Will Kevin McCarthy Be Able to Benghazi Bungle His Way to the Speakership?

kevin mccarthy sean hannity

Last week when Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner announced the intention to resign his post at the end of this month, I indulged in a few moments’ worth of delicious schadenfreude. They were almost painful in their sweetness – the Party of No’s Grand Marshal driven out by the lunatic fringe that looks suspiciously mainstream in 2015. But once my giddy synapses ceased firing, a horrifying realization set in. The replacement Speaker is bound to be even worse for governance, and the country in general, than the weepy tangerine. Emboldened by a mandate of GOP crazy, and possibly even one of the embedded insurrectionists, the already halting wheels of Washington democracy seem likely to come to full stop.

And then I learned who Boehner’s replacement is likely to be – House Majority Leader and California congressman Kevin McCarthy. Oy. McCarthy’s meteoric rise through the ranks began with his election to the House in 2006. From there he became Republican Chief Deputy Whip (2009-2011) and House Majority Whip (2011-2014), before replacing Eric Cantor as Leader after he was “primaried” by the Tea Party toward the back end of 2014.

Short tenure in the national legislature notwithstanding, we already know that McCarthy is no better equipped than Boehner to keep the monkeys from overrunning the zoo. In July of 2011, writer Robert Draper of The New York Times Magazine published How Kevin McCarthy Wrangles the Tea Party in Washington. He noted in the piece, “To hold the caucus together, McCarthy’s delicate approach has been to acknowledge the independence of the hot-blooded new charges while instilling in them a sense of team loyalty — and thereby moving them, ever so gently, to a victory that will be enduring rather than Pyrrhic.”

Boehner’s resignation confirms that McCarthy’s leadership approach over the last leap year has been a dismal, crushing failure. The party has continued its gleeful cannibalization. He’s also from a blue state and the GOP caucus still seems to like him. That’s even more concerning. Brimming with confidence, a smug McCarthy made the media rounds this week, apparently dismissing all those earlier dreams of enduring, cooperative victory. And then he stepped in it immediately.

MSNBC’s Steven Benen writes, “On Tuesday night, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) acknowledged a fact that everyone knows, but which Republicans aren’t supposed to admit out loud: the GOP’s taxpayer-financed Benghazi committee is all about the Republicans’ ‘strategy to fight and win’ against Hillary Clinton. It’s not, in other words, about investigating an attack that left four Americans dead.”

It was all well and good when the mockery that is the Benghazi hearings was America’s worst kept secret. But for God’s sake McCarthy, you’re not supposed to say it. Suddenly, waking from a willful coma, some members of the party admit a Leadership Void Has Hill Republicans worried about 2016. CNN journalist Manu Raju observes that “Coming on the heels of Ben Carson’s criticism of Muslims, Donald Trump’s repudiation of undocumented immigrants from Mexico and a presidential race where personal insults are flying, the sudden resignation of House Speaker John Boehner is creating an unease the party establishment has not experienced in years.”

The article goes on to feature the concerns of Senator John Cornyn of Texas. I could not offer a better assessment of these comments than that of my younger sister (I swear one day I’ll stop quoting her, but the woman is a soundbite wunderkind): “When a Republican from TEXAS says the racist rhetoric and political infighting is a problem, either hell has frozen over or somehow reality is actually penetrating the fog.”

So what now? Benen notes of McCarthy’s continuing Benghazi committee overshare fallout, “Behind the scenes, some Republican insiders are quietly starting to refer to McCarthy as ‘the new Dan Quayle.’ I don’t think they mean it as a compliment.” But the party may not have any other viable Speaker options given the short timeline. Representative Daniel Webster of Florida challenged Boehner for the gavel last year – and netted only 12 votes.

It’s a cognitively dissonant tightrope the democratically-minded of us must walk before this coming Thursday’s vote. To delight in the continued implosion of a hysterical, irresponsible party while furtively hoping they actually select a functional, honest human being to lead the team. We can’t avoid the latter. For now at least, Republicans have too much power.

10 Unusual Things For Which I’m Thankful (November 25, 2010)

1. Getting Fired

Yes, though I remain out of work and the unemployment experience is often panic-filled and emotionally draining, I am grateful to have been let go. That’s because the job I worked, under the thumb of an arbitrary and capricious narcissist, was wrong for me and my long-term goals in just about every way. But because I will often continue to push a boulder up a hill even after my back gives out, I’m not sure anything short of termination would have allowed me to look beyond my immediate surroundings to strive for something better.

2. Bristol Palin Finishing 3rd on “Dancing with the Stars”

This bit of justice served demonstrated to me, on a microcosmic level, that the rational middle can band together to combat the hysterical and determined fringe, if only their organizational abilities are channeled in the right direction. All that remains is to inspire people to vote for their national leaders and the direction of their children’s future with the same enthusiasm. Maybe one day we can vote for President via 888 number, text and email?

3. Tendonitis

When a recurring case of deep tissue tendonitis on the underside of my right foot ended a burgeoning running career, I felt despondent. Forced to sit on the sidelines for eight weeks until I could consider cardio again, I felt like the oldest 32 year-old in the world. But then my friend and trainer Rob repaired my old bicycle and a new world opened. I have covered the entire North and West sides of my beloved hometown of Chicago on a trusty Schwinn, and I have people watched until the eyes literally stung. And my problematic thighs and rear end have never looked better. Boo ya injury!

4. My Father’s Final Break With Reality

Tragic and more painful than there are words to describe, but also oddly transformative and liberating at the same time. For the first time in 32 years, I am not living anyone else’s life or paying for anyone else’s mistakes but my own.

5. My Husband’s Anxiety

My nickname for Eddie is “Aunty,” because in many areas of his mostly together life, he carries himself with the needless worry of an old Indian woman. I tell him often that he loves to conjure crisis where there isn’t any. But in one particular case, when he fretted for naught this year that he was about to be let go from his contract position at work (instead, they wanted to offer him an extension), his jumpiness paid dividends. He now has a permanent managerial job with a huge and stable company – with plenty of room to grow. In a year plagued with my own employment instability (see #1), there is something to be said for insurance.

6. The BP Gulf Oil Spill

Of COURSE I wish this catastrophe had never happened. So much coastline, so many animals, jobs and resources destroyed by the carelessness and greed of a government/corporate dynamic. Horrifying. But since the tragedy did occur, I learned a lesson, one I am afraid much of America has not yet received. We MUST liberate ourselves from clutches of oil consumption. It is bad for our environment. It is bad for our nation’s security. It is bad for our economy. We need a plan, and we need lawmakers who aren’t more interested in lining their pockets with Big Oil slush funds.

7. Mayor Daley’s Resignation

Ding dong the witch is dead! Whatever the King’s reasons, I could not be happier to rid this fantastic City of his corrupt ass. The sickening property taxes, the astronomical cost of housing, the horrendous parking meter lease, the Chicago Olympic never-should-have-happened bid. Waste, graft. Rarely have I seen a lawmaker so overstay his welcome, although John Boehner has been House Majority Leader for like 10 minutes and I’m already past my limit. Anyway, Daley’s departure also opens up one of the most wacky and exciting populist contests to hit the Chicago machine since I don’t know when. Rahm Emannuel, Roland Burris, and Carol Mosley Braun? Nuts!

8. The Finale of Lost

Thank you Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse for teaching a control freak such as I that it is possible to be utterly mystified, vexed and awed and still love every moment of what I am seeing.

9. Brett Michaels

The former hair metal hasbeen taught me this year that it is possible to cheat death twice (major stroke, hole in the heart) and still come back to win Celebrity Apprentice and bust up Billy Ray Cyrus’ marriage. Inspirational middle finger to the Grim Reaper.

10. Nicoderm CQ

For saving Eddie’s life.

The Media Gives the Republican Party a Free Pass to Obstruct (January 8, 2013)

GOP-fillibuster

For all the complaints on the right side of the political spectrum, decrying a “liberal media bias” in favor of President Obama, I sometimes wonder if I am alone in drawing the opposite conclusion. That is to say when it comes to reporting on the increasingly partisan deadlock that has virtually consumed Washington, as well as the nation’s inability to accomplish anything beyond an endless train of disappointing stopgap measures, I wonder if the bulk of the country’s media outlets, concerned with mass appeal and the appearance of a balanced approach, have grown too afraid of identifying the Emperor without his clothes.

Case in point, this headline today on Yahoo! News via Reuters:Analysis: Obama shows combativeness entering second term but risks await. The writer, Matt Spetalnick is correct in his observation that before the official commencement of his second elected term, we have seen a President more self-assured and emboldened by poll numbers that consistently reflect an electorate exhausted by Congress’ failure to come together on long-term solutions to real problems, including but not limited to: our national debt, the effect of current entitlement spending on future generations, the systematic annihilation of the middle and working classes, the growing income disparities and education costs that are denying millions of Americans a fair shot at pursuing the American Dream.

However comments like this leave this reader curious as to whether the meaning of “analysis” has been lost on some of those who write about the political machine for a living: “Some critics say Obama now runs the risk of overreaching when he should instead be building Republican bridges to resolve the next looming budget confrontation.”

I do not have to ask Mr. Spetalnick for a list of his sources to hazard a guess as to who some of those “critics” might be: John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, an assortment of Tea Party crackpots or anyone working for these folks, immediately come to mind. As a long-time journalist, I completely understand the need to represent both sides of the story, but I was also under the impression that one of the driving tenets of journalism is to educate the public, to bring issues to light that might otherwise go unresearched by a general population preoccupied with the business of daily life.

I do not mean to single Spetalnick out for special scorn. There are far more egregious examples of bland, wall-sitting journalistic hatchet jobs disguised as legitimate reporting, and we could have a whole separate discussion about the ways in which the consolidation of corporate media and the lower profit margins of traditional journalism have affected the way we receive our “news.” But with that said, analysts and reporters are under no obligation to surrender their insights for a pair of rose colored glasses, and at some point we have to stop letting them get away with it.

Exactly what kind of “bridges” should Obama be building with the GOP? What happened to the one he tried to build in the summer of 2011, the efforts to strike a Grand Bargain with House leaders over the raising of the debt ceiling limit, which included what many liberals considered an unwarranted gift of borderline austere spending cuts? The same one that Republicans ultimately rejected in favor of last month’s manufactured fiscal cliff crisis? The real truth is my friends, nothing short of absolute capitulation on tax policy, spending and limited government would satisfy the current Republican party, and to take that one step further, the party’s platform is BAD for America by almost any standard of growth or savings.

In a true, functioning democracy, when a special interest group has lost perspective and reasoning and turns to policy development that serves a small minority, the end result is marginalization and ultimately, disintegration. With every Presidential election, the GOP moves itself farther away from laying claim to representing the will of the people. Voter turnout and statistics back this conclusion. But now, at the inception of President Obama’s second term, with looming fights in front of us over a host of issues that demand attention and reform, it is time for members of the media to surrender their own manufactured centrism in the interest of moving the country forward.

Trinkets From Romney’s Doomed Candidacy End Up in a Bargain Bin Near You (November 27, 2012)

Last week, the day after Thanksgiving ushered in the annual holiday shopping season. Many Americans partook of that bruising and borderline pathological retail ritual known as Black Friday, whereby millions of people invade chain stores at ungodly hours to grab discount stuff they probably don’t need. This was followed by the more civic-minded and measured Small Business Saturday, where consumers are encouraged to support local artisans, shops and outlets in order to buttress entrepreneurship in their local communities. And just yesterday, web surfers in offices all across America gave up their regular work tasks in search of the perfect Cyber Monday deal.

Even if you chose to sit out these cultural rites, there are 26 shopping days left before Christmas Eve. Perhaps you are thoughtfully biding your time, trying to envision that perfect, special gift for the loved one in your life.

And suddenly that consummate gift idea materializes! What do you get for the favorite liberal in your world? Whether they simply seek to commemorate President Barack Obama’s November 2012 thrashing of his Republican opponent, or if they are (like me) always up for a little GOP schadenfreude, the answer has arrived: Mitt Romney collectibles!

According to a report this morning from ABC News, retailers ranging from airport gift shops to online operations to Black Friday stalwart Wal-Mart are offering steep discounts on remnants of Mitt Romney’s doomed candidacy. Great bargains abound, per writer Sarah Parnass, such as “Romney magnets and buttons below a dollar and a ‘Repeal & Replace’ t-shirt, referencing the Republican plan to oust President Obama’s health care law, for less than five bucks.”

As for the official Romney website, reminiscent of the denials of Election Night, the former candidate’s handlers are not yet ready to relegate their man to the white elephant dustbin. In a display of misplaced confidence in the purchasing public, Romney t-shirts remain full priced – but those dying to plunk down $45 for the right to wear an electoral punchline on their torso may take advantage of free shipping!

It’s the little things during the holiday season that bring such simple joy. But alright. Maybe you’re not the mean spirited type. Perhaps you’re a gracious Democrat with a number of right-leaning friends who is too respectful to kick a team while it’s down, no matter how tempting. Fine. You can still take advantage of the Romney super sale! Just pop into the Reagan National Airport “America!” store for a Mittens bobblehead. Give it to your closest GOP buddy along with a musical greeting card that plays 1960 Brenda Lee smash “I’m Sorry.” Try to appear genuine and contrite in the giving. These misguided souls need our support as standard bearers try to discern how to make the Republican Party relevant in the 21st century.

No matter how naughty or nice we’ve been, this year’s holiday shoppers are bound to be more budget-conscious than ever, what with the looming fiscal cliff and the right wing’s continued standoff with President Obama on the issue of revenue increases. Show John Boehner and his ilk your concern by stockpiling bargain Romney stocking stuffers, maybe even put a couple of them in the mail to your favorite Republican officeholders. Obama has yet to begin his official second term and their arguments against supporting the middle class while rectifying our growing budget deficit problem are as trite and tired as the first go round. Remind them them of the electoral embarrassments yet to come from their failed, divisive strategies – with a momento of the election that was supposedly theirs for the taking.