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And the Winner Is...
... the most hated man in Congress.
“If you don’t think that moving from Kevin McCarthy to MAGA Mike Johnson shows the ascendance of this movement and where the power in the Republican Party truly lies, then you’re not paying attention,” — Matt Gaetz to Steve Bannon Wednesday morning.
And of course, he was right.
Matt Gaetz may be loathed and detested by his colleagues, but in the end, it was Gaetz and his fellow members of the Crazed Slavering Jackal Caucus who feasted on the carcass of the GOP normies.
Gaetz and his confederates blew up the House, destroyed Kevin McCarthy, torpedoed Steve Scalise, and watched Trump shiv Tom Emmer. They bullied. harassed, and exhausted the majority, and on Wednesday they got a full-throated election denier and coup-plotter as speaker.
For a few halcyon moments, it looked like the center would hold as a modest rump of “moderates” blocked the ludicrous Jim Jordan. But in the end, the squishes did what squishes do; and their defeat was as comprehensive as it was condign.
Adam Kinzinger describes the fifth-string Johnson as “Jordan in drag.” Or at least a jacket. But the distinction hardly matters.
Gaetz has given Trump his speaker.
As I explained yesterday, Johnson is no garden variety election denier. The NYT described him as “the most important architect” of the attempt to overturn Trump’s electoral college loss. In December 2020, he was in close contact with Trump about the (bogus) lawsuit that would have thrown out tens of millions of votes.
But even this understates the case.
Johnson fully-embraced the wooliest of the Kraken-level conspiracy theories including the bizarre lie that voting software came from “Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela.”
In a radio interview days after the November 2020 vote, Johnson said:
“In every election in American history, there’s some small element of fraud, irregularity, error. We just know that. You just accept that that’s the case,” acknowledged Johnson before pressing on:
But when you have it on a broad scale, when you have, you know a software system that is used all around the country that is suspect because it came from Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela. When you have, you know, testimonials of people like this but in large numbers, it begs to be litigated and investigated. And the problem is, it’s exceedingly difficult to do that in a 45-day time window. You know, and that’s the problem that we’re up against.
And that’s why the president is so frustrated and that’s why so many, so many 71, 73 million Americans around the country feel like the election was stolen from them.
“The allegations about these voting machines, some of them being rigged with this software by Dominion. Look, there’s a lot of merit to that. And when the president says the election is rigged, that’s what he’s talking about,” remarked Johnson at another point.
In another instance, Johnson said that his colleagues from Georgia were “so frustrated they want to pull their hair out” because “they know that in Georgia it really was rigged.”
Those were the kind of lies that cost Fox News $787 million; and that resulted in felony indictments for the biggest peddlers — and now guilty pleas from Jenna Ellis, Sydney Powell, and Kenneth Chesebro.
For Mike Johnson, however, they were a ladder.
On Wednesday not a single Republican voted against him. Not one. Not Mike Gallagher. Not Ken Buck. Not Mike Lawler.
Not one of the normies who rail about Trump’s insanity caucus in private; not one of the representatives who knows that Gaetz is a walking political hemorrhoid. Every one of them fell into line.
And when Johnson was asked about his support for the coup:
That’s the whole party in one clip. There’s Johnson, smug at having been not merely absolved by his colleagues for abetting a coup attempt but commended for it with their nomination for speaker. There’s Scalise and Elise Stefanik, two members of leadership leering like gargoyles at the idea that they should care about the party’s turn toward insurrectionism. And there’s Virginia Foxx, one of the elder statesmen in the conference, goading the press to just shut up about it already.
Participants, enablers, apologists. That’s the House GOP. They’ve moved on from their attempt to block the peaceful transfer of power, they’re eager for you to know —unlike a certain someone for whom they’ll all be campaigning three or four months from now.
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The reasons for the normie surrender were many and sundry. Most of them were bullsh*t on stilts.
Just last week, Rep. Ken Buck declared on CNN: "I don't want someone who was involved in the activities of January 6 ... There's no way we win the majority if the message we send to the American people is we believe the election was stolen, and we believe that January 6 was a tour of the Capitol."
On Wednesday, like everyone else, he fell in line for Johnson.
But, as Ramesh Ponnuru noted yesterday: “Ken Buck's support for Rep. Mike Johnson for Speaker renders his votes and statements over the last three weeks ridiculous. Johnson organized the brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn the election.”
Perhaps the purest specimen of piffle came from the Grift World of No Labels.
Members associated with No Labels, the centrist political organization plotting a third-party presidential bid, are singing the praises of newly minted House Speaker Mike Johnson — casting him as, at least temperamentally, a moderate.
“He’s a Reagan Republican, not a Trump Republican,” said Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) in a Zoom call organized by No Labels and attended by a few hundred of the group’s supporters. Fitzpatrick is part of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus that is backed by No Labels.
My colleague Tim Miller begs to differ:
Exit take: Even with the election of a new speaker, the dysfunction continues. Because that was the plan.
“I find that the witness is not credible.”
How was Trump’s day in court? CNN sums it up: “Inside the courtroom as Donald Trump is forced to take the stand, is fined and then storms out.”
Judge Arthur Engoron has fined Trump $10,000 after holding a brief hearing in which he called the ex-president to testify about his possible violation of a gag order this morning. Engoron previously ordered Trump not to make disparaging comments about his staff; in commentary this morning, Trump appeared to make one such statement about Engoron’s law clerk.
Trump denied that he was speaking about Engoron’s clerk, and insisted he was speaking about Michael Cohen. Engoron disagreed.
“As the trier of fact I find that the witness is not credible,” Engoron said in imposing the fine.
On Earth 2.0 this would be a big deal, right?
Meanwhile, in Washington D.C., Special Counsel Jack Smith is asking Judge Chutkan to reimpose her gag order on the former president:
“The defendant has capitalized on the court’s administrative stay to, among other prejudicial conduct, send an unmistakable and threatening message to a foreseeable witness in this case,” wrote Molly Gaston, a prosecutor. “Unless the court lifts the administrative stay, the defendant will not stop his harmful and prejudicial attacks.”
In accusing Mr. Trump of persistently breaking the now-paused order, Ms. Gaston pointed to a social media message that the former president posted on Tuesday night, lashing out at Mr. Smith and dissecting statements attributed to Mr. Meadows in a news article.
Mr. Trump’s message also called the various people who have cooperated with the authorities in some of the prosecutions he is facing “cowards” and “weaklings.”
“I don’t think that Mark Meadows is one of them,” Mr. Trump wrote, “but who really knows?”
This will keep happening…
And nothing will happen.
But we’ll get more of this won’t we?
Moral Depravity Update
The Ultimate Condescension Toward Palestinians
Some leftists are framing Hamas’s killing of 1,400 Israelis and abduction of 222 more as “decolonization,” believing they’re championing the cause of oppressed Palestinians. In reality, these leftists are condescending to them.
Mass murder, these leftists suggest, is the understandable consequence of Jewish “colonization.” Such a perspective is deeply insulting to Palestinian humanity. It implies that Palestinians are so controlled by circumstance that they lack agency. It implies that Palestinians cannot be expected to behave according to the same ethical standards of those who refrain from mass murder.
The argument that terrorism is an understandable or justifiable reaction to an insidious root cause is nothing new. Just days after 9/11, Susan Sontag infamously criticized public figures and TV commentators for feeding the American people “self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions” about the terrorist attacks. Far from a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty,” she argued that the attack that killed nearly 3,000 civilians was in fact a strike against “the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions.”
The implication, not unique to Sontag but prevalent among some on the left, is that the act of killing thousands of civilians en masse and unawares is “understandable” if the perpetrators are Arab. There is a kind of patronizing racism in the idea that slaughtering innocent people equates to noble freedom fighting, as if this were the only way to respond to oppression.
1. Trouble for Trump: Mark Meadows Talks
Meadows’s cooperation is significant for a number of reasons, including that he was at the heart of everything related to the Trump “Stop the Steal” effort, including the pressure campaign on Vice President Mike Pence and the fake electors scheme in several states. (Recall that Meadows is part of the Fulton County indictment for allegedly helping to set up the call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which Trump pressed Raffensperger to “find 11,780 votes . . . because we won the state.”) Let’s not forget, too, that Meadows’s own chief of staff, Cassidy Hutchinson, told the House January 6th Committee that Meadows burned documents in his office fireplace at least a dozen times between December 2020 and mid-January 2021. She also said he told staffers to keep certain Oval Office meetings a “close hold”—meaning off the books.
2. No, Congress Should Not Make Qualified Immunity the Law of the Land
LAST WEEK, THE AMERICA FIRST POLICY INSTITUTE (AFPI), one of several new policy groups run by acolytes of Donald Trump, published a report calling for Congress to codify “qualified immunity” nationwide. The report’s author, an alumnus of the Trump Department of Homeland Security, Scott G. Erickson, argues that police officers need special legal protections so they can keep their communities safe, that eliminating qualified immunity would be dangerous, and that legislators could find a way to address “the concerns of accountability and transparency” while also lastingly making qualified immunity the law of the land.
But enshrining qualified immunity does not, so to speak, place Americans first. Instead, it places all government officials—prosecutors, agency bureaucrats, and yes, police officers—first, and the American people last.