July 27, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
Kevin McCarthy caves and caves, then he caves some more
Like all abusers, his conference keeps moving the standard on him.
I don’t know about you, but Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy does not come off as a figure of genuine authority and respect. If Nancy Pelosi, his predecessor, gave the impression of a loving but iron-willed matriarch to her party’s rowdiest juveniles, McCarthy gives the impression of a bachelor uncle babysitting the kids for the day and coming close to giving up.
Since becoming speaker, he’s fended off demands by some in his party to meet the Democrats’ impeachments of Donald Trump with their own of Joe Biden. On what evidence? They were confident that they’d find it.
However, as the search for evidence of wrongdoing keeps running into the problem of there being no evidence of wrongdoing, some in his party are apparently fresh out of patience. Evidence, schmevidence.
Just do it.
If McCarthy were a leader, he’d know the problem with trying to appease people who don’t want to be appeased – the moment you give them what they say they want, they say they want something else. And they do that, because they have rightly sized him up. He’s got no backbone.
The Post reported Wednesday that McCarthy has “told lawmakers and some members of his leadership team that he is ‘moving closer’ to an impeachment inquiry though he’s not there yet.” He later found himself explaining the difference between things that don’t need to be explained if you’re a figure of genuine authority and respect.
“Impeachment inquiry is not impeachment,” McCarthy told reporters. “Impeachment inquiry is allowing Congress to get the information.” The man wants so badly to be seen as a leader but the farther he gets into his tenure, the more obvious it is that he’s not leading. He’s following.
If McCarthy were a leader, he’d know the problem with appeasing people who don’t want to be appeased – the moment you give them what they say they want, they say they want something else. And they do that, because they have rightly sized him up. He’s got no backbone.
The Post said the House Freedom Caucus is “publicly reminding colleagues that McCarthy’s speakership largely hinges on promises made in January to reduce spending significantly and are demanding steeper cuts that could make for difficult votes for vulnerable incumbents seeking to keep their seats and the GOP majority.”
In other words, they are reminding him of his promise to cut spending as if he has not already attempted to make good on that promise, which was using the debt-ceiling to extort concessions out of Joe Biden. (He did sorta kinda make good on that promise, but also he didn’t really.)
They are now saying that they won’t support must-pass appropriations bills unless he greenlights impeachment. Like all abusers, they’re moving the standard on him. Like all weaklings, he’s going along, no doubt with the expectation that if he caves this time, he won’t again.
Think of it this way. When the rowdiest juvenile Democrats made their initial stink about impeaching Donald Trump, what was the first thing Nancy Pelosi did? She said knock it off. Guess what? They listened.
When the rowdiest juvenile Republicans made their initial stink about impeaching Joe Biden, what was the first thing McCarthy did? It wasn’t knock it off. They don’t respect him enough for that to work.
It’s gotten so bad that McCarthy did something this week that I just can’t imagine Pelosi doing – parsing words that don’t need parsing when your party respects you. He’s not saying that he’s calling for impeachment. He’s not saying that he’s calling for an impeachment inquiry. All he’s saying is that he’s moving closer to the idea of an impeachment inquiry, which is not at all the same as an impeachment.
I don’t know about you, but when a leader finds himself explaining what he doesn’t mean as much as Kevin McCarthy does, his number is up.
Pelosi changed her mind about impeaching Donald Trump, of course, but only after indisputable evidence emerged of the criminal former president’s attempt to extort a foreign ally for the purpose of defrauding the American people in 2020. She stood in the way of empty political demands. She did not stand in the way of evidence of constitutional crimes worthy of the risk of mounting an impeachment.
McCarthy isn’t standing in the way of evidence, but that’s because there is no evidence for him to stand in the way of. Each of the Republican-led committees investigating “the Biden family” – code for Hunter Biden, the president’s profligate son – keeps running into the problem of failing to find evidence of wrongdoing by the president.
It’s not just a lack of evidence of constitutional crimes worthy of the risk of mounting an impeachment. It’s a lack of evidence of anything.
Just like the speaker.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.