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.

T’was the Night Before the Election (November 5, 2012)

T’was the night before the election, and all through Ohio
Margaritas were flowing like Cinco De Mayo.
Because Buckeye State residents were confident no matter who won,
Their days in the swing state spotlight were temporarily done.

Camp Romney retired its campaign of fluff,
Hopeful that the Etch-a-Sketch shaking had been enough.
To overcome the ire of chicks,
Who believed in their reproductive freedom, even without dicks.

Team Obama was bolstered by last minute polling,
That saw the incumbent ahead, and his opponent’s effort stalling.
Healthier job creation, increases in home sales, residential,
Images of a post-Hurricane Barry looking Presidential

Gave Obama a boost in the waning days
That claims about Jeep production in China just couldn’t sway.
Jon Stewart and Colbert toasted a winning season of lampoon,
Almost (but not quite) wishing Romney a boon.

Because jokes and puns write with ease
When your campaign platform has more holes than Swiss cheese.
From “extreme conservative” to moderate and back
While crying foul over ads that attack

One’s revolving positions, so hard to cement
Except for that business about the 47 percent.
“Borrow money from your parents” just doesn’t seem to be
A responsible education policy.

The Tea Party zealots, clutching copies of Ayn Rand,
Hoped that they’d filibustered enough to render Obama an also-ran,
When out of the blue from the sound bite penalty box
Came Joe Biden with Paul Ryan’s socks.

That was the only thing left of the GOP candidate, you see,
After Biden leveled him in debate, cheerful as could be.
“Medicare won’t change” promised Ryan, as long as you’re a Boomer,
But the rest of you will be screwed much sooner.

Romney/Ryan failed to learn the lessons of Bush
That entitlements turned vouchers have the appeal of stale tush.
Romney ran away fast from his running mate’s “serious” clunker
And all but banished him to the Cheney bunker.

But hide and seek is no game to play
With middle class voters still clawing their way
Back from the failed policies of Bush Number 2
That left the economy of ’08 a rancid stew.

“He’s had four years and his policies haven’t worked,”
Claimed Cantor and Gingrich and Boehner the Jerk.
Hoping upon hope if they said it was so
The voting public would forget the party of “no”

So off to the polls went John and Jane Public
In between looking for jobs and food for the stomach.
Because things are not fine but they’re definitely improving,
With much more to do to get the economy moving.

Believing in change, if slower than desired
Is a certainly preferable to being stuck in the mire
Of endless wars and tax cuts for the rich,
Watching the American Dream stuck in a ditch.

So “yes we can” re-elect Obama and forge ahead
With hope for the country that’s far from dead.
So to all you suffragists on the left and right,
“Happy Election Eve to all, and to all a goodnight!”

CPS Teacher Strike 2012: Unarmed Kids (September 11, 2012)

Courtney Sinisi (cq), left, stands next to her daughter Mia, 7, while the second grader holds up a sign in support of the Chicago Teachers Union at the CTU "strike headquarters" outside Teamster City Local 705 in Chicago on Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012. Teachers, paraprofessionals, school clinicians, parents and supporters picked up picket signs and other strike materials. Members of the CTU plan to strike Monday if contract negotiations fail. (Keri Wiginton/Chicago Tribune) B582362464Z.1 ....OUTSIDE TRIBUNE CO.- NO MAGS, NO SALES, NO INTERNET, NO TV, CHICAGO OUT, NO DIGITAL MANIPULATION...

 

Throughout my primary school and junior high years, I attended a little hole-in-the-wall Lutheran school called Pilgrim in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. Though I don’t have much use for these skills now (notwithstanding the occasional drunken parlor trick), I memorized the books of the Old Testament in order and recited Bible verses in addition to acquiring more progressive knowledge like sexual education and critical thinking. Believe it or not, challenging our pastor on issues of religious dogma was unpunishable, even encouraged.

I enjoyed eight years as a rather large fish in a small pond. With a graduating class of 12 students, and all of them white except for one Mexican-immigrant kid named Jose Echevarria, it was easy to achieve and maintain social and academic dominance. In the meantime, while I appreciated the humanities-centered education I received, I lamented a curriculum devoid of World Geography, advanced mathematics and rigorous scientific principles. Some topics necessarily gave way in order to save time for the Catechism.

The world appeared set to open for me as I prepared to leave a tiny Lutheran institution in favor of Chicago’s public school system (CPS baby!). As a new enrollee in Lincoln Park High School’s much-vaunted International Baccalaureate Program (I.B.), a course of study which I must point out, earned derision from a variety of Tea Party crackpots earlier this year for its encouragement of global citizenship, I had access to technology, student diversity and scholarship that I would not have otherwise gleaned by hewing to the religious lines I had been walking.

I recognize that my CPS experience does not mirror that of the City’s general student population, where the matriculation rate recently touched a new high of 60 percent but college graduation percentages fall below 10. Post-Great Recession, there numbers do not speak well of students’ ability to compete for jobs in a hyper-connected world that requires more education than ever. But let us not pretend that there aren’t mitigating factors beyond disengaged students and uninspiring teachers as certain anti-union factions would have it. Poverty and a frustrating lack of modern resources, compounded by children in gang-infested neighborhoods who do all they can just to get to school alive are certainly at play.

As the nation is now fully aware, Chicago Public School teachers voted to walk the picket line this week for the first time in 25 years. I am grateful that I was never impacted by this learning interruptus, a distraction that the City’s struggling students don’t need, but I understand that the fight between Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Teachers’ Union is about far more than pay raises. I join many of my friends and colleagues in bemoaning a state of political affairs that has rendered urban children collateral damage in this war. I respect that the Teachers’ Union feels the need to put its foot down before issues of classroom size, resources and the recent vilification of personnel render doing the job of educating impossible. It’s hard to sympathize with a Mayor who appears so little invested in the City’s school system that his own children attend high-priced private institutions.

It’s difficult to escape the impression however, that there will be no winners once both sides have laid down their arms. Educators will remain underpaid and overtaxed with too few resources. School administrators will not glean the increases in standardized test scores so desired without addressing systemic failings that put the City’s children at a disadvantage before they set foot inside the classroom. One outcome however is certain: as the strike completes day two and families without alternative childcare options struggle to provide their offspring with productive, often unsupervised, methods of spending their newfound free time, it is the kids who pay the long-term price.

May this standoff conclude with utmost alacrity. Children who have seen their parents lose jobs, homes and more deserve a break.

The Maverick Returns (July 28, 2011)

Had I been a Republican during the 2000 Presidential primaries, there is no doubt I would have voted McCain instead of Bush. At the time, the man came off as relatively uncompromised. As a decorated Vietnam veteran and a legislator who had a record (at the time) for rejecting pandering in order to reach across the aisle and get things done, he had my respect. Had he made it to the general election, I might have even considered casting a ballot in his favor instead of Al Gore.

By the time the 2008 campaign rolled around and McCain had morphed into a man who suddenly wanted nothing to do with immigration reform, labeled Barack Obama “that guy,” and selected Sarah Palin as a running mate, effectively putting an idiot one heartbeat away from the Oval Office, I was glad I was never faced with a real opportunity to punch a hanging chad in his favor. Turned out McCain was just like all the rest. He would say or do anything to get elected.

But all it once it appears that the removal of the Holy Grail chase, the end of his POTUS dreams, have freed John McCain to take a real stand where certain issues are concerned. Or it could be that at nearly 75 years of age, he just doesn’t give a shit anymore what anyone thinks.

And so yesterday, I read this report from Yahoo News’ The Ticket: “John McCain Unloads on the Tea Party,” and my stunned heart sang. Not so much because I care about McCain’s rediscovery of his backbone, but I was enthralled because finally SOMEBODY is pointing out the Tea Party Emperors are not wearing any clothes.

I could care less about his pity for John Boehner’s attempts to cobble together a last minute deficit reduction/debt ceiling compromise, but seriously, what’s not to love about quotes like this:

“The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue, and the public will turn en masse against . . . . Barack Obama,” McCain said, quoting a Wall Street Journal article. “The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced-budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea-party Hobbits could return to Middle Earth having defeated Mordor.”

“This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell into GOP Senate nominees,” McCain added, still reading from the article.

Squee!!!! I know he’s basically regurgitating the work of another writer, but the fact that he does so on the Senate floor, with C-Span cameras rolling, provides a tacit blessing to the Journal’s indictment. Like it or not, McCain remains a standard bearer of the GOP and though it is unlikely, this should give pause to intolerant right extremists.

Allow me to quote another Open Salon blogger I greatly admire, a gentleman by the name of Cranky Cuss. I published a post this past Tuesday entitled, “The Party is Over,” where I detailed my general disgust with the current “work” and comprehensive ineptitude of both political factions. That said, Crank offered a fairly prescient indictment of the Republican caucus in particular:

“The Republicans would rather have the nation default, with all the devastation it would cause our already teetering economy not to mention the world economy, than allow Obama to be re-elected. I consider that treason.”

Thank you Mr. Cuss for calling a spade a spade, and grazi Senator McCain, however belatedly, for trying to lead your party by example.

Newt Gingrinch Gains a Little of My Respect…Before Promptly Losing It (May 18, 2011)

I have taken a detour the last couple months from my regular obsession with the political arena to talk all things divorce and cancer. But as I am enjoying a relative “good” period, filled with some degree of life satisfaction and emotional equilibrium, I am inspired to join the endless sport of Capitol Hill navel gazing once again.

I am a huge fan of NBC’s Meet the Press, the Sunday morning political chat stalwart now hosted by David Gregory. While Gregory with his whiny, waffley interview style is no match for the “just the facts” tenacity of the otherwise cherubic Tim Russert (may he rest in peace), MTP is a habit I just can’t break. In years past, I would enjoy the show while indulging in the traditional Sunday hangover remedy of carbs and Gatorade, but now I am in my 30s and am usually well rested and alert. There are things to like about aging.

Anyway, this past weekend I queued up my Tivo to watch the show commercial-free and nearly deleted it altogether when I saw that the featured guest was former Speaker of the House, and current Republican Presidential candidate, Newt Gingrinch. I will NEVER forgive Newtie for the 90s – from the ridiculous government shutdown of 1995, to his laughably hypocritical pursuit of President Bill Clinton on the “family values” front. This from a man on his third marriage, the second which began under the auspicious influences of infidelity.

For a number of years, Newtie sort of fell off the political radar, only emerging as the occasional commentator on really important issues like President Obama’s African, colonial worldview (I was under the impression that Hawaii ceased to be a colony in the late 1950s). Rhetorically, he was swatted away like the pop cultural gnat he became (though he prefers the term “gadfly,” thank you very much).

But Newt got my attention on Sunday’s Meet the Press when he addressed rising GOP star Paul Ryan’s irresponsible, top two percent-friendly budget proposal. Specifically commenting on the plan’s goal of dismantling Medicare as we know it, converting it to a voucher program, his Newtness said: “I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering.”

Well ok! Newt never stood a chance of getting my vote, but such refreshing honesty, such lack of pandering! Maybe we have a new Maverick on the right.

But of course my praise and excitement was premature. Once the Tea Party establishment (who seem to accrue power in inverse proportion to their distance from the mainstream) got wind of Newtie’s comments, Gingrich began backpedaling faster than a honey badger.

Paul Ryan had this to say to Reuters: “I think he now understands the magnitude of his comments — how wrong they were. And I think he’s going to have more to say about that. And he’s working on that. He basically called and apologized. And I accepted his apology.” Newt – you just got served by a man with a freakishly big head.

Last time I checked, Ryan is a lowly House member from the minorityparty, but we currently live in an upside down political universe, where less is apparently more. As the brilliant Paul Krugman put it: “Normally, a party controlling neither the White House nor the Senate would acknowledge that it isn’t in a position to impose its agenda on the nation. But the modern G.O.P. doesn’t believe in following normal rules.”

And an article in the “Caucus” section of today’s New York Times asks, “Can Newt Gingrich Control Newt Gingrich?”

I may be wholly biased and partisan but I happen to believe that running afoul of an increasingly wingnut right establishment, which has essentially declared war on the middle class, is the FIRST positive thing Newt has done in awhile. Alas, no more. He has been cowed and has summarily returned to placating the ultra-conservative. I would have hoped he’d take a lesson from 2008 also-ran John McCain (another formerly bold player who relinquished any and all respect I ever held for him). Winning over your party’s base almost necessarily means alienating the mainstream in this century. In short, the already debatably electable Gingrich just become untouchable.

The Real State of the Union (January 25, 2011)

Tonight’s much anticipated address by President Barack Obama, almost four weeks into the New Year, is a huge test for our Commander-in-Chief. However, unlike last year, the rub isn’t his ability to withstand peanut gallery heckling (House Republican Joseph Wilson’s famous “You lie!” sneer). Rather, a large section of the American public, myself included, is looking to assess Obama’s ability to keep it real – to look that camera straight in the eye and drop all the b.s. about the nation’s “exceptionalism” and “competitive advantage.” We need the President, struggling with staff overturn and the formulation of an agenda for the final two years of his term, to level with his constituents, to give voice to the hard truths that so many of us have experienced for too long.

We are a nation at a crossroads. Despite the amassing of record corporate profits during the last two years, unemployment numbers remain puzzlingly and consistently high. State governments continue to slide into insolvency, and once stable jobs in the public sector (teachers, first responders, etc) are vanishing in unprecedented droves. We don’t need a cheerleader to sell us the “everything’s looking up!” routine. Things are definitely on the upswing for CEOs, for the NYSE, but not for us. We want to know why this happened and we don’t want to hear it from Timothy Geithner. We deserve to know how to fix our structural weaknesses so we never find ourselves victimized by them again, and to experience comfort in the form of a solid plan of action. It’s not permissible to kick the can down the curb anymore, leaving the hard decisions to future administrations. It’s not fine to play the role of the soothing parent. We are adults and we know we’re hurt. I think Mr. Obama’s poll numbers ought to be the first hint that we don’t believe the “measurable growth” fairy tale.

There is still too much rightful insecurity on Main Street. Millions have been out of work for periods of a year or longer. Those of us who have been lucky enough to secure new employment often find it to be of the contract or temporary kind, transient and without livable wages and benefits. We have no idea if the health care overhaul passed last summer to such tremendous fanfare and Tea Party howling will be overturned before the close of 2011. This is not an exercise in political gamesmanship. There are real stakes involved. It’s hard to formulate a five month plan, let alone a five year one, immersed in so much uncertainty.

I am certainly no defeatist. There is a time and place in tonight’s address for a celebration of our progress, to acknowledge how far we’ve come from the days of late 2008 when it seemed entirely possible that American economic and political relevancy could go the way of the Edsel. However, keep that sort of self-congratulation to a minimum. This is the first generation to fare more poorly than the previous in terms of wage growth, home ownership and educational opportunity. Let’s talk about how we arrived here, and what we’re going to do in the next 24 months to help the once-thriving middle class get back on the road to dignity and prosperity.

Hey You! Get Off of My Head (October 26, 2010)

Woman’s Head Stepped on by Rand Paul Supporters
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_kentucky_senate_scuffle

My friends, even in this most wacky of mid-term election campaign cycles, that is just not a headline one encounters everyday. As I woke up this morning, booted up the computer and perused my Yahoo home page, this story naturally caught my attention.

Rand Paul, as we all know by now, is the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate race in Kentucky. The political newbie and practicing ophthalmologist won his party’s nomination in May of this year, riding a wave of anti-incumbent sentiment and sudden Tea Party relevance. Paul’s father, Republican congressmen and Presidential also ran, Ron Paul, endorsed his son’s candidacy early on, a bid to replace beleaguered Republican Kentucky senator Jim Bunning. That blessing and the backing of the suddenly powerful Tea Party machine, has been enough to propel Rand to a reported 15-point lead over Democratic opponent Jack Conway.

But it hasn’t all been a smooth ride for populist poster boy Rand Paul. On May 19th the candidate famously ran afoul of enlightened people when he stated that had he been a senator during 1960s, he would have raised some questions on the constitutionality of Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits private businesses who provide public accommodations from discriminating on the basis of race, religion, or national origin against their customers. Paul argued that this title infringes upon constitutional freedoms. The would be senator got his first lesson in public backpedaling when the inevitable firestorm ensued.

And now this. The article above reports that “Lauren Valle of liberal group MoveOn.org, told Louisville station WDRB she was trying to give Paul a fake award when his supporters took her to the ground.

Television footage shows Valle’s blonde wig being pulled off before she’s pinned to ground. A man then puts his foot down on her head. Valle said the incident left her with ‘a bit of a headache.'”

Once I got done unclutching my abdomen after a full few minutes mirth, I became a little concerned about the members of the Rand Paul security team. During a campaign season of unparalleled hubris, have these folks gotten themselves confused with the Secret Service? What right did they have to get between a non-violent citizen and the candidate she peacefully opposes? This is downright undemocratic, although as we witnessed in last week’s firing of NPR commentator Juan Williams, the room for honest, diplomatic discourse grows ever smaller on both side of the aisle.

If you watch this video of the melee, it’s actually a little disturbing. The head stomper in question knew this maneuver was unnecessary. The slight Valle was already restrained on the ground. This is not Iran people.