On Capitol Hill, entire legacies can be rerouted and redefined in just a few brief words. Usually, those words revolve around a lie or a half-truth, an assertion of dishonesty that tarnishes the reputation of a politician. But for House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who before today was a shoe-in for the House Speakership, it wasn’t a lie that ended his political future… it was the truth.
Earlier this afternoon, McCarthy announced that he was ending his strongly favored bid for the title of Speaker of the House, which he had previously declared his candidacy for shortly after sitting House Speaker John Boehner revealed he was resigning his post.
But while some felt McCarthy simply couldn’t find a clear path to the 218 votes he’d need to win the Speakership, many others felt that McCarthy’s gaffe last week — openly admitting that Republicans are only investigating Benghazi for the umpteenth time because it makes Hillary Clinton look bad and hurts her in the presidential race — had dealt his candidacy a fatal blow, a fact that McCarthy himself didn’t deny, admitting “Well, that wasn’t helpful.”
Let that settle in for a moment. Congressman Kevin McCarthy came out and admitted, publicly and even with a proud tone, that Congress’ most recent Benghazi investigation was done in an effort to bring down the candidacy of Hillary Clinton. He was being honest, and exposed a little too much of the right-wing’s hand. They love playing dirty, but they don’t want any of us to know they play dirty, at least not in such a point-blank way. Woops.
Kevin McCarthy dropping his frontrunner’s bid shows that right-wing Tea Party figures in Congress muscled him out either directly, with a threatening posture and arrogant demands McCarthy wasn’t willing to live up to, or indirectly, by passive-aggressively illustrated how much gridlock they’d cause and, as so many insiders have indicated, muddying his road to 218 votes. In either case McCarthy, touted by many as a moderate and by some on the far-right as a “RINO,” has no place in this modern Sarah Palin era of the Republican party.
So if not McCarthy, who might we end up with? Jason Chaffetz, who recently showed off a fake abortion chart in the hopes of defunding Planned Parenthood, seems to be just bat-shit crazy enough to perhaps steal the race, though at this point, everyone is a longshot. This story just broke a few hours ago, so it’s obviously far too early to estimate who might become the new frontrunner in the next week or so.
The only thing we know about the next House Speaker is this: they have to be nutty enough to appease the Tea Party caucus, but also sane enough to garner the support of the GOP establishment. So in a way, the GOP has painted their speakership race into the same corner they find themselves in with the presidential race: they need a presidential candidate who can win over the right-wing base of arrogant, ignorant Tea Party types, but then swing back to the center and disavow everything they’ve said in order to win a general election, which obviously can’t be done.
This means the Speakership fight might possibly become the most contentious in American history. And it will also showcase the strength of the Tea Party’s Capitol Hill elements, too. Because if we end up with, say, Louie Gohmert as the next House Speaker, America will be in for a very difficult few years. And that’s a pretty steep price for the entire country to pay over one man’s honest slip of the tongue.