Republicans just threw out their own Speaker of the House. He had committed an unpardonable sin: he had worked with Democrats to keep the government running.
Kevin McCarthy’s defenestration on Monday is a shocking event, even in this bizarre political climate. He is the first Speaker ever thrown out in the middle of his term. And this is not just any old term.
No, we’re on the brink of a government shutdown. If Congress cannot pass a budget, in a matter of weeks the rest of the government will begin to grind to a halt. This territory is all too familiar, of course. It’s enough to make one wonder if the terms could be reversed. Perhaps we should let the rest of the government decide whether to fund Congress.
In the absence of a Speaker, the House cannot conduct any business, except to try to elect a new Speaker. This makes it the legislative equivalent of that old Pentagon standby, the “self-licking ice cream cone”—a project whose only function is to perpetuate itself.
Now the House can’t even manage that. More shocking still, this is an act of self-destruction, driven by a single member of McCarthy’s own party. Grasping at the lone straw of reassurance we could find, at least if such a thing was to happen, it’s fitting that Matt Gaetz would have been the one to do it.
A self-proclaimed Florida Man, Gaetz will apparently do anything. As a member of the Florida House of Representatives in 2015, he tried to block, and voted against, a bill to ban “revenge porn”—hardly the sort of behavior one might hope to expect from an alumnus of Niceville High School.
In 2018, Gaetz invited Charles C. Johnson to be his guest at the State of the Union address. Johnson, 34, who calls himself an “investigative journalist,” had written about the Holocaust in 2017, “I do not and never have believed the six million figure. I think the Red Cross numbers of 250,000 dead in the camps from typhus are more realistic. … I agree with [Holocaust denier] David Cole about Auschwitz and the gas chambers not being real. … But I support Israel as a Jewish state and Zionism as a concept.”
A few days earlier, according to The Hill, Gaetz had “appeared on prominent pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones’s online show, Infowars. In his appearance, Gaetz complained about being described as a conspiracy theorist.”
The antipathy between Gaetz and McCarthy can be tracked back at least to January 6th of this year. During the penultimate vote leading to McCarthy’s Speakership, Gaetz— who, seeking a little gravitas-by-association, was seated next to Lauren Boebert [R-Colo.],—had voted “present.” McCarthy walked up the aisle to wheedle for a bit; the finger-pointing Gaetz was having none of that, though. The situation, already testy, began to get hostile. Rep. Mike Rogers [R-Ala.] started to harangue Gaetz, when someone behind Rogers clamped a hand over his mouth.
It appeared that all was lost for McCarthy. The House was about to adjourn when the orange deus ex machina made a few phone calls. McCarthy had been handing out concessions like party favors throughout the protracted process. Now his soul, such as it was, had been subdivided among the members of the QAnon caucus, and the disgraced former President, as well.
The public did get something out of all this tsuris: entertainment. The usual rules for TV cameras in the House guarantee the footage will be boring. Since those rules can only be imposed by a sitting Speaker, though, the anarchy was, in fact, televised.
One might have thought—given the Republican penchant for heaping scorn on Neville Chamberlain for being a spineless appeaser—that Speaker McCarthy would have been more careful than to give his bomb-throwing caucus permission for single Member to frag him. As is so often the case, though, when dealing with knuckleheads, one would be wrong.
But, here we are: the most powerful nation on Earth—when Republicans have not trussed it up like the Lilliputians did Gulliver, the better to work on their daddy issues—is on hold until further notice. Good thing there’s not much else going on.
We’ll get through this, if it doesn’t go on too long. One of these days, though, we might need a government again. What if a land war starts in Europe? Suppose some thugs in the Caucasus decided to start ethnic cleansing?
In view of our temporary state of aphasia, surely the Lord will spare us from storms like the one that recently shut down New York City. What are the odds that anyone will need FEMA before Republicans reach a truce in their civil war? Granted, that may take a little while. Gaetz is currently making the rounds fundraising, with McCarthy’s scalp hanging from his belt.
Newt Gingrich, for one, isn’t happy about that, and he wants Gaetz expelled—a reaction causing irony-meters everywhere to go “tilt.” The former Speaker holds the only patent issued for “take no prisoners” politics since the days of dueling ended. On Gingrich’s ouster in 1998, he said, “I’m willing to lead, but I’m not willing to preside over people who are cannibals.” Then he took a swig of mead from the hollowed-out skull of his predecessor, Rep. Jim Wright [D-Texas].
Ever trying to be helpful, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene [R-Ga.] is calling for former President Trump to be named Speaker.
Sadly, the Republican Conference’s Rule 26 (a) says, “A member of the Republican Leadership shall step aside if indicted for a felony for which a sentence of two or more years imprisonment may be imposed.” Of course, these are Republicans. They’re adept at ignoring inconvenient rules.
In other news, NASA announced on Wednesday that the odds of Earth being hit by the asteroid Bennu are higher than were previously thought.
Unfortunately, those odds are still extremely low, and there is no chance of any impact coming soon enough to spare us from a possible Speaker Trump.