The best (if unintended) endorsement for the most lopsided deal since the Yankees acquired Babe Ruth for a paltry $125,000 came not from a pundit nor a party colleague, but from the opposition (albeit punctuated by a partisan). Per the Wall Street Journal:
Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., said … Republicans were choosing a person [Louisiana Rep. Mike Johnson for Speaker] who ‘can pass their extreme litmus test to oppose marriage equality, enact a nationwide abortion ban without exceptions, gut Social Security and Medicare, support overturning a free and fair election.’
Aguilar said Johnson had been called ‘the most important architect of the electoral college objections,” and a Republican member shouted “d@#n right.‘
Those among the estimated 335,633,214 Americans (at this writing) who are sufficiently sentient should all be signing a coast-to-coast-sized thank-you card for reviled Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz.
Gaetz has been hammered for three solid weeks as the “most-hated” GOP member in Congress, who plunged the House into “chaos,” for engineering the coup that cast aside limp-wristed Speaker Kevin “Fredo Corleone” McCarthy.
You’ll recall this commentator fingered McCarthy back in January for “project(ing) hesitancy, moderation, and self-focus when intense, inspirational passion for the conservative cause is the order of the day.” And more recently for “betray(ing) the conservative wing that allowed him to take power by depending on squish Republicans and a unanimous vote of his opposition to pass a 45-day clean continuing resolution keeping federal funding at its outrageously bloated fiscal 2023 levels.”
Whatever one might think of his ethics and demeanor, the actions of the allegedly slimy Gaetz have been fully vindicated. In place of the spineless, soulless, uniparty-associated, donor-class-beholden McCarthy, the chair of Washington’s third-ranking official is now occupied by a movement and, yes, MAGA conservative who on issue after issue, stands tall and unbending on his principles.
Yet who nonetheless is so well-regarded that he achieved a unanimous GOP vote just hours after the party caucus was said to be trapped in hopeless division and despair.
Whom does that remind one of?
The new speaker in fact evoked the comparison top-of-mind here: recalling that Ronald Reagan, upon leaving office, said that although he was called the Great Communicator, he was not that at all – he simply communicated great things.
And in a boffo acceptance speech – which lacked Dutch Reagan’s dulcet tones and delivery but echoed his forthrightness, balanced by self-deprecating humor and optimism – “great things” are what the Louisianan has promised: to “advance a comprehensive conservative policy agenda, combat the harmful policies of the Biden administration, and support our allies abroad.”
Just as was the case for the 40th president coming out of the Carter years’ malaise, decay and disarray, the new legislative branch leader’s priorities were precisely the right ones for the catastrophes facing America today.
Addressing a border disaster that has morphed from a fiscal burden to a public health crisis to a potential national security nightmare.
Making his symbolic first, “long overdue” order of business – in the face of the moral equivalence of the Milquetoast at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue – a resolution unapologetically “show(ing) not only Israel but the entire world that the barbarism of Hamas that we have seen play out on our television screens is wretched and wrong.”
And most of all, defusing the fiscal and debt bomb threatening to sink the nation. The speaker pledged to appoint a bipartisan debt commission “immediately.” But in the meantime, he proposes a short-term continuing resolution while fast-tracking remaining regular appropriations bills.
What makes these promises any more credible than those made by his less-than-illustrious predecessor? Essentially, a stunningly pure record not just of conservative posturing but genuine action.
As a former lawyer for the controversial Alliance Defending Freedom and hence a fierce champion of traditional values. The initiator of a friend-of-the-court brief in a case brought by 19 state attorneys general to challenge the 2020 election results based on state-by-state irregularities – which he convinced 125 colleagues to sign.
And most of all, a “no” vote on McCarthy’s recent continuing resolution compromise, as well as outsized, unaccountable Ukraine aid.
It’s in fiscal policy that the new Republican leader’s mettle will be most severely tested. The reason the leadership struggle had to be waged was because, as posited here previously, the shutdown battle also must ultimately be had, or at least credibly threatened.
And not just to fulfill the speaker’s pledges to restore “predictable processes,” “the regular order,” and “trust, transparency, accountability” and “good stewardship.” But also to bring to heel a government gone rogue and riding roughshod over the rights, liberties, and dreams of Americans.
It’s fitting that the climax of Speaker Johnson’s address was a clarion cry: “Let the enemies of freedom around the world hear us loud and clear: The people’s house is back in business.”
Because it’s also a message the enemies of freedom here at home, especially across the House aisle, need to hear and have acted upon, deploying the full power of the purse.
The great news: it’s a message more likely to come, and credibly, from The Gipper II than from Fredo, Part II.
Bob Maistros is a messaging and communications strategist, crisis specialist, and former political speechwriter. He can be reached at email@example.com.