Sunday, October 04, 2015

Unforeseen Consequences-- The Benghazi Committee, A Disaster For The GOP?


The ridiculous House Benghazi committee may not have derailed Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, but it may well have wrecked Chuck Schumer's plans to win with his patsy, Patrick Murphy, in Florida, and it may yet derail Kevin McCarthy's bid for the speakership. Rachel Maddow was ahead of everyone on the story about McCarthy's unfitness for office. But now that he blabbed the truth about the true purpose of the Benghazi committee, it looks like his "solid" bid to replace John Boehner as Speaker isn't quite so solid any longer. In fact, it may be unravelling, and not just because of opposition from the far right fringes of the Republican Party.

Daniel Webster, the Freedom Caucus candidate, is generally recognized as a kook and a dangerous extremist, even by his Republican colleagues. But between Republicans who want a definitive break from Team Boehner and Republicans who realize McCarthy is too incompetent to head the House, there is a degree of desperation to find the right candidate to save the party from McCarthy's banal, schmoozy hackishness.

The NYTimes' Jennifer Steinhauer summarized the problem as McCarthy --
facing challenges from his Republican colleagues on two fronts. Many were sharply critical of his suggestion this week that a congressional committee investigating the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, was politically motivated, and there is deep skepticism among far-right lawmakers who helped unseat Mr. Boehner and wonder if Mr. McCarthy is different enough.
Enter Jason Chaffetz (R-UT). Could the first Jewish Speaker also be the first Mormon Speaker? (Chaffetz converted from Judaism to Mormonism during his last year of college.)

Chaffetz? How'd he get into this? Wasn't it only yesterday that he was first elected as a crazy teabagger sleeping on a plastic blow-up couch in his congressional office? Well, yes, but then he cozied up to Boehner's inner circle, and now he's one of the guys...with a pinch of teabaggery.
“There has been some level of apprehension by folks you talk to in the district,” said Representative Mark Sanford, Republican of South Carolina, “of just automatically having everyone move up the ladder. They don’t know Kevin, but there is some perception that he is just more Boehner.”

... McCarthy has until late next week-- when he will face his Republican colleagues in a secret-ballot vote in which he needs majority support to become the party’s candidate for speaker-- to regain momentum.

But that is just the first step before a vote on the House floor later this month, when he would need a majority of lawmakers in the House, 218 votes, to get the gavel. No Democrats are expected to support Mr. McCarthy, so he will need a strong showing with his own colleagues; he cannot afford to lose more than 28 of their votes. (The other top leadership jobs require a majority only within the Republican Party.)

Many conservatives seemed to be looking for a reason last week to reject Mr. McCarthy, and in an odd twist, he handed them one when he went on Fox News and spoke about the Benghazi committee headed by Representative Trey Gowdy of South Carolina.

“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?” Mr. McCarthy told the Fox News host Sean Hannity. “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.”

Many Republicans thought that 18 months of work by Mr. Gowdy, just before Mrs. Clinton comes to Capitol Hill, had been undermined in 30 seconds of loose talk.

“Mr. McCarthy should apologize,” Mr. Chaffetz said on MSNBC. “I think it was absolutely wrong.”

The remarks set off a scramble to find a new candidate for the speaker’s post.

“I am supporting Daniel Webster 100 percent,” said Thomas Massie of Kentucky, one of the most conservative members of the House. “What he is promising is to push the pyramid of power down to members, and that is a very attractive thing.”

Mr. Massie added that Mr. Chaffetz had once removed another highly conservative lawmaker from a subcommittee [Mark Meadows, a kook from North Carolina] in a dispute over a procedural move on a trade measure. “That is thuggery,” he said. “It is hard to run as a reformer having kicked someone off their committee.”

...The issue for Mr. McCarthy may be less the chance of a strong challenger than the fear some members have of voting for him as pressure from conservative groups increases. Already, the Tea Party Patriots organization has said in a statement: “By broadcasting that he will only fight when he thinks he can win, he’s openly admitting that he doesn’t have what it takes to win every fight. In other words, he will continue Boehner’s failed legacy.”
Webster is just a joke, and no one thought he had any chance to beat McCarthy. He's probably going to lose his Florida seat to Bob Poe next year, and he's widely considered deranged from years of being a member of Bill Gothard's crackpot cult. Chaffetz, who mustered Tea Party psychos to beat a GOP establishment figure, mainstream incumbent Chris Cannon, to first get into Congress, is another story entirely.

McCarthy is likely to win a majority in the GOP's behind-closed-doors conclave this week, but then he still has to win a majority of the entire Congress, including Democrats (who are unlikely to be voting for any Republicans), and that looks increasingly impossible for him, especially if the far right fringe sticks together, as Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) has said they plan to.

The irony of a Chaffetz win, of course, would be that his firing of Mark Meadows from the Oversight Committee at Boehner's behest (to teach Meadows a lesson for not bowing down to Boehner) was what kicked off this whole GOP congressional civil war to begin with, with neo-fascist lunatics like Ted Cruz, Laura Ingraham and Mark Levin attacking Chaffetz as a Boehner lackey.

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