House Republicans Not Serious At Governing

During 2022 many political observers were commenting that Republican efforts to win seats in campaigns around the nation were not being conducted in a serious fashion. Rather than running on issues and policy platforms with specified ideas for governing, GOP resentments and anger with conspiracy theories were far more often the offerings to voters. There was a continuing need from the GOP to placate Donald Trump, play to election deniers, stoke racism, and churn up angst about transgendered people.

When the Republican Party did talk about an issue, they only desired to foment fear concerning it, and never offered reasoned discourse as to possible remedies. For instance, in the months leading up to their own predicted ‘red wave’ at the balloting boxes, reports about violence in America reached a fevered pitch. Those who watch Fox News were presented with stories galore about mayhem. Some might have thought those news anchors would breathlessly break into song with “ya got trouble folks, right here in River City, Trouble with a capital T, and that rhymes with P and that stands for pool”.

What these candidates and their network wished to impart was that violent crime was surging, cities were out of control, and worse, Democrats were responsible. With such dire consequences for the nation, it would only make sense for the health and well-being of the populace, that once these Republicans had power, they would use it for the safety of the nation. After all, that is what being elected, and governing are all about. Late last week the speaker’s gavel was finally being held by Kevin McCarthy and the governing process could being.  Crime would surely start to feel the wrath of the law-and-order party.

But then something odd occurred. 

Crime was no longer the nemesis that it was purported to be, and the very slim majority of Republicans in the House decided that playing to the base of angry Republicans was far easier to do than govern.  So with no sense of shame, the GOP voted to launch a wide-ranging investigation into federal law enforcement and national security agencies.  (This is but the first sign of the tail wagging the dog, as Speaker McCarthy does the bidding of the ‘Taliban 20’ within his fractured caucus.) The fragile conservative Republicans were more concerned about their perceived slights and snubs than what the nation might be talking about and wishing to have addressed.  The idea that angry white men within the GOP need to have their grievances given a special committee is not lost on a national electorate that has been turning away from that party for years.

Forget climate change or addressing worker shortages or strengthening health care coverage! All of those issues and many others fell to the chamber floor as the first measures to be considered so that grievance politics could make national headlines.

The lack of seriousness from the Republicans in their first hours of governing aligns with their sad attempt at campaigning.  Within days of the ‘red wave’ turning to a pink trickle following the balloting it was noticed Fox News was no longer interested in all the violence in the nation. That channel simply decreased its coverage of violent crime by 50% compared with the pre-election average.

The lack of journalistic standards by Fox News is only rivaled by the lack of credibility from the new GOP House majority. We now have Congressman Jim Jordan, who was front and center with his support of the insurrection on January 6th, now being put in charge of a committee to investigate the investigation.  This is more suited to a Martin Cruz Smith novel than how our American government should operate.

I well understand that some conservative voters support this behavior and are pleased. But I know full well that the majority of the nation watching and being concerned about governing are aware of how they knew all along the real intentions of the GOP 2022 campaigns.

House Cameras Should Have Full Rein, Democracy On Parade Good For Nation

Politicos had the week of their lives as the House of Representatives slogged through a 15-ballot process to determine a Speaker, an epic-sized drama with a cast of characters and plot twists that famed author Allen Drury (Advise and Consent series) would have had a hard time creating. It was an adrenaline rush, that once concluded very late Friday night, allowing for the nation of television watchers and social media followers to lean back deep in their sofas and truly exclaim “Wow!”

There was no way for even casual viewers or the most lackadaisical of citizens not to have been aware history was being made.  The nation soon was talking about the fact it had been nearly a century that a Speaker election at the Capitol required more than a single ballot.  Tension mounted so that reporters spoke openly and even somewhat thrillingly that no one knew how the events would play out.  This was after all, why they wished to join the journalism profession. Soon those in the land who thought they were not interested in history started talking about Nathaniel Prentice Banks, who in 1855 required 133 ballots over two months to secure the gavel. It was that type of week.

As the politics were playing out with spirited nominating speeches on the chaotic House floor, while the ratings for all news channels increased, Americans realized something truly quite fascinating was occurring in front of their eyes. Gone were the stale and formalized offerings from the C-SPAN cameras that only allowed for the House member speaking to be viewed, or the chair of the Speaker to be focused upon.  Rather there was a freewheeling display for the citizens to watch, as the cameras caught every angle of the story and made sure the main players and the supporting roles in the drama had plenty of air-time. On the first day, there was lonely George Santos, who got a break in his highly troubling running narrative due to a much larger headline overshadowing him. There were animated discussions where Matt Gaetz was the focal point for viewers. Friday night there was nearly a brawl that was captured by the cameras.  Though this was not legislative sausage being made, the nation was better understanding what was happening so as to elect the main meat grinder.

Congressman Mike Rogers was physically restrained by another member while going after Matt Gaetz Friday night.

Needless to say, there are news stories to be seen and told regarding the working coalitions of House members via the interactions on the floor.  Accounts that can only be presented fully to the nation if House cameras are allowed to record such moments. But all that was lost again once the House passed its rules and again abides by the most outdated and self-protecting rules in Washington.  (Other than at the Supreme Court.)

Brain Stelter, former anchor of CNN’s Reliable Sources is a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. He made a very compelling argument for the cameras to operate in an open and transparent fashion in a must-read column in the Boston Globe.

But consider what the public is usually unable to see: The joint session of Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, was not deemed deserving of independent TV coverage. So when the proceedings were adjourned due to the mob at the doors, the cameras were immediately turned off. Viewers should have been able to see the attack as it happened on the House floor — and the imagery would have made it harder for hard-right media personalities to deny the reality of that day.

But the desire to treat the House as a private workspace is superseded by the very public nature of the job. As a compromise of sorts, congressional leaders should allow a pool of journalists’ cameras for major news events and legislative debates — and the news media should determine what counts as major, not the government.

Sound journalism demands that the cameras operate for the benefit of the public’s right to know and better understand how their government functions. Or fails.  There really is no better or more sound argument to be made.  What politicos and everyone else were able to see and react to, be it with a partisan tinge, a historic perspective, or just from a ‘can not take my eyes off the crash scene’ mentality’ is that having more information is always a better route to take.

The fortunate lack of rules at the start of the year in the House allowed the cameras to give our nation insight into how a legislative body actually looks, feels, and reacts to the minute-by-minute tumult. It may not be pretty, but it is our government ‘working’. It is, for better or worse, democracy on full parade.

Kevin McCarthy ‘House Speaker’ Political Cartoons

The Taliban 20 are still at work undermining the Republican Party and preventing the forwarding ability for the House of Representatives to function. This is precisely why the Donald Trump factor in our politics has been destructive and warrants our full disdain. Any Republican who thinks this is a winning formula as the nation watches, as independents and moderates across the land expect the government to work, and see who is thwarting the will of the House to even organize sends a clarion call about the dangers to the GOP moving forward.

Kevin McCarthy deserves to be undermined and never elected speaker due to his absolute sellout to Donald Trump and dangerous illiberal moves aimed at the heart of democracy, all in an effort to be the speaker. But, it is also true that the absurdity of the thumb-draggers and bizarre anti-government zealots must be treated to some harsh political realities, as they are nothing more than terrorists in nice suits. There is no better example as to why total revulsion can be and must be unleashed on this group, which includes a child sex predator (Matt Gaetz) election deniers, or the wingnut who sends out Christmas cards promoting assault weapons (Lauren Boebert).

Editorial cartoonists, meanwhile, are finding no shortage of material to use as they draw for the Op-Ed pages of newspapers nationwide. The wretched among the GOP seem intent on giving the nation pure excrement.

Top Aide To Kevin McCarthy Gets Noticed For Professionalism


I have watched the coverage for two days from the all-news networks of the battle for House speaker. There is one continuous calm in the storm–the man who is a top aide to Kevin McCarthy. He is John Leganski, the Deputy Chief of Staff for House Floor Operations. His composure and focus on the task at hand are not missed. Government employees too often get unfairly smeared by anti-government types, but this man is often walking about prior to votes and connecting with those who need to hear what must be said, and his poker face is exactly what the job demands. Hours of coverage throughout the week have proven he has mastered the professional cool. Two thumbs up.

Historic House Speaker Battle Makes Front Pages of Nation’s Newspapers

The front pages of newspapers from coast-to-coast underscore the drama and history that is playing out as Republicans take control of the House of Representatives. There is no way not to be caught up in the moment of history we are living.

Kevin McCarthy Proves What Happens When Tossing Aside Core Values

Stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything. That sage advice was handed down from our parents and grandparents and it has proven to be a bedrock value that stands the test of time. I thought of that wisdom while watching the multiple ballots for House Speaker take place on Tuesday. Kevin McCarthy surely heard the advice in California that I heard growing up in Wisconsin. But as we witnessed over the past two years through newspaper and television reports his behavior following the January 6 insurrection with his tilting in the wind and then fully embracing election deniers dismayed many and disgusted far more. It was highly troubling to witness how he linked himself so tightly to Donald Trump, even in the face of facts that proved Trump had lost the election and championed an insurrection. The nation saw that McCarthy would do anything to hold the House gavel.

Wisconsin Congressman Scott Fitzgerald listens to a nominating speech for fellow member Jim Jordon.

If there is a lesson to be learned from McCarthy’s actions following Donald Trump‘s election loss in 2020 it is that principle and core values must not be tossed aside all for the anticipation and glory of future political power.  While the Freedom Caucus, a far-right wing bunch of continuously maladjusted and malcontented House members have both personal and political differences with McCarthy and see themselves as having achieved a great deal today with their plotting and planning, many liberal Americans across the land strongly approve of McCarthy’s national comeuppance.  His behavior over the past 24 months has been most unseemly and lacking in core values.  That is simply not the type of character that should sit in the Speaker’s chair.

Time and again coverage of balloting showed congressman-elect George Santos alone while the collective collegiality of the members buzzed around him.

When Lyndon Baines Johnson maneuvered in truly unseemly ways so as to gather power and move himself up in the political leadership roles in Washington, he then used that power, once it was secured, in a wise fashion for the betterment of society. As Robert Caro points out in his tomes (and we are still waiting for the fifth and final volume) Johnson was ruthless in his attainment of power, but then used it in enlightening ways for the nation.  Other historians have written how George Herbert Walker Bush used a highly racial ad in the 1988 campaign, but once in office, used his power for great achievements, such as working for and signing the Americans with Disabilities Act. But when it comes to McCarthy there is nothing in his portfolio that demonstrates he has any regard for such a use of power should he hold it.

The House has adjourned until midday Wednesday, and there may be developments that take place due to backroom deals and caucus agreements. No doubt, McCarthy will continue his quest for power but having witnessed what he did to attain such a leadership role in the House no one can now conceive that he would be a wise steward of the gavel. That lack of a broad outlook for national needs is most likely a flaw in any of the consensus contenders. But the importance of denying the 218 votes to McCarthy is due to a total disregard for core values, which we have watched play out.

For politicos what transpired today in multiple votes for a speaker was simply amazing, a truly surprising and historic series of ballots and maneuvers that warranted our attention.  I understand for McCarthy, who has maneuvered and dreamed and thirsted for the speaker’s gavel, this was a most embarrassing outcome. The lack of ability to persuade the necessary members to do his bidding must be extremely dispiriting. On a human level, it is a sad thing to see play out, as who doesn’t want to see the dreams of others fulfilled. But given the way that he plotted and cajoled to attain the top job in the House, there are many across the land who are pleased that his goal was not realized. After all, when one sells out so completely, and even if the goal is attained, what is there to truly applaud and be proud of?

The image of this baby on the House floor reminded me of why we fight for the proper policies in this land.

“Never Kevin” McCarthy Conservatives Will Bend By January 3rd, Motion To Vacate Will Be Flushed

If one were to place bets on who the next Speaker of the House of Representatives will be the odds must be with Congressman Kevin McCarthy. While it is true the California conservative has fawned over Donald Trump and weakened his own hand with such embarrassing displays and was at the heart of the GOP-wide campaign to whitewash the details of the insurrection on January 6 and therefore should never hold the prized gavel, we should think again.  Perhaps McCarthy is getting what he deserves.

With a very slim margin of seats, McCarthy is seeking the third most powerful office in our national government. He needs 218 votes on January 3rd, and there are several ways to get there, including having a few Democrats not on the floor or merely voting “present”. But to attain the speakership, and more importantly retaining it, requires a battle with the most absurd right-wingers the Republican Party surely now regrets fostering.  There are, as of this posting, five staunch and verbal conservatives who have said they cannot and will not support McCarthy for the job of speaker. I suspect they can be and will be cheaply bought off with a committee assignment or a tote bag filled with boxed wine and coupons for Chick-fil-A.  Getting these rabble-rousers in line will be achieved. At some point before the January vote, it will happen.

But until then the circus performance from the likes of Arizona Congressman Andy Biggs is underway.  He has ‘graciously’ offered himself up for the title but to be a leader there need to be followers.  Other than the ‘titan of boorish behavior’ Congressman Matt Gaetz and a few others in the always discontented column the rank and file has mostly stayed quiet and away from the carnival tent. The far-right is demanding that the House reinstate what is known as the “motion to vacate” which would allow any member of the House to force a vote to oust the sitting speaker.  It should not surprise anyone that what the right-wingers want is simply what they are never going to achieve because no leader with a desire to prevail in the long run would ever consent to his own destruction.

Biggs has stated that if McCarthy does not step aside or surrender to his demands “unnecessary chaos” will occur at the start of the new year when Congress reconvenes. If McCarthy were smart, he would call up author and historian Robert Caro and have a long conversation about how Lyndon Johnson snapped members like Biggs in two and then used them like pool sticks in the game of politics.

It goes without saying McCarty has stated the motion to vacate is off the table and out the door. He has the bulk of his caucus behind him on this issue, as a majority of the House GOP voted against the idea during a closed-door meeting last month. No logical person or organization allows steps for its own destruction. Even the Southern Confederacy during the Civil War did not provide, ironically enough, for the secession by individual states. 

It has been cheap theater to see all the hurdles McCarthy is jumping over and those people he otherwise might have at arm’s length (Congressman Jim Jordan) now at his side.  He will have a constant thorn pricking him from the most rigid ones in his party, even after allowing him to be speaker. While McCarthy is not an honorable man, given his lack of regard for ferreting out the root causes of Donald Trump and his ilk that created the insurrection, we should still desire him to be speaker.  First, it will derail the most rabid on the right in the House from securing their sense of victory.  Secondly, we should want McCarthy to be speaker because at times the worst thing one can achieve is what has so long been fought for, and once in hand, backfires.