Watching House Republicans trying to pick a new leadership team is like … I don’t know, because I’ve never seen anything quite like it. Those smart enough to do the job want nothing to do with it, refusing to drink from the poisoned chalice; conversely, those who do want the job shouldn’t be let anywhere near one of the most important posts in American government.
It begins with the current speaker, John Boehner, who should have felt humiliated by the fact that he is being forced by his own party to give up the gavel. Instead, he walks into his press conference to announce his departure with a huge grin on his face, singing “Zip a dee do dah,” as if the governor had just given him a last-second reprieve from a sit-down with Ol’ Sparky.
You’ve also got ambitious people such as Trey Gowdy of South Carolina giving a rude, Heisman Trophy stiff-arm to anybody who even suggests he run for speaker or majority leader.
“I don’t have a background in mental health, so I wouldn’t have the right qualifications to lead right now,” he told the Washington Post, going so far as to suggest that friends don’t let friends run for speaker, not with this bunch.
And Paul Ryan?
“The smartest kid in the class is Paul Ryan,” says Gowdy. “If I had one draft choice and I was starting a new country, I would draft Paul to run it. Not because I agree with him on everything, but because he’s super, super smart. And when someone is super, super smart and is not interested, that tells you something. It tells me a lot.”
OK … so nobody smart would want to run for speaker. That still leaves Republicans with an awful lot of candidates. Take Kevin McCarthy, the current frontrunner for speaker. Confessing to the whole country that the Benghazi investigation was designed to bring down Hillary Clinton’s poll numbers may have been honest on the part of the California Republican, but it also made it clear that he doesn’t suffer that “super, super smart” problem.
And then there’s Jason Chaffetz of Utah, who is also running for speaker. He called McCarthy’s Benghazi statement “absolutely terrible,” “absolutely wrong” and “absolutely inappropriate,” then went on to condemn his colleague’s communications skills. “We need a speaker who speaks,” Chaffetz says. “We lose the communication war time and time again, and I think the conference wants a proactive communicator.”
That’s the same Jason Chaffetz whose attempted interrogation of Planned Parenthood CEO Cecilia Richards last week was panned as “a GOP freak show,” “Ill-prepared & uncoordinated. Inexcusable,” and “embarrassing.” And that’s how conservatives described it. Absolutely.
David Harsanyi, writing in National Review, put it this way:
“If for some reason you needed additional evidence that the Republican party is deeply incompetent, unprepared, uncoordinated, and inexcusably lazy, then try watching Cecile Richards’s appearance in front of Congress earlier this week…. Most of the committee’s Republicans followed Jason Chaffetz’s lead in aimless grandstanding — which seems to be the purpose of these show trials: self-preservation.”
Finally, there’s this little hand grenade, tossed into the discussion late yesterday by U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina in a letter to House GOP leadership (emphasis original):
Interesting, no? In fact, Jones was so concerned that he felt compelled to add a personal, hand-written note to his letter, just to drive his point home: