House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., left, confers with Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022.
The Bakersfield, California, native who, by all accounts, came to Washington 16 years ago with the sole intent of becoming speaker of the House one day, faced an embarrassing defeat on Tuesday when he failed — multiple times — to win the nomination by his own party.
There’s no mystery as to how Kevin McCarthy, the former House minority leader and House majority leader for the Republicans, got here.
He’s an unprincipled sellout who made all the wrong bargains with all the wrong people. And in the end, it might not have even been worth it.
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McCarthy made his odious deals with the devil early and often. When then-candidate Donald Trump’s “Access Hollywood” tape leaked, he scolded Republicans who were contemplating abandoning the nominee. He was so obsequious and loyal to Trump that the former president would come to call him “My Kevin,” an emasculating nickname that McCarthy nevertheless didn’t seem to mind.
His canny ability to wear two faces and straddle fences is by now well known. While lobbying behind the scenes to keep former wild child Rep. Madison Cawthorn from winning another term, he publicly said he’d still support his re-election bid.
He’s occasionally rebuked Trump without abandoning him, first blaming him for the Jan. 6 insurrection and then supporting his election lies and embarking on a campaign to whitewash the damning details of that day.
He’s attempted at times to lightly corral the attention-seeking disruptors in his own House — Rep. Lauren Boebert, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Rep. Paul Gosar — without actually disciplining them, and in some cases, promising them new committee assignments if he became speaker.
Now, he’s bending over even more to try to win the role, promising the group of 20 or so Republican hostage-takers who are refusing to vote for him that he’d reinstate an arcane rule allowing them to oust him at any time with just five Republican votes.
Imagine having such a weak constitution that you’d actually abide this self-sabotaging and humiliating concession just to preside over a group of people who are determined to ruin you.
But Kevin has truly gotten the Republican conference he deserves. After abandoning any shred of principle and conviction he once had to position himself for the speaker job, he accommodated a new Republican body that was decreasingly interested in principle and conviction, and increasingly interested in themselves.
In tolerating and in fact courting new Republican House candidates who were less interested in governing than they were in sucking up to Trump and becoming famous, he got Republican House members who aren’t at all interested in governing and who are willing to blow up their own majority in the process.
As McCarthy’s former mentor Rep. Bill Thomas has recently said, “Kevin basically is whatever you want him to be. He lies. He’ll change the lie if necessary. How can anyone trust his word?”
Well as it turns out, enough people don’t, including the Republican rebels who refuse to nominate him.
Even Trump wasn’t helpful in his Kevin’s time of need, letting McCarthy fend for himself during three failed ballot votes.
After all was said and done, he finally weighed in on his social media platform, first praising the process that kept Kevin from the job, before imploring people to go ahead and vote for him.
“Some really good conversations took place last night, and it’s now time for all of our GREAT Republican House Members to VOTE FOR KEVIN, CLOSE THE DEAL, TAKE THE VICTORY, & WATCH CRAZY NANCY PELOSI FLY BACK HOME TO A VERY BROKEN CALIFORNIA, THE ONLY SPEAKER IN U.S. HISTORY TO HAVE LOST THE “HOUSE” TWICE!”
But will Trump’s lame, limp, and late endorsement be enough to sway the detractors?
For the guy who thought he’d played his cards so well by putting himself before his principles and his country, McCarthy’s fate now rests in the hands of a rogue group of lawmakers who have made the same calculation.
Even McCarthy’s defenders are unwittingly making him look impotent by blasting Matt Gaetz & Co. as losers. After all, they’re still the so-called losers who, so far, have outplayed Kevin.
Newt Gingrich said of the rebels — the ones McCarthy is now beholden to — “these people can’t play tic-tac-toe.”
Sean Hannity said House Republicans are now “on the verge of becoming a total clown show” for refusing to nominate McCarthy. (Remember, McCarthy is leader of these clowns.)
And Steve Doocy called the state of affairs a “disaster for the Republicans.” They’re right, but it’s not the Republicans who got us here. It’s Kevin McCarthy who got us here.
After years of selling his soul to all the wrong people and for all the wrong reasons, Kevin has no one to blame but himself.
S.E. Cupp is the host of “S.E. Cupp Unfiltered” on CNN.
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