Kevin McCarthy Isn’t Up to This Battle. But Neither Is Anyone Else.

Kevin McCarthy Isn’t Up to This Battle. But Neither Is Anyone Else.

Kevin McCarthy Isn’t Up to This Battle. But Neither Is Anyone Else.

All that protects McCarthy right now is the tiny but effective coat of armor he wore in January: No one else can get a majority vote.


Remember how great it was to go back to school in September, starting a fresh new year? Unless you were a victim of bullies, that is.

Poor House Speaker Kevin McCarthy faced the Capitol press corps to announce an “impeachment inquiry” against President Joe Biden Tuesday afternoon. His eyes looked dead. He took no questions, and turned on his heels to face the flags behind him.

Maybe he already saw that it wouldn’t be enough to appease his most determined haters.

Indeed, just minutes later, Florida Representative Matt Gaetz stepped on McCarthy’s headlines. “I rise today to serve notice—Mr. Speaker, you are out of compliance with the agreement that allowed you to assume this role,” Gaetz said on the House floor. He trashed McCarthy’s impeachment move as a “baby step,” adding, “The path forward for the House of Representatives is to either bring you into immediate, total compliance or remove you with a motion to vacate.” Gaetz promised that Republicans would start “every single day in Congress with the prayer, the pledge and the motion to vacate.”

This is the poison pill McCarthy swallowed to become speaker last January after 15 humiliating votes: Any day, at any time, any member, even a pompous, pompadoured empty suit like Gaetz, can call for a vote to terminate McCarthy’s leadership.

But let’s note: A day or so later, there has been no “motion to vacate.” Gaetz has been taunting McCarthy for days, suggesting that he’ll team up with Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. He’s also trolled Representative Eric Swalwell, a frequent Gaetz sparring partner who’s dismissed the idea of allying with the Florida wing nut. Maybe it’s Gaetz’s grammatical problems. Florida man tweeted: “Hi, Eric. If I make a motion to remove Kevin, how ma[n]y democrat votes can I count on? Asking for a friend….” He’s been taunting McCarthy ever since. The pair met on Wednesday, but Gaetz told MSNBC’s Ari Melber hours later that it was “disappointing” and called McCarthy “a sad, pathetic man” who is “lying like a dead dog.”

I guess the meeting didn’t go well. In a closed-door session with members Thursday morning, McCarthy reportedly challenged his critics: “If you want to file the motion, file the fucking motion.”

My colleague Chris Lehmann is right: The real issue is the government spending bill Gaetz and his friends want to torpedo, shutting down the government if that’s necessary. McCarthy faced their wrath when he joined with Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell to back a measure that made some domestic spending cuts but fewer than his fire-breathers wanted. They’ve been angry ever since. Sure, they want impeachment—and they’re likely to get it—but they want these budget cuts, too. They’re also demanding a border crackdown, term limits, and the release of all government January 6 footage. (Bring it on!) One weird footnote: Neither Gaetz nor any of his fellow insurrectionists will produce the agreement that led them to give their votes to McCarthy.

All that protects McCarthy right now is the tiny but effective coat of armor he wore in January: No one else can get a majority vote. One could imagine some kind of deal between Democrats and a moderate Republicans, but the crazies call the shots. McCarthy lucked out in January when he won over Marjorie Taylor Greene, who says she told the disgraced, twice-impeached former president Donald Trump “that she wanted the impeachment inquiry to be ‘long and excruciatingly painful for Joe Biden.’” What a good Christian.

I’ve long shrugged off the prospect of impeachment, watching Oversight Committee chair James Comer and Judiciary chair Jim Jordan beclown themselves with probes that repeatedly turn up nothing. The “inquiry” McCarthy just authorized will likely be more of the same. But let me warn of a couple of dangers. The media will cover this like Hillary’s E-mails Redux. Already a CNN poll found that 61 percent of Americans think Biden had some connection with Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings, and 55 percent say he acted “inappropriately” regarding the investigation into his son’s potential crimes. Why do they believe that, though? Because nonsense stories are being covered like news stories.

I was glad to see the White House out on its front foot with this debunking of the crackpot Comer/Jordan claims.

It’s great that the White House was ready for this, but it’s also possible to bend too far to the eternal bedwetter caucus. Politico warns today: “Already some impeachment-skeptical moderates are suggesting that a lack of White House cooperation on document and testimony requests could bring them around, and so a complete stonewall might well be counterproductive.” Not one of these so-called skeptics is named.

But the eternal rule of American politics, IOKIYAR, is in full force. Trump was his trademark brazen self in refusing to cooperate with mainly Democratic investigators during his two impeachments, as well as the January 6 investigation. Biden will likely be derided as shifty like Hillary if he doesn’t cooperate to some extent. Democrats can’t win playing by these rules—and neither can democracy. It’s easy to laugh at a conscience-free oaf like Kevin McCarthy, but there’s a reason he leads the GOP.

Thank you for reading The Nation!

We hope you enjoyed the story you just read. It’s just one of many examples of incisive, deeply-reported journalism we publish—journalism that shifts the needle on important issues, uncovers malfeasance and corruption, and uplifts voices and perspectives that often go unheard in mainstream media. For nearly 160 years, The Nation has spoken truth to power and shone a light on issues that would otherwise be swept under the rug.

In a critical election year as well as a time of media austerity, independent journalism needs your continued support. The best way to do this is with a recurring donation. This month, we are asking readers like you who value truth and democracy to step up and support The Nation with a monthly contribution. We call these monthly donors Sustainers, a small but mighty group of supporters who ensure our team of writers, editors, and fact-checkers have the resources they need to report on breaking news, investigative feature stories that often take weeks or months to report, and much more.

There’s a lot to talk about in the coming months, from the presidential election and Supreme Court battles to the fight for bodily autonomy. We’ll cover all these issues and more, but this is only made possible with support from sustaining donors. Donate today—any amount you can spare each month is appreciated, even just the price of a cup of coffee.

The Nation does not bow to the interests of a corporate owner or advertisers—we answer only to readers like you who make our work possible. Set up a recurring donation today and ensure we can continue to hold the powerful accountable.

Thank you for your generosity.

Ad Policy