Saturday, October 3, 2015


The fallout from Republican Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Bakersfield) Benghazi admission continues. Revealing that the GOP set up a "special Benghazi committee" to go after Hillary Clinton politically makes it clear that the goal of holding so many hearings wasn't to better understand what happened in Libya as much as it was to drag Clinton's poll numbers down.

MSNBC's Rachel Maddow has done a good job of highlighting how Rep. McCarthy's Benghazi slip of the tongue was followed by a string of less than articulate gaffes (here and here). This is an issue the Washington Post's Dana Milbank began drawing attention to last year. Unfortunately for Rep. McCarthy, Milbank is doing some followup work on the topic.

While it might be fun for the media to hype Rep. McCarthy's gaffes, we have a far more serious matter to think about. Congressional Republicans are using the halls of government to plan and go after an unannounced candidate for president. This tells us several things about the Republican Party, which many of us have known for years:

* House GOP leaders are now in perpetual campaign mode.  
* Using the halls of government for activities other than governing is viewed as a legitimate use of our institutions by the GOP.  
* Convincing people the GOP can do a better job is not as important as creating a false narrative (which helps explain the modern GOPs culture of obstruction).

All of these, on their own, should be embarrassing to our nation (who needs to govern, right?). I may even take the time to discuss them at a later date. But not now.

What caught my eye is something just as important: When Rep. Kevin McCarthy was being interviewed by Sean Hannity he effectively groveled and capitulated to Hannity's demands.

It was almost Orwellian. Think about it. Sean Hannity is a partisan hack who works for a fake news organization. Yet Rep. McCarthy felt no need to tell Hannity to back off because he's doing the people's work. He went along because he can't afford to alienate one of the grand wizards at Fox.

Watching Hannity berate and interrupt Rep. McCarthy was like watching a disappointed parent trying to discipline a kid who came back with a less than stellar report card. But this shouldn't be a surprise. Representative McCarthy couldn't direct the interview because he's not really in charge of the conservative agenda. Fox News is, and always has been.

Sean Hannity felt so empowered that he actually listed for Kevin the things he needed to do in order to get his support: (1) Defund Planned Parenthood; (2) Defund Executive Amnesty & Immigration; (3) Defund Obamacare; (4) Blow up the Iranian deal (because it will "lead to a modern day holocaust").

So, yeah, a second rate TV host was telling a sitting member of Congress - and the House Majority Leader at that - how to do his job. As if governing for all Americans comes second to his wishes.

Rather than telling Hannity that he's going to work for the American people Rep. McCarthy made it clear he was going to try and appease him and the gods at Fox News.

That Rep. McCarthy couldn't say anything to satisfy Hannity until about 5 minutes into the interview (clip below) isn't really as important as the fact that Sean Hannity views Kevin (and others in the GOP) as errand boys for the station's larger message and agenda. They view Republican talking heads who appear on their network as important only insofar as they help to legitimize Fox as a serious "news" source.

In this light, Rep. McCarthy was little more than a useful prop for the Fox network.

It's been this way for some time. Forcing answers on someone like Rep. McCarthy is actually old hat for Fox. Because they don't actually report the news Fox needs talking heads from Congress to give their program and message a sense of gravitas and urgency.

This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. Indeed, according to former George W. Bush speech writer David Frum, "Republicans originally thought Fox worked for us, and now we are discovering we work for Fox."

In the process Fox has created a parallel political universe that has little to do with the challenges of actually governing. Frum acknowledged as much when he pointed out, "conservatives have built a whole alternative knowledge system, with its own facts, its own history, [and] its own laws of economics."

All of this reminds me of the apocryphal worker in the Soviet Union who famously commented, "They pretend to pay us, we pretend to work."  For their part, the GOP is now mired in a modern political dystopia where their leaders pretend to lead, which Fox dutifully pretends to report.

Sigh ...

- Mark

You can watch the entire "Benghazi Admission" interview here. The Benghazi comments start at 4:21 in the clip. Rep. McCarthy asks Sean Hannity to help him with the GOP agenda at 5:39 ...

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