Despite Tucker Carlson's rant saying he “sounds like an MSNBC contributor” in recently released recordings and is a “puppet of the Democratic Party,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy appears to be hanging on to the support of his fellow House Republicans.
In January 2021, in the wake of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, McCarthy claimed he was going to pressure Donald Trump to resign. He said Rep. Matt Gaetz was “putting people in jeopardy” and that he would tell Gaetz to “cut this shit out.” He wondered, of some House Republicans, “Can’t they take their Twitter accounts away, too?” But apparently, McCarthy has done enough sucking up over the past 15 months to convince the far right, including Trump, that he can be relied on to keep sucking up and supporting assaults on democracy.
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McCarthy reportedly got a standing ovation at a House Republican meeting Wednesday, after he claimed that all those comments were part of a “conversation about scenarios” and worked to focus attention on winning in November.
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”McCarthy has explained that his comments about resignation were made only in the context of an anticipated impeachment conviction, and he has argued that he did not really want to kick members off Twitter,” The Washington Post reports, based on an anonymous “person familiar with the comments.” The part about the comments about resignation isn’t too far out of line with the recordings, in which McCarthy said, “This is, this is what I think. We know [the impeachment resolution will] pass the House. I think there’s a good chance it’ll pass the Senate, even when he’s gone. Um, and I think there’s a lot of different ramifications for that,” and speculated about whether Democrats would follow through on impeaching Trump if he resigned first. But the part about not really wanting Republicans kicked off Twitter is a strong case of “Who are you going to believe, me or your lying ears?” Most House Republicans are apparently willing to believe McCarthy, despite the clarity of the recording.
Gaetz remains unhappy, speaking out at the Republican meeting. But while Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene reportedly called on Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican, to apologize for his comments on the recordings, and said she was hurt by McCarthy’s comments, it seems that McCarthy has done enough to butter her up—Greene isn’t after his head. And all it took was McCarthy coming out of a discussion about her speaking at a white nationalist event and pledging that he’d restore her committee assignments if Republicans control the House, and—as she told her fellow Republicans on Wednesday—working on getting her reinstated on Twitter.
In addition to his Wednesday comments claiming he had just been gaming out scenarios and hadn’t meant what he said and don’t Republicans want to win in November, a large part of McCarthy’s effort to get past his recorded comments has involved further sucking up to Trump. He talked to Trump three times in the 24 hours after the first round of recordings became public, the Post reports, and Trump told The Wall Street Journal the two men’s relationship was good.
But it’s Trump, so it’s all transactional. “He will extract something from it. I’m sure of that. He will hold it over McCarthy,” someone who had talked to Trump about the recordings told the Post. Trump understands that he’s dealing with someone weak, someone he can handle:
It’s not transactional with only Trump, either—as the explanation for Greene’s muted tone about the recordings shows. McCarthy has spent 15 months making sure that Trump and Greene and everyone else understands that his ambition to be speaker is definitely more important than upholding democracy or ensuring accountability after an insurrection.
Whatever McCarthy really thinks about January 6, or about some of his members’ Twitter accounts … doesn’t matter. Because the only thing that matters for McCarthy is Republican power, and his own power within his party. And since most of his fellow Republicans share the former goal and think he can help deliver it, his barrage of phone calls to Trump and his refusal to discipline Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar for speaking at a white nationalist event, and his help with Greene’s Twitter account are enough for him to hang onto the latter.
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