Discover more from PREVAIL by Greg Olear
Pennywise McCarthy, Second in Line
The clear and present danger of having a traitor as Speaker of the House
The circus might have closed the doors after 15 cringeworthy performances in Washington last week, but it has not left town. Clowns now control the House of Representatives. And while a number of said clowns are Bozos—or Bobos, if you will—there are enough Pennywises in the mix to make their presence a legitimate threat to our democracy.
Take the newly-minted Speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy. This is a man who disseminated false claims about the 2020 election being stolen; who signed on to the bogus lawsuit filed by the (indicted) state attorney general of Texas that sought to overturn the result of the election; who, just weeks after the Capitol was besieged, made the pilgrimage to Mar-a-Lago to kiss Trump’s ring; and who, after finally being elected Speaker last week, made a point to thank FPOTUS—all of this despite him being well aware, in 2015, that Trump was a Putin plant. There is little evidence to suggest that Kevin would stand up to anyone, let alone those to whom he is absolutely beholden, when push came to shove. He’s McCarth-y-Lago: Trump’s signature property.
To me, the scariest part of McCarthy (finally) taking the Speaker’s gavel is that a full-blown traitor, a vain and feckless cipher devoid of even trace amounts of honor, is now second in line to the presidency. Pennywise is two heartbeats away from the Oval Office.
When John Tyler assumed the top job after the death of William Henry Harrison in April of 1841, he insisted to not be addressed as acting president, as stipulated in the founding documents, but as president, without the qualifier. Eventually, this syntax took. Should McCarthy ever ascend from Speaker to president, I’ve no doubt he’d govern like he had a sweeping popular-vote mandate.
The scenario is less crazy than it seems at first glance. There is now tremendous incentive for the MAGA Republicans to remove Joe Biden and Kamala Harris from office. Those IMPEACH BIDEN bumper stickers adorning rusted-out pick-ups all across the country now represent a plan of action, if Jim Jordan’s public musings can be taken at face value. Impeachment will fail (although the classified documents story that broke yesterday gives Republicans something potentially real to ding him with). But do we really trust the Congressional crew that was in cahoots with the Capitol besiegers not to take more aggressive action to achieve the desired result? These are fascists, after all, and violence is a hallmark of fascism.
This is, I hope, my novelist’s imagination getting the best of me. But there are a number of data points that, taken together, worry my mind. Consider:
A plan to install Trump as Speaker was floated.
Cheri Jacobus warned of this last year:
And lo, Matt Gaetz voted for Trump last week.
What’s better for Trump than taking the job himself? Having his fully owned piece of property take the Speaker’s gavel.
Joe Biden doesn’t trust his Secret Service detail.
Like the FBI and state and local law enforcement across the country, the Secret Service is honeycombed with fervent Trump supporters. Per the Independent, a forthcoming book by Chris Whipple reports that Biden doesn’t speak freely in front of his detail, and suspects that the agent who claimed to be bitten by his dog, Major, lied about it. Would MAGA Secret Service guys really take a bullet for a POTUS they don’t like? Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.
Kamala Harris has already been the indirect target of assassination—twice.
She was at the Capitol as VP-elect on January 6, and was certainly one of the targets of the besiegers. (What do we think Ashli Babbitt would have done if she saw Harris in the hallway? Taken a selfie?) Kamala was also at the DNC when the pipe bomb was still live and ticking outside the building. Two years later, the FBI still has no fucking clue who planted those pipe bombs, which means a bomb-wielding would-be assassin remains on the loose.
The leaders of the renegade group delaying McCarthy’s election—Matt Gaetz, Andy Biggs, and Scott Perry—all reportedly asked Trump for a pardon in the days after January 6.
If special counsel Jack Smith does his job, members of Congress who aided and abetted the Capitol besiegers will be indicted, convicted, and removed from office. You don’t lobby for a pardon unless you’ve broken the law. What concessions did McCarthy agree to in order to secure the necessary votes? Did he promise pardons, explicitly or otherwise, in the event he was ever in the position to grant them?
Putin is desperate for a more sympathetic occupant of the Oval Office.
Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine will not succeed as long as Biden or Harris are president. Putin is not as powerful as he used to be, but the Kremlin still has enormous influence. There’s a reason all the MAGA Republicans are trying to cut off aid to Ukraine. Cornered like the rat he is, the world’s leading cause of window cancer would think nothing of taking out a few powerful individuals to get his way. He’s done it before, plenty of times.
They already tried this once.
Two years ago last Friday, to be precise, MAGA insurrectionists, led by Trump and his inner circle of Benedict Arnold-level traitors, attempted to overthrow the government and subvert the will of the American people. So we already know the bad guys are willing to go to extremes. There’s no suspense about it. Did any of those assholes seem upset at the loss of life on January 6? Only one Republican showed up at the event last week to commemorate the attack on the Capitol. Again: violence is a hallmark of fascism.
To be clear, I’m not saying there’s an active seditious conspiracy in place to remove Biden and Harris by any means necessary. But there are an awful lot of powerful, evil fascists who would greatly benefit from their ouster—and they’ve already demonstrated a willingness to go to extremes. Jared Kushner condemned a million Americans and counting to death to help Trump’s re-election chances, ffs. These people are ghouls. And this terrifies me.
Republicans in Congress are not interested in policy or good governance. All they care about is power, money, and staying out of prison—the same concerns of Russian oligarchs, incidentally. They already have the first two things; and while the DOJ is, frustratingly, in no hurry to prosecute anyone in Congress, the get-out-of-jail-free card is not guaranteed as long as Biden and Harris head the executive branch. We need to do everything in our power to keep the POTUS and the VP safe.
There was a lot of humor to be found in last week’s shit-show in Congress, some of it quite clever. I made jokes about it myself. And it may well turn out to be an innocuous clown show. But at the end of the day, nothing about the election of Pennywise McCarthy as Speaker is funny.