08 October 2015
The rise and fall of Kevin McCarthy, without the rise
History will still remember Kevin McCarthy as the actor from the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers movie, the guy on the highway shouting, "You're next!" Kevin McCarthy the politician, a Representative from California, will be no more than an anecdote in the chaotic history of the 21st century Republican party. For a moment it looked like he'd be the next Speaker of the House, but then liberals gleefully publicized an illiterate speech on foreign policy McCarthy delivered last month, and more gleefully pounced on a perceived confession that the Benghazi hearings were politically motivated. He may have been treated unfairly that time, but given his proven incoherence it's hard to tell what he means by what he says. McCarthy said, "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee, what are her numbers today?Her numbers are dropping, why? Because she's untrustable." Clintonites inferred, and others assumed that McCarthy had implied, a causal sequence: he put together the special committee because Clinton was thought unbeatable, in order to prove her "untrustable." He just as easily could have meant that while Clinton had been thought unbeatable, once Republicans responded to her perceived mishandling of the Benghazi incident by holding an investigation, she was inevitably proved "untrustable." By this week McCarthy had revealed himself to be inarticulate and possibly indiscreet, but this probably had little to do with his withdrawal today from consideration for the Speakership. It's more likely that McCarthy backed out, while retaining his position as Majority Leader in the House, for the same reason the departing Speaker, Rep. Boehner, is departing: a determined right-wing faction found him neither conservative nor confrontational enough for their tastes. We may actually owe the Tea Party thanks for sparing us so blatant a moron as the leader of the House, but in the current climate we're unlikely to get much better. We're more likely to see this McCarthy emulate his more famous namesake by telling the next front-runner, "You're next!"