McCarthy: Biden was fairly elected, Antifa didn’t smash the Capitol, and Trump bears some responsibility


“…and therefore I call for the immediate impeachment of Donald J. Trump.” That’s the conclusion one might assume McCarthy would reach if he believes the three propositions listed in the headline.

But no. He’s open to Congress making an empty gesture of disapproval — namely, censure — but he’s against impeachment. If I were Pelosi, I’d call his bluff. Put censure on the floor and see how many House Republicans have the stones to vote for even a wrist-slap like that.

The only vote anyone’s going to remember is impeachment anyway.

It’s good that McCarthy made each of these points, although it would have been much better if he hadn’t also pushed Trump’s “stolen election” propaganda and then let his caucus try to block certification of Biden’s election last Wednesday. Among the 139 Republicans who voted to object to the results in swing states last week was McCarthy himself — a vote he cast after the Capitol had been attacked. Bear that in mind in deciding how seriously to take his crocodile tears here. Three short clips:

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He’s uncertain of the political fallout from this moment so he’s trying to play both sides. If you’re a Trump fan, he’s on your side by opposing impeachment. If you’re among the other two-thirds of the country, he’s on your side by acknowledging that Trump did wrong and Biden won the election. To the extent anything he said truly matters, I think it’s the last clip. Jonathan Last is right that there’s only one way to calm some of the MAGA diehards who are willing to go as far as attacking Congress. Two months of propaganda about a stolen election will need to be undone.

Think about it from the perspective of the person who believes the lie: They have been told by the president of the United States that the election was fraudulent. The vast majority of the president’s party has testified to the truth of this story. The only reasonable conclusion of this tale is that America is currently undergoing a coup. That the incoming government is not only illegitimate, but is an occupying, authoritarian force.

If you believe that—if you really, truly believe it—then how could you acquiesce in anything that is happening? How could you pay taxes? Why would you obey laws? Why wouldn’t you storm the Capitol? Because if you believe this lie—really, truly believe it—then you are trying to save our democratic republic.

If you believe the lie that Democrats have ousted the duly-elected president of the United States in a bloodless junta, then what could President Joe Biden possibly do to bring about unity?

Nothing. Because he would be—literally—a tyrant.

“Nothing can get better in American politics until this lie is repudiated by the main body of the Republican party in the public square, with enough force and repetition that the majority of Republican voters cease to believe it,” Last concludes. Well, here’s McCarthy repudiating it. And McConnell has repudiated it, and will again at the impeachment trial, no doubt. But the sort of person who’d break down the doors of the Capitol to try to “stop the steal” doesn’t care what McConnell or McCarthy thinks. Frankly, they may not even care what Trump thinks at this point. Here’s a new statement from the president — or rather, a new statement from someone issued in the president’s name. Will it matter to anyone who’s plotting to kill Joe Biden after two months of lies about a massive plot to disenfranchise them? I doubt it.

Even if Trump personally gave the sort of statement Last wants, admitting that Biden won fair and square and there’s no evidence to the contrary — and he’d never give that statement — the diehards who’ve resorted to terrorism will just convince themselves that some nefarious character has “gotten” to Trump somehow. Or they’d parse Trump’s comments for “secret” messages the way QAnoners routinely do and decide that his statement recognizing Biden’s legitimacy is actually some sort of coded confirmation that Biden wasn’t legitimately elected.

You can’t wind these people up for two months about a communist plot to rig the vote and take over America and then tell them, “Never mind, false alarm.”

I’ll leave you with this tragic, surreal scene. Trump owns it, but McCarthy owns a piece of it too.

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