September 6, 2023 | Reading Time: 3 minutes
McCarthy can’t keep tap-dancing
He's sacrificing his power.
I think we are missing an important factor in the discussion of the House Republicans and their desire to avenge Donald Trump by impeaching Joe Biden. What’s missing is an appreciation of the difference between two things that constitute the entire discussion and our understanding of it.
There are reasons.
Then there are good reasons.
The Republicans have been looking for reasonsreasonsreasons to impeach Biden since taking control of the House. They have launched a bevy of investigations, and every single one has been successful in producing “evidence” of wrongdoing by the president and his family.
What they haven’t done is produce good reasons for doing what they want to do. All they have done is suggest Biden’s involvement in somewhat questionable business dealings by his son, who used his dad’s name to make a buck. There is no evidence of wrongdoing. Nothing has substantiated the GOP’s claims of wrongdoing.
He can’t tell them to stop. He can’t permit them to carry on. Republicans who represent swing districts need good reasons to impeach the president, not just reasonsreasonsreasons. But there are no good reasons. All the speaker can do is cave and cave, then cave some more. Kevin McCarthy is stuck between the utter need to keep tap-dancing and utter knowledge that he can’t keep going.
Most people understand the difference between evidence of wrongdoing and claims of wrongdoing – most people, anyway, if they have ever watched a television courtroom drama in which evidence is independent of the interests of those who enter it into the record. The accused is not guilty because the accuser says he is. He is guilty because the evidence points overwhelmingly toward guilt.
But the most extreme members of the House Republican conference don’t work that way. They begin with a verdict and then work backwards, no matter how objectively cynical it may appear. They took control of the House “knowing” that Biden was guilty of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors. They have since then worked very hard to uncovered reasonsreasonsreasons for why they’re right.
I have mocked House Speaker Kevin McCarthy for caving and caving, and then caving some more, to the most extreme members of his conference. But in fairness to him (and to anyone else who chooses to live with an abuser), there is no reasoning with people who already “know” something is true and who will fight to the death any suggestion or evidence to the contrary. There is no reasoning with people for whom the difference between a reason and a good reason is the difference between what “works” and what doesn’t. There is no reasoning with people who show indifference to morality.
All McCarthy can do – all that anyone who chooses to continue living with an abuser can do – is appease, and that requires a never-ending sacrifice of power. He can’t tell them to stop. He can’t permit them to carry on. Republicans who represent swing districts need good reasons to impeach the president, not just reasonsreasonsreasons. But there are no good reasons. All the speaker can do is cave and cave, then cave some more. Kevin McCarthy is stuck between the utter need to keep tap-dancing and utter knowledge that he can’t keep going.
This is why McCarthy’s last known position was somewhere between vulnerable Republicans who do not want to be forced into an impeachment vote and Trump Republicans who do want to force vulnerable Republicans into an impeachment vote. In July, he said that he was open to the idea of an impeachment inquiry while also explaining very carefully that being open to the idea is not the same thing as an impeachment inquiry, nor is an impeachment inquiry the same thing as an impeachment vote. This man is getting tired.
For him, the only way out is for one of the reasonsreasonsreasons for impeaching the president to suddenly “work” – that is, to give vulnerable Republicans sufficient rationale to join the speaker in appeasing the most extreme members of their conference. But by the time a reasonreasonreason has finished its transformation into a good reason, McCarthy and those vulnerable Republicans, who were right to oppose impeachment, will have sacrificed too much of their power.
They will have tap-danced long enough.
We tend to think that all the talk of impeaching the president is a way for the Republicans to distract the press and the public from the criminal trials facing Trump. While there’s truth to that, I think we lose sight of something important, which is an appreciation of the difference between good reasons and reasonsreasonsreasons, which together constitute the entire discussion and our understanding of it.
The Republicans who want to avenge Trump already “know” that Biden is guilty … of something. They have, since they took control, worked very hard to find reasons why they’re right. Evidence isn’t proof. It’s rationalization of intent. If they must provide a good reason to those who require it, they can produce it after the fact – after they’ve done what they had set out to do. But by that time, it may be too late.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.