Discover more from The Bulwark
Kevin McCarthy's "Crossover" Problem
Plus: Courage and demagoguery In Colorado
There’s a lot of absurdly good stuff in the Bulwark today so I don’t want to take up too much of your time.
But you really, absolutely, have to take a moment to read this amazing NYT account of the guys who stopped the Club Q Gunman:
COLORADO SPRINGS — Richard M. Fierro was at a table in Club Q with his wife, daughter and friends on Saturday, watching a drag show, when the sudden flash of gunfire ripped across the nightclub and instincts forged during four combat deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan instantly kicked in. Fight back, he told himself, protect your people….
“I don’t know exactly what I did, I just went into combat mode,” Mr. Fierro said, shaking his head as he stood in his driveway, an American flag hanging limp in the freezing air. “I just know I have to kill this guy before he kills us.”…
It was a staccato of flashes by the front door, the familiar sound of small-arms fire. Mr. Fierro knew it too well. Without thinking, he hit the floor, pulling his friend down with him. Bullets sprayed across the bar, smashing bottles and glasses. People screamed. Mr. Fierro looked up and saw a figure as big as a bear, easily more than 300 pounds, wearing body armor and carrying a rifle a lot like the one he had carried in Iraq. The shooter was moving through the bar toward a door leading to a patio where dozens of people had fled.
The long-suppressed instincts of a platoon leader surged back to life. He raced across the room, grabbed the gunman by a handle on the back of his body armor, pulled him to the floor and jumped on top of him.
“Was he shooting at the time? Was he about to shoot? I don’t know,” Mr. Fierro said. “I just knew I had to take him down.
The two crashed to the floor. The gunman’s military-style rifle clattered just out of reach. Mr. Fierro started to go for it, but then saw the gunman come up with a pistol in his other hand.
“I grabbed the gun out of his hand and just started hitting him in the head, over and over,” Mr. Fierro said.
As he held the man down and slammed the pistol down on his skull, Mr. Fierro started barking orders. He yelled for another club patron, using a string of expletives, to grab the rifle then told the patron to start kicking the gunman in the face.
A drag dancer was passing by, and Mr. Fierro said he ordered her to stomp the attacker with her high heels. The whole time, Mr. Fierro said, he kept pummeling the shooter with the pistol while screaming obscenities.
Remarkable, undaunted courage.
Unravelling a FUBAR.
The biggest unanswered questions: Why was the shooter not in jail? Or disarmed by Colorado’s red flag law that allows guns to be removed from people deemed dangerous to themselves or others?
Just last year, “Anderson Lee Aldrich allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb, forcing neighbors in surrounding homes to evacuate while the bomb squad and crisis negotiators talked him into surrendering.” He faced multiple felonies, but no one seems to know what happened to the charges.
When he bought an AR-style rifle and a handgun, his 2021 arrest did not show up in background checks “because the case was never adjudicated, the charges were dropped, and the records were sealed. It is not clear what led to the sealing of the records.”
And no one tried to make sure he was unarmed. This was a choice.
El Paso County appears especially hostile to the [red flag] law. It joined nearly 2,000 counties nationwide in declaring themselves “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” that protect the constitutional right to bear arms, passing a 2019 resolution that says the red flag law “infringes upon the inalienable rights of law-abiding citizens” by ordering police to “forcibly enter premises and seize a citizen’s property with no evidence of a crime.”
After Colorado’s red flag law was passed, Sheriff Bill Elder declared that his department would not issue so-called Extreme Protection Orders on its own, and right-wing heart-throb Lauren Boebert (who has railed against drag queen events like the one scheduled at Club Q), joined in the chorus:
This week, Boebert is offering (you guessed it) thoughts and prayers.
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Puck’s Tara Palmeri says that Republicans she spoke to over the weekend, “say there’s a 50 percent chance that McCarthy becomes Speaker, but those odds seem to be dropping every day.”
The GOP’s margins are razor slim, the crackpots are empowered and he’s under intense MAGA pressure to launch multiple investigations and/or impeachments — Hunter Biden/NancyPelosi/Merrick Garland/ the January 6 Committee/Anthony Fauci/Alejandro Mayorkas — while targeting U.S. aid to Ukraine.
But the MTG Caucus is only part of McCarthy’s problem. Via Politico:
We’re already hearing from a host of moderate House Republicans who won in Biden districts who are dreading the prospect of overly aggressive probes. It’s not what they ran on this election cycle — and certainly not what they want to be talking about after spending their campaigns focused on the economy.
How big a problem will this be? Over at Axios, Josh Kraushaar notes that “the number of House Republicans in crossover seats — districts carried by President Biden — nearly doubled from 2020 to 2022.” Depending on the final results, somewhere between 16 and 18 House Republicans will represent Biden districts, up from just nine after the 2020 election.
In theory that would mean that “this new cast of independent-minded Republicans could act as a moderating force in Kevin McCarthy's caucus.”
Former GOP Rep. Tom Davis, chair of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform from 2003 to 2007, told me in a panel discussion: "Nobody wants to go through [an impeachment] and lose the floor vote.... People are tired of that."
Politico is reporting that the handful of GOP “centrists” don’t intend to roll-over for the Freedom Caucus.
Republicans in the Main Street Caucus met last week as they grow their own ranks ahead of next year. Rep. Don Bacon (R-Neb.), who co-leads the group, said they were nearing 90 members, adding that after years of the Freedom Caucus throwing its weight around: “It’s time we flex our muscles.”
BONUS: David Frum previews the coming GOP flop. The House hearings on Hunter Biden, he writes, will be a repeat dose of Whitewater delusion: a Republican circus act that won’t impress voters.
1. Trump’s Vision of Two Americas
This is a fantastic piece, and well worth your time. In his announcement, Trump described two Americas, writes Bill Lueders. One is the country under his leadership, the other under Biden’s, writes. Both visions are bleak and completely detached from reality.
This will be Trump’s sales pitch heading into the 2024 election: Where there was once nothing but prosperity and competence, there is now only chaos and ruin. “In two years, the Biden administration has destroyed the U.S. economy, just destroyed it,” Trump assured his audience, a few minutes before Fox News couldn’t stand it anymore and broke away from live coverage of his address. “With victory, we will again build the greatest economy ever.”
As usual, Trump buttressed his case with a seemingly endless stream of false assertions.
2. Mike Pence’s Day-By-Day Account of Trump’s Pressure Campaign Against Him
Former Vice President Mike Pence has a lot to say in his new book, So Help Me God, about what he witnessed in the White House during the run-up to January 6th. So it’s peculiar he thinks Congress has “no right” to his testimony about those events.
Pence’s position about testifying is absurd, not least because his book contains insights he should have shared with Congress about the violent attempt to disrupt the peaceful transition of power following the 2020 election. Tucked inside what at first appears to be just another memoir from a politician with presidential ambitions is the revolting plot of a sitting president’s secret pressure campaign against his vice president. Pence’s book should not only be read as a messaging device for 2024; it should be read as evidence for the ongoing investigations into January 6th.
3. The Growing Religious/Secular Rift on the Illiberal Right
Once again, this divide within the conservative movement isn’t exactly new; it’s an ever-present undercurrent in the intellectual history of the American right. The Communist-turned-libertarian Max Eastman, for example, quit National Review in 1958 with the remark that it was an error to think he could collaborate with “a publication whose basic view of life and the universe I regard as primitive and superstitious.” Or in 1981, the conservative icon Barry Goldwater claimed “the religious issues of these groups have little or nothing to do with conservative or liberal politics.” “Sick and tired” of political preachers, Goldwater said he would “fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’”
4. Understanding the Real Value of U.S. Financial Aid to Ukraine
Dalibor Rohac writes that economic support is just as important to Ukraine’s freedom and independence—and America’s interests—as guns and ammo.
“Under Republicans, not another penny will go to Ukraine,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene thundered at a Trump rally in Iowa before the midterm elections. While her position is extreme—and unpopular with the American public—many congressional Republicans share Kevin McCarthy’s hesitation over giving Ukrainians a “blank check” worth tens of billions of dollars. They are wrong. America’s generosity toward Ukraine is not a matter of charity. Military assistance to Ukraine keeps Russian aggression away from NATO’s borders. A Ukraine overrun by Russian forces would have made the alliance’s eastern flank more dangerous and costlier to defend.
Far from being a frivolity or, more nefariously, a transfer from Western taxpayers to Ukrainian oligarchs, America’s financial aid to Ukraine is just as important as artillery and ammunition. Keeping the country afloat economically is necessary both for Ukraine’s success on the battlefield and for the country’s prospects of becoming an asset to our alliances after the war—rather than a liability.