McCarthy and Trump

Kevin McCarthy, left, and Donald Trump moments before Trump walked out onto the platform to take the oath of office.

FILE

Kevin McCarthy got this one right. For about an hour.

The House majority leader appeared on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Thursday morning and told the panel of assembled pundits what everyone paying attention already knew: Attorney General Jeff Sessions, not even a month into the job, is now so thoroughly tainted over campaign-year contact with prominent Russians that, in McCarthy’s words, “it would be easier” for all concerned if he were to recuse himself from leading any federal investigation.

And of course he should: Sessions is right in the middle of this. How is that even a question?

Nonetheless, it was refreshing to see McCarthy climb down from the White House stonewall that, of late, surrounds anything remotely Russian and concede that, yes, things are now sufficiently sticky for the attorney general.

Alas, that was too sane to be true.

The nation’s capital hadn’t yet fully digested its breakfast when McCarthy appeared on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” to claim he’d suggested no such thing. “I’m not calling on him to recuse himself,” he said. And then, in a variation of the old “took me out of context” complaint, he noted that “it’s amazing how people spin things so quickly.”

Yes, it is, Kevin. And no finer example exists than the about-face you just pulled.

Sometimes these columns just write themselves.

It’s not difficult to imagine people of significant political stature surprised and alarmed at the congressman’s apparent acquiescence to the idea of recusal, and them telling him so.

That very afternoon, Sessions recused himself from the investigation. Talk about an inconveniently timed turn of events.

Sessions really had no choice, and McCarthy, to his credit, must have realized it. Sessions seems to have misled the U.S. Senate, having said under oath at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Jan. 10 that “I did not have communications with the Russians” while working as a top adviser to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. In fact he had, at least twice.

That hardly leaves Sessions in a position to lead an investigation into contact by several of President Trump’s past and present Cabinet-level advisers with high-level people within the Russian oligarchy.

“I think, (to preserve) the trust of the American people, you recuse yourself in these situations,” McCarthy said on the MSNBC program. “I just think for any investigation going forward, you want to make sure everybody trusts the investigation ... that there’s no doubt within the investigation.”

“Does that require his recusal, Congressman?” panelist Mark Halperin asked.

McCarthy answered unambiguously in the affirmative.

It’s not the first time telling the unvarnished truth has landed McCarthy in an uncomfortable situation. In September 2015, he famously suggested that the true purpose of the GOP-led Benghazi Special Committee was to hurt Hillary Clinton politically. The fallout probably cost him the chance to become speaker of the House.

Thursday’s walk-back of his original comments about Sessions only serves to reinforce the perception that McCarthy doesn’t always pursue objective truth with the same vigor as his strategic political goals. The Benghazi hearings weren’t about the debacle at the U.S. embassy in Libya, but rather about hurting Clinton’s poll numbers. The integrity of an investigation into the nature of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russians at a time, U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously concur, they were working to undermine and influence the election is not as important as safeguarding Trump’s claim to legitimacy.

McCarthy has good political instincts, let there be no doubt. He hitched his wagon to the Trump campaign at a time when many prominent Republicans were still eyeing the nominee-to-be with a mixture of dread and distrust. Speaker Paul Ryan, one of McCarthy’s closest allies, was chief among them.

McCarthy saw something none of them saw. Not the Republican establishment, not Reagan conservatives, not pollsters, not the press. And he seems to have been rewarded with access and influence.

His loyalty, however, may come with a price: the perception that he serves the president’s interests above other, more basic obligations. McCarthy would undoubtedly bristle at that suggestion, perhaps with the same annoyance he betrays when one brings up “My Kevin,” an endearment Trump recently coined within earshot of a Washington Post reporter.

But changing his opinion within the span of an hour on the question of Sessions’ recusal has the odor of that sort of loyalty.

Reach

The Californian’s Robert Price at rprice@bakersfield.com. The views expressed here are his own.

(5) comments

Jpb1055

The “all too common” beliefs of the liberal left are “all too common” in this article. A politician has the right to change his mind, whether a week or 1 hour later. The facts are, the liberal’s strategy is to have the focus of fixing this country redirected to other issues that are the “all too common” agenda of the liberals. This is what anarchists do. From disrupting and intimidating Republication politicians at town hall meetings, to Organizing for Action events supported by Mr. Obama that are meant to cause chaos, to the continuing Democratic stall tactics on appointing President Trumps cabinet choices, to articles like this that have little news worthiness (more space fillers).

Stephen

Hatchimal (who or what ever he/she/it is) and GaryJohns’s comments reflect the all too common notion among conservatives that anything that doesn’t affirm the fiction they believe is wrong, false, out of context or something else.

In response to unpleasant but factual information the all too common right wing notion is to shoot the messenger. Sorry but that’s what’s wrong with what passes for discourse in this time.

Price’s observations are factual and dead on the issue. So own it.

Daleman

Facts just seem to bounce off of the right wing bubble.

Hatchimal

If the article wrote itself it would most likely be better than Mr. Price's opinion. There is a reason others at the TBC win awards and you do not. Shallow observational journalism isn't special.

GaryJohns

More of the worthless drivel that we have come to expect from TBC. Mr. Price, do your knees ever heal...?

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