Making the rounds today is this kerfuffle between Representatives Dave Brat (R., Va.) and Charlie Dent (R., Penn.), being jointly interviewed by radio host Hugh Hewitt and Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson on Sunday morning’s Meet the Press. There’s such a spectacular quantity of wrongness — on everyone’s part — that it’s worth enumerating.
1. No, Hugh Hewitt, no poxes on any houses.
Hewitt charged both Dent and Brat with “paralyzing the House” at a time when “the American people [are] waiting for leadership.” That’s overblown, to say the least. Yes, the world is dangerous. Iran, Russia, North Korea — you name it. But, first, the House still has leadership: John Boehner has promised to stay on until a new speaker takes over, and Kevin McCarthy remains majority leader. Second, even if Paul Ryan were to be elected today, what influence would that have on Russian airstrikes in Turkey?
Furthermore, this is how the House works. It’s supposed to be scrappy. As The Federalist’s David Harsanyi wrote on Friday:
The House is where public sentiment first manifests. And public sentiment—on the Right, and probably in most corners of American political life right now—isn’t in the mood for coronations.
Yuval Levin made a similar point here in the Corner. Kevin Williamson makes the point today on the homepage. Yes, there’s fractiousness. But it is foolish to charge that Republicans are betraying the American public by having this fight.
2. No, Eugene Robinson, the House Freedom Caucus is not destroying Republicans’ White House hopes.
First thing first, Robinson is correct that you can’t govern from the House. National Review’s editors said the same thing following Republicans’ midterm sweep last year. But it does not follow, as Robinson seems to suggest, that intraparty dissenters should simply roll over. The House Freedom Caucus was instrumental in pushing Boehner to ditch a simple up/down vote on the Iran deal under the Corker-Cardin framework and to change tactics; the result was a far more aggressive denunciation of the deal and of the president’s lawlessness. The House Freedom Caucus has also spearheaded opposition against the Ex-Im Bank, a corporate handout against which National Review has editorialized repeatedly. The Caucus’s efforts didn’t make the Republican House look “chaotic”; they ultimately made it look conservative and potent. (By the by, this is one more reason Dent et al. should let Ex-Im die.)
3. No, Dave Brat, the “American people” don’t decide leadership races.
While it’s obviously true that the House should aim to have as its leader someone who is broadly in line with the sentiments of his party’s voters, congressional leadership races are insiders’ insider baseball. Harsanyi again: “As news and rumors broke about majority leader dropping out, millions of people around the country were undoubtedly saying, ‘Who the hell is Kevin McCarthy?’ They weren’t lamenting the end of the republic.” Choosing congressional leaders doesn’t lend itself well to opinion polling; it does lend itself well to sober, thoughtful reasoning about tactics. Who is the best leader to resist Barack Obama’s final 15 months in office? Who can best make the case that Republicans are ready to govern, provided a Republican executive in 2017? I wager most respondents in Drudge polls are not thinking this way.
4. No, Charlie Dent, Rep. Brat did not “side with Nancy Pelosi.”
In Dent’s defense, Brat brought up the minority leader’s name. But this is a tiresome charge — and one that serves no purpose other than name-calling. There are lots of House votes. Lots of them. The ones the media talk about are the divisive, high-stakes ones. But there are plenty of others where Democrats and Republicans — prepare yourself — agree. The same is true in the Senate, where the vast majority of business is done via unanimous consent. Does that mean Ted Cruz “sided with” Harry Reid? Yes. And so what? This is a game played by elected officials and partisan media who want to score an easy point. Cut it out.
Ramesh wrote on Thursday that House members were “caffeinated.” That was on embarrassing display here. Advice to House members and media: For the next few weeks, lay off the joe.