BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The fallout continues for Congressman Kevin McCarthy,
the House minority leader. Two weeks after a mob laid siege to the Capitol — and a week after McCarthy declined to vote to impeach President Trump in response to that riot — criticism of the Bakersfield Republican continues to roll in.
Could it affect his chances of one day becoming House speaker?
McCarthy had already been taking heat for his continuing claims of election fraud — claims the White House continues to push and a substantial majority of Republican voters continues to believe — despite rejections of those fraud claims by 60 courts, the President’s own attorney general and the Department of Homeland Security’s cybersecurity division, among many others.
Then came the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol, led — based on information from dozens of FBI arrests — by Trump supporters who bought into the President’s claims.
Despite escaping the advancing mob by a matter of minutes, McCarthy returned after the Capitol had been cleared of rioters and — again citing election fraud — voted to delay the ratification of the new incoming President, a necessary formality described in the U.S Constitution.
A week later — in the House’s hastily called impeachment hearing Jan. 13 — McCarthy put the blame for the insurrection squarely on Trump’s shoulders but then voted against impeachment.
Ten Republicans, including fellow Kern County Congressman David Valadao and Wyoming’s Liz Cheney — regarded by many as McCarthy’s chief rival for leadership of the caucus going forward — voted to impeach.
Was there election fraud or not? Did Trump, or did he not, commit the impeachable offense of trying to stop the peaceful transfer of power — a hallmark of this democratic republic?
Former Congressman Bill Thomas — who hired McCarthy as an intern almost 30 years ago — is unequivocal about it.
Thomas received a letter last week from another former intern, Will Le of Maryland, who came to this country as a Vietnamese refugee in 1982. Le was aghast at what was happening in Washington.
Thomas was so touched by Le’s words he bought a full page ad in the Bakersfield Californian that included portions of Le’s letter — under the headline, “What has become of that Shining City?”
One former intern grasped the situation, Thomas said. The other, as Thomas said in an exclusive interview with 17 News last Friday, was a hypocrite.
“Six hours after this tragedy, the Republican leader argues Pennsylvania had fraud,” Thomas said. “It was as though they went to an extended lunch and came back and resumed their mission — reinforce, by your votes, the lies of the president.”
But the criticism of McCarthy hasn’t stopped with his former mentor. The blowback has been relentless and widespread.
The conservative anti-Trump Lincoln Project released an ad calling him a “pathetic enabler.”
A scathing Sacramento Bee editorial denounced him as “soulless.”
An Orange County Register op-ed called him “as odious a creature as we’ve seen in American politics.”
L.A. Times columnist Nicholas Goldberg called him Trump’s “senior sucker-upper and enabler.”
Miriam Pawel, acknowledging Thomas’s criticism of McCarthy in the New York Times this past weekend, said McCarthy is learning that charm has its limits
McCarthy’s reluctance to fully break from Trump could hurt him politically — and cost him the speakership, should the Republicans retake the house in 2022.
As Politico reports, Cheney and McCarthy are making two very different bets on Trump — and the one who guesses right may find themselves with a future leading the GOP.
McCarthy’s strength is fundraising, so he has some work to do, trying to bring back major corporate donors who last week said the Capitol riots — and their apparent root cause — had caused them to rethink their giving strategies.
But Cheney, through her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, has fundraising muscle as well.
Joe Biden will be inaugurated Wednesday but his administration’s efforts to unite and heal won’t be the only political drama that will bear watching in 2021. McCarthy’s dream of becoming Speaker of the House is on the line too — and at this excruciating moment in American history, it’s very much in the air.
Late Monday afternoon Congressman McCarthy responded to our request for comment about the criticism he has faced recently, and about the inauguration, with this statement:
“As a member of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, I have full confidence that the peaceful transfer of power that occurs with the changing of an administration will go off without a hitch on January 20. Starting the very next day, Congress will get right to work on the issues that matter most to the American people,” McCarthy said. ” For our community, that means defeating the coronavirus and restoring our economy and way of life.”