The Puzzle That Is Kevin McCarthy
Many of you will note that I tried to give the Turtle the benefit of the doubt since he got Trump’s judges confirmed. But since then, his actions against Trump showed his true Swamp colors, complete with their unsavory olfactory component. Which brings us to Kevin McCarthy.
Many of us have been uncertain about McCarthy, and for apparent good reason. During his tenure as Minority Leader in the House, he did an excellent imitation of a wheeler and dealer, with little evidence that he had any principles whatever. He acted more as a middleman than someone at the tiller of state, and that really makes pinning him down seem like trying to throw Jell-O for distance. Either he was completely worthless, or he was something other than he appeared.
The fight over the Speaker’s chair leads me to suggest a thought experiment to sort out just who Kevin McCarthy might actually be. Two things lead me to ask questions. First, since the Speaker election, McCarthy has actually done a lot of good things for the MAGA cause. He has appointed the needed select committees that have thrown Democrats into a tizzy. He appointed key Freedom Caucus members to those committees. And just days ago, he released over forty thousand hours of January 6 video that the Democrats refused to let America see. Hmmm….
This week a caller to David Webb’s talk show made a very curious point. The caller lived in McCarthy’s district. When constituents raised serious questions about major issues like water management (inquiring farmers want to know…) no one at any level of government gave those citizens the time of day. Except Kevin McCarthy. He wanted to know exactly what the problems were and how he could help. He stayed in touch with the people as he worked to deal with their problems.
Image: Kevin McCarthy. YouTube screen grab.
Do those two things sound like a Swamp Creature in action? I think not. So how do we square this circle? McCarthy had to be dragged kicking and screaming toward the Freedom Caucus in order to get enough votes to secure his chair. All this happened as political pundits pontificated that the Democrats might have figured out a way to join with RINOs to elect Hakeem Jeffries. All the while, the drive-by “news” reported contrapuntally on the intrigue.
Please allow me to suggest a theory that allows all the facts on the table to fit with the simulacrum of the Speaker. There are two fundamental premises. First, as asserted by some conservative members of Congress, McCarthy is actually a conservative. He’s not a RINO wearing a MAGA hat. Second, Kevin is a very savvy political operative. If we put these two together, a different picture of the man comes into focus. Whether it’s the actual man or some weirdly Pandorean illusion, only time will tell.
As has been dutifully reported, it took fifteen votes and lots of negotiations before the deal was done. But who was negotiating with whom? Over what? News reports indicated that the Freedom Caucus holdouts were demanding some very important concessions before voting for him. But is that true? The holdouts seemed to think it was true. The RINO wing wasn’t talking.
Obviously, the RINO wing was ready to take McCarthy at face value. He was a deal-maker and would go along to get along. The hard-liners had to be the problem. But they held the keys to the kingdom. Without them, he didn’t have enough votes. So he had to take their demands to the others for their ultimate consent. And the way he presented this would be key. If he’s a real conservative, he’d present the demands as “I’m stuck with these” so that the more liberal Rs would think that he was reluctantly going to have to accept the conditions. If he were a liberal, he’d use exactly the same language. Thus, a savvy deal-maker would present himself as coerced, and concessions would be needed just to get him elected.
Then McCarthy would go back to the Freedom Caucus and tell them they got one part of the package, and they would say it’s not enough. And the dance would continue. At the same time, a few members of the Caucus, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, supported McCarthy from the beginning. Did they know something?
Suppose it was all Kabuki theater, orchestrated by a master named McCarthy. Pretend to resist the hardline conservatives. Tell the liberals that he doesn’t have a choice. Don’t tell anyone other than a couple of the most trusted confidants what’s actually happening. Play one side against the other, letting both sides think you’re just a slightly less swampy version of Pelosi. Each side sees what they want to see. This gives you Conservatives loudly standing firm while McCarthy negotiates each little concession. Then the next vote fails, and you start again. Rinse, repeat.
Finally, on the fifteenth vote, the deal had the elements that McCarthy wanted but did not let on to the liberal wing. He’s “forced” to set up committees on “Weaponization of the Federal Government,” “actual investigation of January 6,” and so on. He even agrees to only needing a single representative to move to declare the Chair vacant. Every one of these “concessions” was pulled out of him by force. And the single vote for the motion remains a sword of Damocles over the Speaker, threatening to start the whole thing over again.
Imagine that. A truly conservative Speaker who is “forced” to be conservative. It’s exactly what he wants, and his actions have suggested that he’s actually being conservative. Of course, if you asked him, he’ll deny it, because that would give up the game, and the RINO wing would be livid. Until then, I think I’m willing to be pleasantly surprised.
Ted Noel MD is a retired Anesthesiologist/Intensivist who podcasts and posts on social media (except Twitter, where he is permanently suspended) as DoctorTed and @vidzette. His DoctorTed podcasts are available on many podcast channels.