Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: McCarthy Was Scolded For Showing GOP’s Hand On Benghazi. Today’s GOP Shows Its Hand And No One Cares.
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Back in another lifetime, now-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy upset a bunch of his Republican colleagues when he just straight-up announced on Fox News that the Select Committee on Benghazi was making then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton look bad, and suggested that, hey, that was probably just the goal all along??? πŸ™ƒπŸ™ƒ

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“The stage was decorated with a swastika and a picture of Hitler. The speakers started ranting. There were only 15 of us, but we went into action. We … threw some of them out the windows … Most of the Nazis panicked and ran out. We chased them and beat them up … We wanted to show them that Jews would not always sit back and accept insults.”

— Meyer Lansky, gangster, remembering breaking up meetings of the pro-Nazi German-American Bund in Yorkville on New York’s Upper East Side in the 1930s.

SCOTUS, ‘Color Blindness’ and the Invented Past

This morning I was reading this Slate article by Rick Hasen and Dahlia Lithwick on newly released papers which seem to show the late Chief Justice William Rehnquist held on to his segregationist views well into his time as chief justice. (For background, as a SCOTUS clerk in 1952, Rehnquist wrote a memo explicitly defending the constitutionality of Plessy v Ferguson and the segregationist system that was built up on it. He later played a key role in organized voter suppression efforts in Arizona in the 1960s.) Hasen and Lithwick tie Rehnquist to the current Court majority’s view that the 14th Amendment is essentially a warrant for color blindness in the law.

The 14th Amendment particularly has implications which were very much by design that go beyond the fate of post-war ex-slaves. It essentially creates a thing we now take for granted, the status of citizen of the United States. It also has implications beyond things the architects of the amendment could have conceived of. But there are certainly concrete things that are totally clear about it and the other Civil War amendments if you spend even some basic time understanding why they were created, what they mean and what they meant to accomplish. Reading Hasen’s and Lithwick’s piece was helpful, reminding me of this by showing the bust-up collision between the actual Civil War amendments and the theoretical latticework that gets promoted in Federalist Society world and in some ways (albeit often in a much more benign form) in law schools generally. In the latter case, there’s nothing wrong with theory. It has its place. It’s necessary if your aim is not simply historical understanding of the amendments but some level of application to present-day realities.

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And Now the Pay-off

Today Marjorie Taylor Greene announced on Twitter that at her request Speaker Kevin McCarthy is providing unrestricted access to Jan. 6 surveillance tapes to discredited journalist John Solomon, a Jan. 6 conspiracy theorist named Julie Kelly and another unnamed party.

Where Things Stand: Save This Clip For Next Time They Pretend They Don’t Wanna Cut Soc Security, Medicare
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House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) is seemingly trying to get a handful of far-right members of the Freedom Caucus to chill out and stop threatening to redo the speakership election. They’re not likely to successfully depose him, but no one is eager for a redo of the January spectacle as a few loud members seek to reassert their authority. And, so, in what is seemingly a half-hearted effort to throw them a bone, McCarthy went on Fox News and promised to create some vague “commission” that’ll review further cuts to next year’s budget.

The speaker then took it a step further. Instead of just promising that “this isn’t the end” and proposing some sort of additional amorphous cuts to quell a hardliner uprising, McCarthy doubled down, raising the possibility that this next step commission could look into gutting Social Security and Medicare. Music, in theory, to the ears of a salivating Freedom Caucus.

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The Secret History of ‘Debt Ceiling,’ the Original Movie

As we analyze and try to make sense of how this debt ceiling drama has worked out, there’s one important difference with the original crisis 12 years ago to keep in mind. Back in 2011, President Obama was very much bought into the idea of deficit reduction and “the grand bargain.” Some of this of course is the distinct matter of inoculating against Republican fiscal politics β€” nods to fiscal probity, deficit reduction and so forth. To really understand politics it’s critical to distinguish between true agendas and reactive, positioning politics of that sort. But, to a degree, he was actually bought into it.

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The Diehards Fold

Yesterday, Rep. Matt Gaetz (F-FL) said that a bright line Kevin McCarthy couldn’t go past without triggering a “motion to vacate” would be having a majority of the GOP caucus vote against his debt ceiling/budget deal with Joe Biden. This gives away the game. They might as well say that they’ll end McCarthy’s speakership the second he announces he’s identifying as non-binary. The couple dozen Freedom Caucus diehards are now setting the bar comically high because it’s suddenly clear the cudgel they’re allegedly holding over McCarthy has been vastly overstated.

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Where Things Stand: Some 2024 Hopefuls Latch Onto Freedom Caucus Complaints. Trump Remains Silent.
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As my colleague Josh Marshall spelled out earlier, there is one very loud voice that is notably absent from this conversation.

Donald Trump has remained largely silent on the debt ceiling ever since the Biden White House and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) settled a deal over the weekend to ransom the debt ceiling hostage in exchange for some GOP legislative priorities, most notably work requirements for SNAP recipients.

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The Fascist That Didn’t Bark

If all goes according to schedule, the Biden-McCarthy deal will go to a vote tomorrow evening. Yes, we see this or that member complaining, perhaps a dozen or two either announcing or signaling their opposition. So far though it’s all quite low energy β€” far more performative and box-checking than any true effort to scuttle this deal or punish its author. There is of course one person who on his own could potentially change the dynamic: Donald Trump.

It’s very noteworthy that so far, as far as I can tell, he’s said basically nothing. I don’t think that’s because it escaped his notice. He could definitely still jump in. But there’s very little time left and he’s already had upwards of a week.

Here are a few points to keep in mind.

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Freak Cavalcade, But Not More
McCarthy Might Not Only Survive But Be Newly Empowered against the Freedom Caucus's Core Freak Brigade

I’ll have to see a bit more. But I believe we’re seeing signs that Kevin McCarthy has essentially outmaneuvered the core freak brigade in the Freedom Caucus β€” about 20 or so members. They’re all saying it’s a terrible deal. But they’re not saying more than that. As we noted over the weekend McCarthy has two critical members of that group on his team β€” Greene and Jordan.

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