Better Leadership for Congress

Right From the Start

The United States House of Representatives has set Thursday, October 8 as the date for choosing the successor to Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) as Speaker of the House. By all accounts Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is the odds-on favorite to win that election. DON’T DO IT.

A September 30 Washington Post article noted:

“Sean Hannity was pushing hard, asking House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to name some promises his Republicans had actually delivered on. He scoffed when McCarthy said the party would start undoing the Affordable Care Act – ‘you have the power of the purse!’ He talked over McCarthy when the leader and candidate for Speaker of the House suggested that the party did not need to cut funds for President Obama’s amnesty,’ because courts had taken care of it. Only halfway into the interview did McCarthy finally catch a break.

“’Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?’ McCarthy asked. ‘But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought.’”

The Democrats and their allies in the mainstream media, including the Washington Post, seized upon that statement to suggest that the Benghazi committee is just a Republican witch-hunt. Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) chimed and asserted that the committee has produced nothing.

Mr. McCarthy is not widely known as an articulate spokesman for anything. His brain can seldom keep up with his mouth and he is prone to malapropism, overstatements, and unintelligible comments – including new word creations like “untrustable.” Of course, Mr. McCarthy is almost Demosthenes-like when compared to the repeated blatherings of Ms. Pelosi.

But Mr. McCarthy’s less than lucid exchange with FOX News’ Sean Hannity isn’t the reason that he should be denied the Speaker’s job. The reason is that Mr. McCarthy’s first reaction to criticism was to retreat and apologize – the principle sin of the Republican majorities in both houses. In apologizing, primarily in saying that he didn’t mean what the media and Democrats were claiming he said, he simply reinforced their view. By apologizing it became a tacit admission of wrong – in legal terms, it was an admission against interest.

So how should of Mr. McCarthy have responded?

First, he should have followed Carly Fiorina’s lead when MSNBC’s Chris Matthews tried to imply that she said that Hillary Clinton was a liar and she responded by saying those were Mr. Matthews words not hers, that she had said that Ms. Clinton had lied about specific things, and she went on to reiterate those specifics. Mr. McCarthy should have said that he never said, never implied and never would imply that the Benghazi committee was appointed for political purposes because it simply wasn’t true.

Second, he should not have ever suggested that the Benghazi committee has been the prime mover in the disclosures of former Secretary Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email account and server during her tenure in the State Department. Like everything else in Congress, the committee has generally been a day late and a dollar short. It has not been the Benghazi committee that has forced the public disclosures of the emails nor the continuous lies of Ms. Clinton. It has, in fact, been the New York Times who disclosed the private emails and servers, and a federal judge in response to a series of discovery requests and Freedom of Information demands by Judicial Watch that have resulted in the majority of disclosures.

Third, those disclosures, not the Benghazi committee, have demonstrated the string of lies, deceits, and obfuscations routinely used by Ms. Clinton. In an October 2 edition of the Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberly Strassel noted:

“Hillary Clinton hopes you are busy. Hillary Clinton hopes you are confused. Hillary Clinton hopes the endless stories about her private email server—and her endless, fabulist explanations—will make your head hurt, make your eyes cross, make you give up trying to figure it out.

“All you really need to know at this point is this: Pretty much every claim Mrs. Clinton made at her initial March news conference, and since then, is false. In the spirit of keeping it simple, here’s the Complete Busy Person’s Guide to the Clinton Email Scandal. Stick it on the fridge.”

Fourth, when criticized in this instance Mr. McCarthy should have gone on the attack. He should have taken a lesson from former Speaker Newt Gingrich who never let a misleading accusation control the conversation. He should have said something like:

“Look, I may not be the most articulate guy on the planet but it wasn’t me or the Benghazi committee that decided to use a private email account and server for official government business, to withhold that information from the public, and to destroy tens of thousands of documents which were, by law, the property of the federal government. It wasn’t me and it wasn’t the Benghazi committee that presented one lie after another about Ms. Clinton’s use of the email account and server. It wasn’t me or the Benghazi committee that has had to eat those lies as the truth unfolds. It wasn’t me or the Benghazi committee that decided to tell yet another lie to cover the previous exposed lie.

“All of these rest squarely on the shoulders of Ms. Clinton and you should be spending your time, like me, the Benghazi committee and the multitude of lawsuits, like the ones brought by Judicial Watch, trying to find out the truth in these matters.”

Until the Republicans stop apologizing, stop currying favor in the media, stop letting others control the conversation, they are destined to repeat the ineptitudes of Mr. Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indefinitely. The Republican Congress is rapidly becoming irrelevant. Governor Bobby Jindahl (R-LA) noted during the second debate that if the Republican Congress continues on its current path then it is time to scrap the whole bunch and start over.

Many conservatives feel the same way. A coalition of disaffected conservatives, skilled workers (including private sector unions), small business men and women, and immigrants still in pursuit of the American dream would make a powerful political body.

In the mean time, dump Mr. McCarthy and find someone with courage.