Let’s get the “ew, omg, gross” part of this out of the way right off the bat: This is how Kevin McCarthy talks about Marjorie Taylor Greene when he’s among friends. “I will never leave that woman,” The New York Times reports he told a friend. “I will always take care of her.”
McCarthy arguably owes his speakership to Greene, who worked hard to boost support for him with the far-right flank of the House. But that’s not how people usually talk about professional allies. The Times goes in depth on how their strong alliance developed, with the basic conclusion being that McCarthy, having built his career on sucking up rather than through legislative accomplishment, took that approach to the next level in winning Greene’s support. The end result is that, as Greene told the Times, if McCarthy holds to what he promised her, it “will easily vindicate me and prove I moved the conference to the right during my first two years when I served in the minority with no committees.”
It’s tempting to say that McCarthy let Greene outsmart him, but he got what he wanted: Speaker of the House will always be on his résumé, no matter how disastrous a tenure he has. And he never appeared to care about much more than that, as his advancement-through-flattery strategy showed long before Greene appeared on the scene.
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Greene initially distrusted McCarthy, believing allies who told her that he had conspired with Democrats to strip her of committee assignments. But starting from that point, it was the House minority leader who assiduously worked to court the first-term member with no committee assignments, rather than the reverse. Though he would call her “to the principal’s office,” as she put it, for conversations after she did things like speak at a white nationalist event or spread conspiracy theories, McCarthy never tried to punish her and kept his public criticism of her muted.
That approach bore fruit for McCarthy when Greene went to him for help after Twitter banned her personal account for spreading coronavirus misinformation. He gave her that help, with his general counsel spending hours on the phone with Twitter executives making Greene’s case. It didn’t work at the time, but it showed Greene the lengths McCarthy was willing to go to for her. What really convinced her of McCarthy’s support, though, was hearing from former Rep. Devin Nunes that McCarthy had threatened Democrats with retaliation if they stripped Greene of her committee assignments. (McCarthy has delivered that retribution, announcing he’d block Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Intelligence Committee.)
Greene wanted to move House Republicans to the right. McCarthy knew he needed the far right to attain his personal ambition, having concluded that his Republican predecessors, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, had made a strategic error in isolating far-right members. But the most important thing the Times reveals is what we’ve been saying all along: Extremists control the House Republican conference. Despite the official imbalance in their status favoring McCarthy, the reality is that Greene had the power.
And by helping him get what he wanted, not just through her own vote (or 15 votes, in the end) for McCarthy to be speaker, but by giving other far-right House members the ability to tell constituents, “Well, Jim Jordan and Marjorie Taylor Greene are standing with Kevin McCarthy. And so am I,” Greene won McCarthy’s everlasting “I will never leave that woman … I will always take care of her” devotion. To be sure, McCarthy’s loyalty will extend only as far as his assessment of what benefits his personal ambitions, but that is going to be with Greene and the far right of his party for the foreseeable future.
Greene tells gala brimming with white nationalists that she would've led a successful Jan. 6 attack
Kevin McCarthy's failure to act on Gosar and Greene's white nationalist flirtation says it all
Election season is already here, and it's already off to an amazing start with Democrats' huge flip of a critical seat in the Virginia state Senate, which kicks off this episode of The Downballot. Co-hosts David Nir and David Beard dissect what Aaron Rouse's victory means for November (abortion is still issue #1!) when every seat in the legislature will be on the ballot. They also discuss big goings-on in two U.S. Senate races: California, where Rep. Katie Porter just became the first Democrat to kick off a bid despite Sen. Dianne Feinstein's lack of a decision about her own future, and Michigan, which just saw veteran Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow announce her retirement.