest relevance to the supposed concerns of the committee he chairs.
So is Chaffetz now running against McCarthy to avenge the infuriated Gowdy? He has denied it emphatically, which is only another reason to think it may be true.
By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, The National Memo, October 7, 2015