A Harangue on All But Threats
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 20, 2021
House Minority Leader Kevin D. McCarthy, R-Calif., spoke for more than eight hours on the floor of Congress, but while his comments covered the entire universe and personal piques to fill his time, McCarthy never said the one thing we wanted to hear from him — that some Republican criticism has veered into personal attacks and physical threats.
McCarthy’s marathon filibuster on the House floor had the practical effect only to hold up a House approval vote for Joe Biden’s big social spending bill. The House bill eventually passed yesterday and moves to a less-certain showdown in the Senate because at least one need Democratic senator’s vote is wobbly at best.
Indeed, he used his remarks to double down on the promise of more personal battles as a feature rather than a bug of his would-be Speakership should Republicans win the Congress in the next elections, and he claims the prize he so badly seems to seek. As The Washington Post headline reflected, McCarthy’s late night speech punctuated a week where the two parties’ disdain for each other was on full display.
In McCarthy’s remarks, complete with unneeded taunting from Democrats, the House vote to censure Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz, for posting his violent anime video of himself killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, and to attack President Joe Biden with swords, is simply a goad for his coming Republican majority to do the same, as if personal threats are tit-for-tat politicking. Rather than accept the corrective move, Gosar posted again, and again was forced to delete a follow-on attack image.
McCarthy has yet to disown other threats and personal attacks from Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo., Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga. and instead has looked hard at Democrats who find fault with Republican colleagues. Moreover, McCarthy has led the charge against his own members who had the temerity to support a Biden-proposed infrastructure bill in Congress as traitors to his cause.
We all can recognize that the constant and sharpened coarsening of our public political divides is serving only the interests of those seeking to hold onto power. It has nothing to do with solving problems, or debating public policies, or even winning a wider following among American voters.
On the same day, for example, here was Sen. John Neely Kennedy, R-La., turned a committee nomination hearing over a bank regulator into an unnecessarily aggressive personal attack. Saule Omarova, A Cornell law professor and Wall Street critic nominated to serve as Comptroller of the Currency, already faces a difficult path to confirmation.
Kennedy opened with an attack based on her birth in Soviet-controlled Khazakhstan, saying, “I don’t know whether to call you ‘professor’ or ‘comrade,’” after pressing her to produce a letter of resignation from a Soviet youth group to which she was required to belong when she was a girl. Omarova quietly told the senator her family emigrated after suffering in Khazakhstan and that she was no Communist.
Is it now a requirement to be American born to be named to a federal post? Wasn’t there some language printed on the Statue of Liberty about welcoming people to this country? Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who invited a world to a beacon of a shining city on the hill? Where was Kennedy?
Now we’re hearing talk on a radio show sponsored by Trumpist Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla, from the likes of Mark Meadows, the outspoken Freedom Caucus congressman who became Chief of Staff to Trump, that the next Speaker of the House should be Trump himself, under a provision that says the speaker need not come from Congress itself. McCarthy was silent on that point too since that’s the job he wants.
It’s not just me, even Republican donors are letting it be known that McCarthy-Trump messages encouraging coarse attacks and violent threats are problematic.
We’re going through difficult criminal trials in Kenosha, Wisc., and in rural Georgia where prosecutors are walking political minefields because opposing waiting publics are ready to pounce on the outcomes for partisan purposes. In Charlottesville, the trial is replaying public outbursts of ethnic hate.
Any number of Republican leaders were hailing the not guilty finding on charges against Kyle Rittenhouse, for crossing state lines with an AR-15 style rifle to defend businesses from Kenosha protesters, and killing two, and injuring another. Rep. Madison Cawthorn, R-NC, celebrated the guilty verdict by encouraging his followers to arm themselves.
We’re watching the rise of parent response angry enough to stalk and threaten school board officials and others over covid vaccinations and mask requirements, over change coming about with recognition that we are not limited to two genders, over perceived image perceptions over individual racism arising from critical readings of history that ask us to make sense of the long-term effects of slavery.
We’re watching Team Trump members simply ignore congressional subpoenas to then go out and foster more violence-as-protest, and a countering aggressiveness by would-be protesters from the other side of the divide.
We elect these congressional representatives to get the nation’s work done, not to sit around threatening one another all day long. And yes, it is fine for them to take opposing sides on policies, even when they disagree with me, and more than disappointing when they let their political allegiances to Donald Trump and re-election prospects to any logical consideration of the question before them.
But even unsocial snits over refusing to pass through metal detectors or denying that there was an attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 is way short of literal threats against one another. These are congress members who simply are not doing their job.
Yet, we increasingly are a country driven by emotion rather than anything resembling reason, fact, or useful analysis of whatever ails us. We’re hearing daily about inflation as crushing even as we also spending ourselves silly or complaining about gas prices as we insist on more trucks and cars that require more fuel per gallon.
The country is in a snit. If McCarthy feels it necessary to share for eight hours plus, the least he could do would be to note the need to curtail aggression in our national conversations.