Recently in The Bulwark:
CHARLIE SYKES: Kevin McCarthy’s Hat Trick of Humiliation
JOE PERTICONE: Kevin McCarthy: The Chaos Speaker
CATHY YOUNG: The Ukraine War in Its Second Winter—and Beyond.
SECRET POD: Kevin McCarthy — Squatter in the Speaker's Office 🔐
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MONA CHAREN: It Couldn’t Happen to a Nicer Guy.
Here’s a funny thing about the Freedom Caucus’s insurrection against Kevin McCarthy, which on Tuesday denied him election as Speaker of the House on three consecutive ballots for the first time in a century. On the surface, it looks like the firebrands and zealots are in revolt against the GOP “establishment.” But the reality is that the Republican establishment is deader than dead. It’s hard to date its demise with precision, but January 6, 2021 is a good marker. That was a second date that should live in infamy; a date when, following a violent assault on the Capitol, two-thirds of the Republican caucus voted with the mob. The battle unfolding over the speakership is not between the extremists and the establishment. It’s between two camps of extremists.
McCarthy thought he could appease the kamikaze caucus with cash and playing along with Stop the Steal — surprise, they’d rather ruin everything if they can’t rule. CNN’s John Avlon joins Charlie Sykes on today’s pod.
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SONNY BUNCH: ‘Avatar’s’ Impact on the Culture Is Undeniable.
Before we get to Avatar—the movie with “no cultural footprint” that nevertheless spawned the highest-grossing worldwide release of 2022—let us contemplate the fate of Babylon.
Damien Chazelle’s early-Hollywood epic has received mixed notices from critics and has been mostly ignored by audiences since its release two weeks ago, prompting lots of “well what did anyone expect” and “how did Chazelle snooker anyone into giving him $80 million for that movie” sniggers. And, indeed, “three-hour ode to/critique of classic Hollywood’s excesses that opens with a literal ton of elephant dung” doesn’t, well, sound like a winner on paper, at least when you put it as bluntly as that.
🎵 On the Jukebox… 🎵 Once in a Lifetime by The Talking Heads.
CAPITOL HILL— And you may ask yourself, "How do I work this?" Well, that is what Kevin McCarthy is asking himself, after another day has gone by with him being further from getting that precious gavel than he was on Tuesday morning. After six votes, there’s no end in sight, with the House coming back into session tonight at 8 p.m.
I don’t go up to the Hill that often. But in 2023, I’ll be joining my new colleague Joe Perticone there periodically as The Bulwark expands its coverage on Capitol Hill. And that’s all thanks to our Bulwark+ members. Thank you. (If you haven’t signed up for Joe’s new newsletter, Press Pass, drop what you’re doing and sign up now.)
Joe and I dropped into the Dems’ post-caucus meeting with Rep.-elects Ted Lieu and Pete Aguilar. They said what you’d expect: The Republicans are the chaos party, which is true. Lieu brought up an interesting hypothetical (though he and Aguilar were careful to avoid answering questions about hypotheticals): would Americans want Republicans to be in such disarray on January 6, 2025?
Because that could very well happen.
There are lots of other questions as Congress-elect sits in a room and shouts out names, seemingly in a sort of “Safe Mode” where they can do nothing else but vote for Speaker. Can their offices do casework? Are they getting paid?
On the first floor of Longworth, I dropped by my old office, which is next to that of Rep.-elect Santos. A man wearing a larger-than-ordinary cross on his lapel walked in and out of the office. Seeing no badge, it was unclear if he was a staffer, or a priest there to administer his last political rights.
I also paid a visit to the House Gift Shop to see what wares they had this year, and picked up a leather keychain made of a former seat in the House (hopefully it came from a seatback) for $11.
Quickly into the fifth vote, it was clear McCarthy didn’t have the votes, so I headed home, listening to C-SPAN radio to see if anyone else blinked.
Right after I left, former Michigan Rep. Justin Amash was spotted by my colleague Joe Perticone outside the Speaker’s Lobby, having apparently flown from Michigan to Washington after yesterday’s chaos. Amash tells Joe he’d make a good candidate for Speaker:
If they need someone to serve as an interim speaker who is nonpartisan, I’d be happy to do it. I would never expect that as some kind of full time, like forever position. But maybe they need something for a couple years or maybe they need something for a while until one side has a clear majority.
I think I’m someone who both sides can trust. People know I have a very constitutional conservative background, so the right can trust me. But I’m also happy to work with people on the left. I have lots of friendships on the left and I’ve proven many times that I’m willing to take on people on either side of the aisle to stand up for what’s right.
In the sixth vote, which McCarthy failed to get enough support, nobody nominated Amash. But who knows?! Amash’s ticket is refundable, he says.
I saw Michael Fanone in the basement of the Capitol today, not sure why he was there and didn’t ask, but our friend Lynn Schmidt just reviewed his book at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Deficits… While Chip Roy and the Gaetz 20 are arguing about deficits and Ukraine spending, there’s a deficit on the homefront that involves our kids. And playing.
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