McCarthy living up to my expectations … unfortunately
Shortly after Republicans took control of the House, I expressed my opinion that Kevin McCarthy was not the right guy for the job of Speaker. I based it on two negatives. That he is not good at messaging and not the best political strategist on the scene. His rather dramatic flip-flops suggested fluctuating pragmatism over principle. My personal pick was Congressman Steve Scalise – but there were others I would have supported over McCarthy.
While I strongly disagreed with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, it would be difficult to argue that she was not a strong leader. In terms of Republicans, the best role model was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich has the two traits that McCarthy lacks. He was brilliant at messaging and understood political strategy. It was Gingrich who brought forth the successful Contract with America that gave the GOP control of the House. He is the primary reason for reforms in the House (since reversed by Pelosi) and the balanced budgets of the 1990s. While those budgets were approved by President Clinton, it is the exclusive authority of the House to propose the budget.
In the 28 years since Gingrich was elected Speaker in 1995, Democrats (Pelosi) have held that position for only eight years – with Republicans changing Speakers five times. Succeeding Gingrich as House Speaker were Republicans Denny Hastert, John Boehner and Paul Ryan – all of them more powerful than McCarthy.
McCarthy’s weakness as a leader was evident in the fact that it took 14 roll calls for him to eke out the bare minimum votes to be elected Speaker. It also required him to make a number of major concessions that would weaken his ability to function. He even had to agree to a trapdoor provision that could have him removed as Speaker at any time.
Pelosi had the power to discipline members who fell out of line – and she knew how to use it. With McCarthy, such power is trumped (no pun intended) by the trapdoor provision. The power polarity is reversed. A handful of members have the power to discipline or punish McCarthy.
One cannot deny that McCarthy has a certain facility in the insider game – or he would not even have become Minority Leader and Speaker. Unfortunately, he has no talent for getting his issues across to the public. He always seems to be on defense rather than offense. A good Speaker needs to be a … good speaker.
There is a reference in the Bible asking who would heed “an uncertain trumpet.” McCarthy is that uncertain trumpet. Whether that trapdoor is triggered, McCarthy should retire after one term and allow the GOP – if they hold the House – to elect a new Speaker.
So, there ‘tis.