GOP shouldn’t overplay hand

November 26, 2010


— Winning California’s state lottery with the first ticket he bought put Kevin McCarthy, then 20, on a path to becoming, in January, the third-ranking Republican leader of a House majority pledged to make government less bountiful. With the $5,000 he won in 1985, McCarthy opened a sandwich shop in a nook in a small mall in Bakersfield, and hung a sign calling attention to it. When a government vehicle arrived, he thought city hall might have come “to give me the key to the city” as thanks for generating some jobs and sales tax revenues. But Bakersfield’s bureaucracy wanted to complain about his sign, which somehow fell short of sign orthodoxy.

Annoyance led, as it often does, to politics. McCarthy served on the staff of the local congressman, then was elected minority leader in his first term in the state Assembly. He came to Congress in 2007 and in the 2009-10 election cycle was chief recruiter of candidates, such as Congressman-elect Stephen Fincher from — really — Frog Jump, Tenn.

And Sean Duffy, the five-time world champion log climber (if you yawn you are not from northern Wisconsin) who forced Democratic Rep. David Obey, mighty chairman of the Appropriations Committee, not to seek a 22nd term. Duffy did so using ads McCarthy suggested, noting that Obey came to Congress before Woodstock and the moon landing occurred.

McCarthy is one of the three intelligent authors (with Virginia’s Eric Cantor, 47, soon to be majority leader, and Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan, 40, incoming chairman of the Budget Committee) of a book with the unintelligent title “Young Guns.” They should be auditioning for the role of Cicero, not Shane.

McCarthy has never been in a majority, in Sacramento or Washington. His 13-member freshman class elected in the dreadful (for Republicans) year of 2006 was the smallest cohort of new Republicans since the House was expanded to 435 seats in 1913. But he favors running the House in a way that would dilute control by the majority’s leaders, of which he is to be one, and would make life sweeter for the minority: He thinks every member should be empowered to offer amendments to spending bills. That expresses his view — which also was the Founders’, although they did not put it this way — that “the Senate is the country club, we are the IHOP.”

The reason Republicans think winning the presidency in 2012 is essential to fulfilling the promise of 2010 is that Barack Obama, former paladin of change, will veto change. So McCarthy understands that, pending a Republican president, much of Republican governance must occur down in the weeds of government — in the Federal Register, the record of the regulations by which the executive branch exercises its will without much congressional supervision or circumscription.

But looking up from the weeds at the clouds, McCarthy has a dismaying desire to bring a “futurist” to speak to the Republican caucus each week. This betrays an unconservative faith in prophets — pursuing prophecy is a recipe for forfeiting the present — and is a depressing reminder of Speaker Newt Gingrich’s swoon about Alvin Toffler’s books “Future Shock” and “The Third Wave.” Gingrich said of himself, oxymoronically, “I am a conservative futurist.”

McCarthy was born in January 1965, the month when Democrats, their ranks swollen by 38 House members and two senators because of Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 landslide, began the overreaching, aka the Great Society, that in 1966 produced losses of 47 House and three Senate seats.

The biggest threat to Republicans, who are currently flushed with victory, is, McCarthy thinks, the delusion that “they won the election. They didn’t win anything.” Rather, Democrats got themselves fired. McCarthy is too polite to say that the Democrats were terminated because they, like the president, misread the 2008 elections as much more than the electorate’s pink slip for Republicans who were spendthrifts at home and blunderers abroad.

McCarthy says “this country likes to re-elect its presidents.” But it did not re-elect one of the last two Democratic presidents (Jimmy Carter). And the one it re-elected (Bill Clinton) had the advantage, as it turned out, of a bumptious new Republican House majority that made mistakes — e.g., the government shutdown — characteristic of people who, lacking the patience of politics, seek shortcuts to the future.

— George Will is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group. georgewill@washpost.com


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

The Republican Party has nothing to offer except the same ole, same ole that got us where we are.

Unfortunately, Democrats over the last two years offered little more than a slightly massaged version of the Republican same ole, same ole.

So there will be no "overplaying of hand." Just deja vu all over again.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

Still bucking for that Order of Lenin, bozo?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years ago

You're still viewing the world through fascist glasses, eh, snap?

beatrice 6 years ago

Fascists are leftists? Hahahahaha

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

I disagree with Will's assessment.

  1. The right wingers on the Supreme Court have created an enormous advantage in our political system for those with money and power to spend unlimited sums of money to advance their interests. They began to do so in this last election and there will be no reigning in of this corrupting influence coming from the republican House.

  2. Over the last 20 years the republicans have perfected their propagandizing abilities. They now control virtually all AM radio messaging. The major TV networks are all owned by enormous media corporations who offer only varying degrees of right wing positions. Once radically right wing position have been successfully made commonplace: business is always good, taxes must always be cut, the rich are successful because they are more worthy, unions and government are evil, etc..... Tomorrows generation of right wingers are auditioned on what are becoming state television networks or are simply branded as the next bright and shiny candidate on their own "reality" shows.

  3. The shipping of jobs overseas via "free" trade policies, the destruction of the democratizing impact of unions on the workplace, the importation of millions of workers to compete, illegally, with citizens and depress wages, the diminishing of public education and destruction of small local businesses by monopolistic capitalism have all conspired to destroy our former vast middle class. A shrinking middle and growing working or under class are unable to contribute the enormous funds needed by the political jakals to pay off the media machines that control the political process and, as a consequence, have reduced likelihood of representation of their interests.

Each of these factors bodes ill for those of us who remain in the middle class and despise the rising fascist influence in our country. The right wingers may overplay their hand. Increasingly it does not matter.

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

"But Bakersfield’s bureaucracy wanted to complain about his sign, which somehow fell short of sign orthodoxy."

I suspect we are missing a detail or two in this retelling. Even so, here, in a nutshell is the pity party that forms the heart of the right winger's view of the world. I want to do something and should not have to abide by the rules we, as a society, have agreed upon. Whether a sandwich shop sign, dumping pollution into the environment, workplace safety, restrictions on discrimination, natural resources possessed by others, etc. right wingers are spoiled brats unwilling to have their desires thwarted in any way.

yourworstnightmare 6 years ago

Good post. A right wing pity party is an apt description. Spoiled little children are they.

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

Well, let's try again....

It is a shame that some have such an irrational hatred of this President. It makes me wonder about the root of their motivations.

In order to dispel my suspicions, ksrush, I wonder if you are able to articulate what makes President Obama such a mistake.

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

William Jefferson Clinton - the last Democratic President the right wingers viciously ruined in their lust for control. Where might we be today if the right wingers cared about our country more than their own personal, financial and political interests?

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Time to say no more funding elections with special interest campaign money.

The new tools are available as we speak:

Not voting sends the wrong message and changes nothing.

Lets’s demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : http://www.fairvote.org/irv/ Demand a change on the next ballot.

We need public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue. http://www.publicampaign.org/

BAN special interest financing !!!

Pres Obama and congress men and women don't ban earmarks BAN special interest financing of elections

Now we're on to something!!!!

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

On Nov. 4, Anderson Cooper did the country a favor. He expertly deconstructed on his CNN show the bogus rumor that President Obama’s trip to Asia would cost $200 million a day. This was an important “story.” Thomas Friedman

How Much Did The Prescription Drug Bill Cost? This scenario underscores the need for Public Financing of our elections!

In the lead up to the law's passage, in addition to campaign contributions, the industry spent $141 million on lobbying, hiring 952 individual lobbyists, nearly 10 for every U.S. senator, according to Public Citizen.[viii]

  • In the House, the 220 congressmen who voted "yes" for the new law received an average of $27, 616, while the 215 congressmen who voted against the Medicare bill received only an average of $11, 308.[ix]

  • In the Senate, 54 senators voted "yes" receiving an average of $52,049 whereas the 44 senators who voted against the bill received an average of only $30,320.[x]

In the 110th Congress, the House of Representatives voted 255-170 to allow the government to negotiate lower covered Part D drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries. Once again, the money-bias for lawmakers voting in the interest of pharmaceutical companies was clear.

  • In The 170 congressmen voting against the bill averaged $16,304[xi]each in campaign contributions from pharmaceutical manufacturers.

  • The 255 members who voted for the bill received an average of only $5,959.[xii]

  • The Senate version of Medicare Prescription Drug Price Negotiation Act that passed in the House failed to even reach a vote. Senators who killed the bill by defeating a cloture vote received, on average, $2,200[xiii] more in campaign contributions from the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry than those who wanted to vote on the bill.

Scott Morgan 6 years ago

Hold the horses Padre! A new complaint against Republicans. We systematically purchased all the A.M. Radio outlet air time.

Not true, there still is Bob The Electrician Hour running every Sat. at 6:30 A.M. on KWYM Horsefly WY. Bob is a lib. hahah

Booted all left wing shows off the air.

Use the air time to audition new Republican candidates?

First, of all I bet the old Republican office holders would have a say in this practice. Second, Larry King types are interesting when doing anything but political entertainment. Third, liberalism does not stand up well in call in shows. It's the honesty thingy me amigos. Callers tend to keep the hosts honest.

Ever watch Barney Frank doing an honest call in show? You won't due to his whole political existence being made up of false claims and outright lies.

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

Wake us if you ever get around to making a point, please.

Richard Heckler 6 years ago

Let's demand a new system and vote in Fair Vote America : http://www.fairvote.org/irv/

Demand a change on the next ballot.

Incumbents say NO to the voters while officials live in glass houses and digest corrupt money.

We need public financing of campaigns. Citizens cannot afford special interest money campaigns for it is the citizens that get left out. Let citizens vote on this issue. http://www.publicampaign.org/

Who would be against Public Funding? The special interest money providers plus their bought and paid for politicians!

Scott Drummond 6 years ago

Merrill, was interested in the fairvote link, but it does not seem to be working. Is there another way of getting to the information?

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

merrill actually wore a link out by posting it over and over and over? I knew this day would come eventually.

Flap Doodle 6 years ago

"Who would be against Public Funding?" The mope currently residing at 1600 Penn Ave comes to mind.

Jimo 6 years ago

"So McCarthy understands that, pending a Republican president, much of Republican governance must occur down in the weeds of government — in the Federal Register, the record of the regulations by which the executive branch exercises its will without much congressional supervision or circumscription."

A) This would require actual knowledge of the detail of governance. Since few elected officials even grasp the broad themes of governance, such an effort will inevitably involve allowing the self-interested special interests to dictate policy (a la, Cheney's energy task force). Corporations don't spend billions lobbying politicians because it's a useless exercise! (The Founders had hoped that one interest group would be offset by other interest groups. Of course, this was in a world where business interests were frail shadows of today's global mega-corporations.)

B) Regulation is what happens to fill the gaps in legislation. Gaps occur both because of "A" (policy cluelessness by politicians, particularly inexperienced ones) and because taking a stand on any point involves making enemies. Government agencies are left with "shalls," "cans," and "musts" but with the particular "dos" of how inevitably conflicting prescriptions are to be combined with proscriptions. Of course, not all of this is so bad. For example, do we really want Congress telling the Forest Service what the precise balance between environmental degradation, mining concerns, forestry needs, and range leasing for each narrow tract in the country? (How would Congress possibly even acquire such knowledge?)

Commenting has been disabled for this item.