Discover more from The Bulwark
It's Steve Scalise’s Mess Now. Maybe.
Plus: Wisconsin’s impeachment fizzle.
I’m sure the perks of the jobs are nice. There’s the office with the porch and a great view, the gavel, the power, the ego strokes, and the portrait that Kevin McCarthy wanted so badly. And you get to be called “Mr. Speaker”—for a few months before you get tossed in the ash can of history alongside Denny Hastert, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Kevin McCarthy.
As things stand, it’s the worst job in American politics — presiding over a fractious bunch of Republicans held hostage by (Ben Wittes’s phrase) the crazed slavering jackal caucus. But, since it’s Washington, there’s always someone who thinks that this time will be different.
So now (maybe) it’s Steve Scalise’s turn.
“Well,” someone asked me yesterday afternoon, “isn’t he better than Jim Jordan?”
“Better” doesn’t really apply here. We may have to settle for “less worse.” Still, no guarantee.
Here’s what we know: Scalise isn’t Kevin, but he faces the same dynamic and the same math. In yesterday’s GOP conference meeting, he beat out Jordan by a narrow margin of 113 to 99. In the Before Times, Republicans who understood how the system works, would then elect him speaker. But getting to 217 votes is no longer an easy matter in a party that apparently has no real interest in the business of actually governing.
Because three of his votes in yesterday’s Republican conference came from members of the House who cannot vote on the House floor (there are currently five such members in the GOP conference), Scalise’s vote total may be realistically more like 110, which means that he has to flip 107 votes to win the coveted Gavel of Doom.
Good luck with that. Here’s Punchbowl News this a.m.:
Welcome to Kevin McCarthy Part Deux. But worse. Maybe way worse.
House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s quest for the speakership — his seemingly impossible bid to turn 107 votes in his favor — has shades of the same Sisyphean task that McCarthy faced over the last nine months. Only the stakes this time are higher, the time frame is shorter, the opposition is larger and the House Republican Conference is angrier.
This is, of course, serious business, but (once again) we are dealing here with deeply unserious people. Like this guy, the freshly re-indicted George Santos, who clearly wanted a quid pro quo to protect him from being expelled:
Punchbowl estimates that the “real hard-core ‘Never Scalise’ vote is probably 20 to 30 members,” and Scalise can only afford to lose four (4) votes on the floor. Here is what Scalise, The-Man-Who-Would-Be Speaker, now faces:
Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) went on Jake Tapper’s CNN show Wednesday to remind the public that Scalise once attended a white supremacist meeting when running for the legislature in Louisiana. Rep. Max Miller (R-Ohio) keeps saying he’ll only vote for Jordan on the floor.
Rep. Mike Lawler (R-N.Y.) has all but closed off the possibility of voting for Scalise, as have Reps. Carlos Gimènez (R-Fla.) and Lloyd Smucker (R-Pa.). Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.) was for Jordan, then Scalise, and now says he wants Jordan. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) said she’d rather Scalise focus on treating his multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, than serve as speaker.
For the moment, let’s set aside the fanfiction that imagines that a handful of Republicans will bolt and elect Democrat Hakeem Jeffries as speaker. But we may see some other
bizarre unusual scenarios play out. Maybe the GOP will find itself hopelessly gridlocked and decide to stick with acting-speaker Patrick McHenry; maybe moderates will “finally claim the leverage they need to defeat the extremists who have taken over the GOP.” In today’s Bulwark, Liam Kerr writes:
It will only take one member to get the ball rolling. Could it be Rep. Ken Buck, who says he is refusing to vote for either Steve Scalise or Jim Jordan in the speakership contest because of the Big Lie? Or the unpredictable Rep. Nancy Mace, who joined the Gaetz rebellion last week and this week rejected Scalise as too racist? Or the Ukrainian-born Rep. Victoria Spartz, also uncommitted in the speakership contest, who is distraught that she “cannot save this Republic alone” and has decided not to run for re-election? Or Rep. Don Bacon, who said the extremists are “destroying our conference and apparently want to be in the minority”?
Or maybe we’ll just get more chaos as the clown car dumpster fire just keeps rolling on.
Morning Shots is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
A Superpower in Crisis
On yesterday’s podcast, I was joined by the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser who discussed her recent deep-dive into the national security strategy of the Biden administration.
ICYMI: I also had this angry rant on YouTube:
Wisconsin’s impeachment fizzle
Republicans, it seems, have decided that it’s not a good idea to impeach a newly elected state Supreme Court justice before she has even ruled on any major cases.
You may recall the buzz from a few months ago. Angered at the prospect that a liberal majority on the high court might redraw Wisconsin’s gerrymandered legislative lines, the GOP seemed poised to remove Justice Janet Protasiewicz. Ostensibly, the impeachment would have focused on comments she made about the “rigged” maps during the campaign, and her refusal to recuse herself from a pending lawsuit.
But it would also have been an act of epic political malpractice, which I wrote about here last month:
Removing a state supreme court justice would be a power play within a putsch inside a political blunder. The collateral damage will be staggering.
That should be obvious, and Speaker Vos is a smart politician. But it’s not clear that he can resist the temptation to take a dive that will set a dangerous precedent for the independence of the judiciary, destroy his reputation, and set off a chaotic and unpredictable chain reaction that could shift the outcome of the 2024 presidential election.
Indeed, the blowback was so intense that Vos & Co. had second thoughts. And this week, came the dagger. Speaker Vos had sought cover from a handful of former justices, but the word came back: Don’t do it. Don’t even think about doing it.
MADISON, Wis. (AP) — There should be no effort to impeach a liberal Wisconsin Supreme Court justice based on what is known now, a former justice advised the Republican legislative leader who asked him to review the issue. . . .
“To sum up my views, there should be no effort to impeach Justice Protasiewicz on anything we know now,” [former Justice David] Prosser wrote to Vos. “Impeachment is so serious, severe, and rare that it should not be considered unless the subject has committed a crime, or the subject has committed indisputable ‘corrupt conduct’ while ‘in office.’”
Vos on Monday made his first comments about Protasiewicz since she declined to recuse from the case and Vos got the email from Prosser. In his statement, Vos did not mention impeachment. He did not return text messages Monday or early Tuesday seeking further comment.
Former Justice Jon Wilcox told The Associated Press that there was nothing to justify impeaching Justice Janet Protasiewicz, as some Republican lawmakers have floated because of comments she made during the campaign about redistricting and donations she accepted from the Wisconsin Democratic Party.
“I do not favor impeachment,” Wilcox told AP in a telephone interview. “Impeachment is something people have been throwing around all the time. But I think it’s for very serious things.”
Exit take: There’s always a chance that the Wisconsin GOP will do something crazy, but for now, the notion of impeachment seems dead, dead, dead.
More thoughts on pro-Hamas depravity
This “toolkit” for pro-Hamas protesters is frankly Orwellian. Students for Justice in Palestine called the brutal atrocities in Israel a “historic win for the Palestinian resistance.”
The anti-Israel student group then details “messaging & framing” guidance for members at protests “laying a roadmap for how to portray the brutal attacks — in which babies were taken hostage and even decapitated by terrorists — as justified.”
SJP says the goal is to “contextualize, frame, and above all normalize and support our fearless resistance.”
The first of these points explains that “When people are occupied, resistance is justified.” Through this slogan, SJP contends that the “resistance” is “both morally just and politically necessary.” …
The group claims that nobody in Israel should be considered a civilian, because “settlers are not ‘civilians.’” All Israelis, according to SJP, are “military assets used to ensure continued control over stolen Palestinian land,” and “when people are occupied, resistance is justified.”
The document goes on to claim that “liberating colonized land is a real process that requires confrontation by any means necessary.”
This is F***ed
Saying later that “it goes without saying” that you don’t support raping people to death when you say you support “the right to resist” does not in fact go without saying, because a whole bunch of ghouls are celebrating it right now.
Raping people to death and chopping babies’ heads off is not “resisting.” It amazes me that this needs to be said. And in no universe do I want to hear your acerbic asides about what Israel’s done to deserve it. Listen to your fucking self.
I will ban the fuck out of you if you even look at me funny, if you manage to sneak in some pro-Hamas comments in a post on which I didn’t already disallow comments.
You can take your donations and flounce; plenty of you did this week already, many of you who have been here for years and years. You’re outraged that you don’t have the right to blithely opine on the moral certitude of people actually decapitating babies, on purpose, rather than shutting your fucking mouth for a minute and not opining on the righteousness of that.
STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT. Have some fucking shame.
1. Can America Still Lead?
For President Biden’s passionate words to take on real meaning, they must form the inspiration not just for the immediate defense of beleaguered, freedom-loving friends on the frontier but for a speedily begun and sustained program of rearmament, led by the United States but promulgated across many allies. Our recent presidents have complained about “free-riding” partners who devote less than 2 percent of their annual income to defense, yet we ourselves don’t spend much more than that. We ourselves have become free riders on the investments made by past generations.
Biden can be—may already be—the most pro-Ukraine and pro-Israel president in American history, judging by rhetoric. But his promises and exhortations will count for nothing if he cannot lead the United States to a place where it is willing—politically, economically, militarily—to back up the Israelis.
2. Barbarism Is at the Heart of the Israel-Hamas Conflict
Policy-wonkish hand-wringing about damage to a rules-based international order is true, but it is thin stuff. The reality is that barbarians have attacked the margins and in some cases—as on 9/11—the core of the civilized world. We need to shake ourselves loose of the notion that these are completely distinct and limited phenomena. They are not. All of us, not just Israelis and Ukrainians, are in the fight of our lives, and it is about time we recognized that, and acted with the vigor and courage the times demand.
2. Biden Won’t Directly Address the 2024 Age Issue
The most pressing political challenge confronting President Joe Biden as he drifts uncontested toward renomination is that which he can do the least about: voters’ profound misgivings about his age and fitness to serve another full term.
Yet what’s striking, and to his allies increasingly unnerving, is Biden’s unwillingness even to try to fully address questions about his capacity to run for reelection next year, when he’ll turn 82.
Outside of testing a with-age-comes-wisdom riff in front of donors, the president has done little to confront perhaps the biggest threat to his reelection, let alone make any sustained effort to mitigate the concerns that dominate every survey and focus group.