Will Kevin McCarthy finally do the right thing? - GulfToday

Will Kevin McCarthy finally do the right thing?


Kevin McCarthy

Jackie Calmes, Tribune News Service

Days after making history as the first House speaker to be booted from the job, Rep. Kevin McCarthy said he mischievously told fellow Republicans, “I am a free agent now, aren’t I?” If so, he’s squandered it so far, with alleged kidney punches and vague electoral threats aimed at his House enemies. If only he’d use his free agency to burn his well-trodden bridge to Mar-a-Lago, and to the Orange Jesus who deserted his disciple (“My Kevin”) in McCarthy’s time of need. With his post-Jan. 6 pilgrimage, McCarthy did more than anyone to restore Donald Trump’s political viability, only to become the umpteenth Trump toady to learn that loyalty, for the disgraced former president, runs just one way.

This week, with the approach of California’s filing deadline for 2024 candidates, we should learn what McCarthy plans for life after defenestration: Will he stay or go? Hints and speculation, including his own, have been all over the map. But we can pretty much bank on McCarthy not doing what he should do, and give the shiv to Trump. He doesn’t have former Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney’s courage and commitment to the Constitution. He’ll do whatever he thinks is best for Kevin, period. McCarthy, who at nearly 59 is young by current Washington leadership standards, said soon after losing the speakership that he would run for reelection, seeking a 10th term from his red, Bakersfield-based Central Valley district. And he’d probably win, though he already has Republican opposition from his right, as well as Democratic and independent challengers.

Yet in recent days, the media has reported that McCarthy has confided to allies that he’s “exploring a career beyond the halls of Congress” — read: lobbying — and that he might even “get the hell out” by year’s end rather than serve out his current term. That would be a shiv of sorts to House Republicans, who need every vote they have given the party’s hair-thin and fractious majority. Colleagues took note of a photo McCarthy posted on Instagram, standing in his district office that looks to be in the process of dismantlement. Hint, hint.

Still, McCarthy professed indecision last Wednesday, when he sat down in Manhattan for an interview at a New York Times conference. “If I decide to run again, I have to know in my heart that I’m giving 110%. I have to know that I want to do that,” he said. “I also have to know, if I’m going to walk away, that I’m going to be fine with walking away.”

“It’s a gut call ... ,” he added. “Look, if you just got thrown out as speaker, you’d go through a [sic] different stages, would you not?”

I don’t know what McCarthy has been going through, or what he’ll do now. But given how he debased himself to get the speakership, especially his servility to Trump, I can guess that his dethroning by Trump’s MAGA acolytes in the House hurt a lot. He’s all but said he’s out for revenge and willing to use what’s left of his political machinery and rich campaign treasury against them. The question he’s asking himself is, can he do that better from within the House, or outside it?

It must be particularly galling that his fellow House Republicans, led by new Speaker “MAGA Mike” Johnson, are doing exactly what McCarthy was dumped for doing: accepting compromises with the Democrats who happen to control the Senate and White House. His far-right nemeses in the House Freedom Caucus even put out word last week that they finally accept reality, in the form of the spending limits that McCarthy negotiated with President Biden last spring, the same limits that provoked the right’s initial threats to can McCarthy.

And yet McCarthy remains wedded to those Republicans’ real leader, Trump, so much so that McCarthy’s office last week denied a highly credible Washington Post report that, in a phone call after his ouster, he’d told Trump, get lost,” when the former president ticked off the reasons he’d declined to defend the then-speaker against the plotters. Trump groused that McCarthy had failed to expunge his two impeachments — an impossibility, which Trump would know if he accepted that laws and norms apply to him — and that McCarthy hadn’t (yet) endorsed Trump for reelection in 2024.

According to CNN reports, Cheney discloses that McCarthy told her just two days after the 2020 election that Trump knew he’d lost. Yet that very night on Fox News, McCarthy insisted Trump won. And she adds this bit of comedy at McCarthy’s expense: He claimed to her that he went to Mar-a-Lago three weeks after Jan. 6 because Trump aides summoned him to help buck up the boss’ spirits: “Trump’s not eating, so they asked me to come see him.”

Given the grief McCarthy deservedly has taken for that Mar-a-Largo trip, imagine what he must have thought last month when his successor, Johnson, made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago, and, amid the gilt, posed for a eerily similar photo with the master there. Now it’s Johnson who’s decidedly not a free agent. But McCarthy is — he said so himself. He should act like one and redeem himself: Get out of the House and try to get rid of the Trump taint.

Don’t hold your breath.

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