Kevin McCarthy represents the 23rd Congressional District of California between Fresno and Lancaster. In the 2020 election, he won by 25 points, so he is well-supported by his district, notwithstanding being only one of only 11 republicans in the 53 member California Congressional delegation. In spite of being from our overwhelmingly Democratic state, McCarthy has risen through the House republican ranks to be the Minority Leader.
In the event that republicans regain the majority in the House after the 2022 elections, he would likely be selected Speaker of the House of Representatives, third in line to the presidency after President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Nobody makes it to be Minority Leader or Speaker without occasional sharp elbows, offset generally with predominantly smooth words. It is hard, though, to think of recent prominent politicians with such a checkered history of foot-in-mouth disease as Kevin McCarthy.
Admittedly, the sailing has been choppy as the partisan divides have increased. Not just the blue camp versus the red camp, but between factions within the blues and within the reds. It has become increasingly difficult for party leaders truly to lead their parties rather than being led by outspoken opinions and positions of the stray subgroups.
As an aside, one of the things that makes current Speaker Nancy Pelosi – also a Californian – so remarkable has been her ability to corral the different divisions within the notoriously fractious Democratic party.
Into this landscape comes republican Kevin McCarthy with not only difficulty channeling a smooth message from a mixed caucus, but trouble keeping himself on message.
In 2015 as House Majority Leader, second in command behind republican Speaker Paul Ryan, McCarthy uttered the incriminating gaffe that the republican-led Benghazi investigation was politically designed to damage Hillary Clinton. What? Spending the People’s Money for political gain? Try as he might with multiple re-explanations, the cat was out of the bag. Recently his inability to maintain a steady course has been more troubling for someone who desperately would like to be “third in line,” etc., etc.
During last year’s campaign, McCarthy told Fox News, “There’s no place for QAnon in the republican party,” while he supported two avowed QAnon followers. In November they were elected to the House and McCarthy said, “both have denounced” QAnon (they hadn’t). Both newly elected QAnon Congresspeople were given committee assignments under McCarthy’s leadership but in February those assignments were canceled from one, although McCarthy claimed, “I don’t even know what [QAnon] is.”
In January, McCarthy said of the Capitol storming and insurrection, “The president bears responsibility for Wednesday’s attack on Congress by mob rioters.” A week later he said, “I don’t believe [Trump] provoked [it].”
During the insurrection, McCarthy voted with 146 other republicans not to certify the election of Joe Biden and yet last month he contradicted that saying, “I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election.” Which is it, Mr. McCarthy?
McCarthy has said he’d be willing to testify before an official commission investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection, but recently convinced 175 republican House members to vote against creating it (it passed anyway, with all Democratic plus 35 republican votes).
McCarthy supported Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) when she voted to impeach the ex-prez, but then opposed her in favor of a less conservative member as the party’s conference chair.
If you’re confused about what Kevin McCarthy stands for, it could just be my dense writing. Politics is rarely black and white, but Mr. McCarthy has a way of stepping on his own message that should cause concern for any republican.