Kevin McCarthy's lies speak volumes
Also: Sawyer Hackett on what Dems should prioritize during the lame duck session.
By Aaron Rupar
As a handful of elected Republicans belatedly denounce Donald Trump for having dinner at Mar-a-Lago last week with antisemitic artist Ye and white supremacist commentator Nick Fuentes, the presumptive next speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy, is taking a different approach — brazenly making stuff up to downplay Trump’s conduct.
You might think that criticizing Trump for breaking bread at his residence with an extremist like Fuentes who has said “a tidal wave of white identity is coming” and advocated for “Taliban rule in America” would be a layup for someone who has made a big deal about purported antisemitism on the other side of the aisle. Instead, McCarthy is trying to preserve his own position by continuing to appease extremists within his party.
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“President Trump came out four times and condemned him,” McCarthy claimed Tuesday during a news conference outside the White House. He was immediately fact-checked.
“He just said he didn’t know who he was,” a reporter correctly pointed out in response. “He didn’t condemn him or his ideology.”
Caught in a fib, McCarthy immediately moved the goalposts.
“Well, I condemn his ideology,” he said.
That wasn’t the only time McCarthy lied during that news conference. Asked a few minutes later about members of the House GOP who have ties with Fuentes, including Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spoke at one of Fuentes’s events earlier this year, McCarthy claimed “she denounced him.”
But that’s not true either. Neither Trump or Greene has denounced Fuentes. Instead, in both cases, as they came under criticism for associating themselves with a notorious Holocaust denier, they implausibly insisted they weren’t familiar with his bigotry, with Trump saying “I knew nothing” about him and Greene claiming, “I don’t know what his views are.” (As Popular Information detailed, Trump in fact retweeted a clip from Fuentes’s internet show in 2020, and Fuentes currently has a verified account on Trump’s Truth Social platform.)
As McCarthy surely understands, the reality of his situation is that considering the slim majority Republicans will have come January, maintaining the support of bigoted extremists like Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar (who spoke at a Fuentes event in 2021) is essential for him to get the votes he needs to become House speaker. On Monday, he even went on Newsmax and suggested Republican disunity could result in Democrats being empowering to pick someone else.
So while McCarthy pays lip service to statements like “I don’t think anybody should be spending any time with Nick Fuentes” and “he has no place in the Republican Party,” actions speak louder than words. And on that score, McCarthy has promised to restore committee assignments for both Taylor Greene (who once blamed Jewish space lasers for wildfires) and Gosar.
Trump, meanwhile, remains the ultimate kingmaker in the GOP in spite of his grave legal problems and the fact that a faction of elite Republicans aren’t particularly trying to hide their hope he loses in the primary. All it would take is one scathing Truth Social post from Trump to block McCarthy’s path to becoming speaker. McCarthy is lying on Trump’s behalf to ensure that doesn’t happen.
That’s not the stuff of a person of principle — unless the principle in question is that white supremacists should have influence in our politics.
What Democrats need to accomplish in the lame duck session
By Thor Benson and Aaron Rupar
Lots of digital ink has already being spilled on the next Congress and 2024 campaigns, not to mention the vital runoff election in Georgia happening early next month. But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that the Democratic majorities in Congress have lots of important stuff to do during the lame duck session that began this week and not much time to do it.
This could end up being the last chance Democrats have to pass legislation without Republican votes and send it to President Biden’s desk. Kevin McCarthy, the presumptive next speaker of the House, has already signaled he’s willing to use the threat of the economic catastrophe resulting from not raising the debt limit to force cuts to the social safety net, so it’s important that Democrats pass legislation to raise it before Republicans take control of the chamber. A similar dynamic is at play with aid to Ukraine, which a significant number of Republicans seem lukewarm about at best.
Other important liberal priorities for the next few weeks include passing legislation to codify same-sex marriage (the Senate did this on Tuesday), revising the Electoral Count Act in hopes of heading off another MAGA coup attempt, and maybe even an assault weapons ban (though even supporters of it acknowledge it likely doesn’t have the votes). Congress also has to pass a spending bill and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
To set the stage for the lame duck session, Thor talked to Sawyer Hackett, a political and communications strategist who had worked with prominent Democrats like Julián Castro. In addition to talking through Democratic priorities for the next few weeks, they got into the midterms and the lessons liberals should carry forward from them.
A transcript of the conversation, lightly edited for clarity, follows.
What do you think Democrats need to prioritize during this lame duck session?
First and foremost, if we do not do anything to get rid of the detonator that’s in the hands of Republicans, which is the debt ceiling, we’re making a grave error. This is a Republican Party that’s already said publicly they’re going to use every means necessary to hold the economy and government hostage and demand cuts to programs and key investments for working families. If we don’t wrestle that detonator away from them in this lame-duck period where we still have control of the House and Senate, it would just be a massive mistake.