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Kevin McCarthy’s Deplorable House
Plus: What an old video tells us about Tucker’s shtick.
Well, yes, Tucker Carlson is, indeed, a fabulist, a hypocrite and a terrible dancer. And Fox News turns out to be even worse than we thought.
So now let’s talk about what Kevin McCarthy is doing to the House of Representatives.
The GOP clings to a razor-thin majority after an election in which it pledged to tackle the big issues of the day, including inflation, the border,
Hunter Biden’s laptop, and the threat posed by China.
But, along the way, McCarthy self-gelded himself into the speakership. Three data points from the last few days tell us what that means:
(1) This is not a parody.
In a sane, rational alternative universe that bears no resemblance to the one we actually inhabit, the GOP would want to downplay the prominence, power, and clout of a conspiracist-cum-ninny like MTG.
Other speakers sidelined their embarrassments or stuffed them firmly in the backbench. McCarthy?
Even if that means actually putting her in the speaker’s chair.
(2) McCarthy refused an invitation to meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, even as House Republicans plan a field trip to visit accused January 6th seditionists.
“Mr. McCarthy, he has to come here to see how we work, what’s happening here, what war caused us, which people are fighting now, who are fighting now. And then after that, make your assumptions,” Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
McCarthy blew him off.
“Let’s be very clear about what I said: no blank checks, OK? So, from that perspective, I don’t have to go to Ukraine to understand where there’s a blank check or not,” McCarthy told CNN.
House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) told POLITICO on Tuesday night that their aides are working to set up a congressional delegation to visit individuals jailed on Jan. 6, when a mob of then-President Donald Trump’s supporters breached the Capitol.
Greene -- a member of the Oversight Committee -- would lead the trip, which would not be limited to panel members.
(3) There would no Tucker Big Lie about January 6th without His Kevin.
My colleague, Amanda Carpenter, emphasizes the point: “The only reason Carlson is airing these specials is because McCarthy provided him the content to produce them.”
McCarthy made an affirmative decision to collaborate with Fox News, even as the company is embroiled in a billion-dollar lawsuit with Dominion Voting Systems, which has exposed in granular detail how Fox’s two-faced hosts, executives, and producers brazenly air content they know is untruthful. That makes this not just a Fox problem, but a Republican party problem, too.
What McCarthy is doing for power is precisely what Fox does to retain its ratings. Unsure how to navigate in a political environment controlled mainly by former President Donald Trump, they let the most radical elements of the MAGA coalition call the shots. It’s almost as if a “demonic force” came over them all.
What an old video tells us about Tucker’s shtick
In a far off, long ago political media/universe, Tucker Carlson had some thoughts about the preeminent cable host of the era.
In his 2003 book, Politicians, Partisans, and Parasites: My Adventures in Cable News, he described Bill O’Reilly’s populist, everyman shtick. On television, Tucker wrote, O’Reilly was “the faithful but slightly lapsed Catholic son of the working class who knows slick, eastern Establishment BS when he sees it. A guy who tells the truth and demands that others do the same. A man who won’t be pushed around or take maybe for an answer.”
But back then, Tucker saw the danger:
O’Reilly’s success is built on the perception that he really is who he claims to be.
If he ever gets caught out of character, it’s over.
If someday he punches out a flight attendant on the Concorde for bringing him a glass of warm champagne, the whole franchise will come tumbling down. He’ll make the whatever-happened-to ... ? list quicker than you can say ‘Morton Downey, Jr.’”
“Bill O’Reilly is really talented, he’s more talented than I am, he’s got a lot more viewers, he’s a better communicator than I am, but I think there is a deep phoniness at the center of his schtick, and again as I say the schtick is built on the perception that he is the character he plays,” Carlson said.
In other words, Tucker knows what he is doing is shtick. And you know the rest of the story.
“Tucker Carlson,” writes Shafer, “hoodwinked by his own ambition, became the very thing the younger and smarter Tucker Carlson scorned in 2003. A transparent phony.”
Exit take: The new revelations about the gap between Tucker’s public and private views of Trump — “I hate him passionately” — would seem to be a case of getting “caught out of character.”
In the Before Times, as Tucker wrote in 2003, that would mean it would “be over.”
But that was then.
Tucker continues to behave like a man who thinks he will never be held accountable; and that the audience will never abandon him even after he has been exposed.
On yesterday’s Bulwark podcast, Matt Gertz and I took a deep dive into Tucker’s Trump Derangement Syndrome.
Lordy, there are consequences
Jenna Ellis, the Colorado attorney who was former President Donald Trump’s senior legal advisor as he tried to overturn his 2020 election loss, has been censured by a Colorado judge for misconduct.
The public censure order was signed Wednesday by Presiding Disciplinary Judge Bryon M. Large, who oversees lawyer discipline cases in Colorado.
As part of an agreement in the case, Ellis admits that multiple statements she made in late 2020 about the presidential election being stolen were “misrepresentations.”
Meanwhile, at the Daily Wire
Trouble at the House That Ben Shapiro Built.
Staffer Christina Buttons writes, “After much consideration, I am tendering my resignation from The Daily Wire, a publication to which I dedicated my time and passion as an investigative reporter for the last six months.”
Buttons covered transgender issues for the right-wing website, but noticed that things had gone off the rails recently.
On Valentine’s Day, Matt Walsh did a segment on his show about transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney that has now been viewed by millions. “You are weird and artificial, you are manufactured and lifeless, you are unearthly and eerie, you are like some kind of human deepfake,” Walsh said. “Everyone [who] looks at you will see something pitiable and bizarre.”
Walsh has defended these statements as “good strategy” because, he says, they rally the conservative base.
He adds that the goal is not to “convince the other side” but to “defeat, humiliate, and demoralize” his opponents. This triggered a race to the bottom, with other social media personas one-upping each other to see who can take more extreme stances.
And she had some thoughts about Michael Knowles’s call to “eradicate” transgenderism.
A generous interpretation of Knowles’ statement is that he wishes to eradicate gender ideology, a postmodern social theory, from public life. So why not say that? On this issue it is extremely important to clearly distinguish between people and ideas so as not to feed into Left-wing manufactured hysteria about impending genocides.
You can read her whole letter here.
1. Old News: The Elderly President Is Running
And yet, it’s not crazy for voters to be concerned about the possibility of the man they elect dying in office, which is far more likely with an 83 or 85 year old than with a younger person. And then there’s the question of vigor and mental acuity. Biden has not shown any signs of dementia and he probably never will (90 percent of elderly people do not), but that doesn’t mean he’s as sharp as he used to be. One recent poll showed that 68 percent of voters think Biden is too old for another term. Another found that even among Democrats, only 37 percent would like to see him seek a second term.
2. No, Critics of Western Aid to Ukraine Aren’t Being Silenced
For many people, anti-Ukraine animus seems to be a vehicle for knee-jerk hostility toward an “establishment” often dubbed “neoliberal” or “neoconservative.” (The question of whether those terms still mean anything nowadays is worth exploring further.) Hence the horseshoe meeting of far-left and far-right radicals, left-wing and right-wing populists, libertarians and even “anti-wokeists,” for whom the fight for freedom in Ukraine is more “fake news” from the “woke” media. It’s no accident that reader comments on pro-Ukraine articles on “heterodox” websites that lean “anti-woke” or populist, such as Unherd or the Free Press, are invariably filled with people who think Ukraine’s defense is a globalist project, echo Kremlin tropes about the carnage of ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine, and often gripe about being fed mainstream media lies in a place where they expect to find dissent from establishment orthodoxy.
What could go wrong?