I've had only one opportunity in the past year to gauge Kevin McCarthy's reaction to his nickname, bestowed on him by a man for whom nicknames generally reflect some degree of disdain. At first sniff, Donald Trump's "My Kevin" pet name for the House majority leader would seem to reflect a certain affection. But McCarthy's visible shudder when I asked him about the alias last August bespeaks a different sort of relationship. Something more akin to pet and master.

Nobody wants that sort of perception following him around. Trump might like the idea of fawning subservience across all branches of government, but in his leadership role McCarthy needs to project independence.

But I see no light between the president and the majority leader. None. Trump has alienated allies, embraced despots and established new lows for candor and McCarthy has either voiced support or said nothing at all. And, for the most part, he's gotten a pass on it.

No passes this time. Trump has ordered that children be separated from their detained, border-crossing parents and placed in encampments. The policy has drawn condemnation from every corner of the U.S. political world, from the five living first ladies to elected members of his own party; from conservative commentators like Bill O'Reilly and Hugh Hewitt (a fervent supporter of the president who calls this Trump's "Katrina") to a bipartisan group of 75 former U.S. attorneys.

Where does McCarthy stand? Beats me. My repeated efforts to get a statement on the issue from his congressional office whiffed.

McCarthy should oppose this despicably heartless and unproductive policy for obvious humanitarian reasons. Pulling a frightened, crying child from his mother's arms — it sounds melodramatic, but it's happening — isn't just cruel, it reveals a leadership mindset that hearkens to times and places in human history we would prefer to forget — but must remember. We should want no part of it, and McCarthy, a decent family man, should want no part of it either.

Apart from ethical considerations — as if any other consideration really matters — McCarthy should oppose this disastrous policy on the basis of political pragmatism: It's a loser.

McCarthy's job description has a lot of bulleted duties, but the first three are obvious and non-negotiable. 1. Keep the House majority. 2. Keep the House majority. 3. Keep the House majority. McCarthy is very good at this, too: Read the polls and the district tea leaves, determine where to best allot financial and other resources, coach up your vulnerable incumbents and promising challengers, and try not to step in anything bad.

McCarthy should be concerned on that last count. Hewitt is correct: We'll be seeing images of caged toddlers in political ads any day now, if they're not out already, and Trump has facilitated those photo ops with this self-inflicted crisis.

We're seeing some of the evidence already here in McCarthy country: Rep. David Valado, whose 21st Congressional District borders McCarthy's 23rd on the north, issued a statement about the child-separation activity Monday: "While we must work towards a solution that reduces the occurrence of illegal border crossings," he wrote in an emailed statement, "it is unacceptable to separate young children from their parents."

That didn't stop his Democratic challenger, T.J. Cox, from chiming in Tuesday: "David Valadao and House Republicans have forgotten about our ethical obligations. They are sitting on the sidelines, allowing this administration to use children as a bargaining chip to build Trump’s wall.” Imagine the rhetoric rising from contested districts where the Republican incumbent has, unlike Valadao, endorsed the separation policy.

McCarthy could lead House Republicans away from this no-win morass by voicing reservations about, if not outright opposition to, Trump's separation policy, thereby giving each of them space to do the same if they choose. He could help his party reclaim a piece of the high ground by defending the basic human dignity of some of the most vulnerable people on the planet today.

"My Kevin" would never do such a thing, though. Which is another reason House Majority Leader McCarthy should do it.

Contact The Californian’s Robert Price at 661-395-7399, rprice@bakersfield.com or on Twitter: @stubblebuzz. His column appears on Sundays, Wednesdays and Saturdays; the views expressed are his own.

(20) comments

GaryJohns

Once again, Bobby....If illegals voted Republican… you Democrats would all be down at the border with pitchforks and clubs….

Totryisnottobe

Your emotional opinions bring nothing to this conversation. Please leave or contribute based on the facts!

Citizen Kane

Does the BC actualy PAY this clown price for his drivel-spittlings like this? He needs to go work for ZNN or MSNBC it seems. Does this guy even live in Kern County? Lets hope NOT.

Totryisnottobe

CK cannot argue the facts so he resorts to ad hominems. The good citizens of Kern County deserve better!

Sheebe

Was ok for Obama to do the same thing isn't it. Trump is not the one that made this policy. These kids need to be sent back home. They are illegal period. To many bleeding hearts. I cannot stand McCarthy but he is better than a liberal. Never liked him. They cannot put those kids in jail with their parents. Illegals need to go home. Stop sucking off of our resources. Which is it? Took a lot of Americans to finally understand that illegals are draining resources that are ours. Not theirs. What country has a open border? Trump is enforcing what Obama enforced.

Ray West

The Obama administration NEVER deliberately took children away from their parents and put them in cages. The photos circulating were of unaccompanied minors (without parents or any other adult) who showed up at the border en masse in 2014. and the officials on the spot had to deal with It. It was never a policy of any U.S. administration, whether Bush, Clinton or Obama to take children away from their parents, until the Trump administration.

Totryisnottobe

The hate among Kern county republicans is evident. They are choosing their party over our great nation. Their replies are regurgitated talking points that are found on other conservative talking points. They ignore facts and willfully believe in lies. Shame on them! They have completely lost it.

mrdwm1

True. But perhaps the Californian should mention the role of the Obama administration in enacting this policy, and their numbers of children involved, and what's become of them.
And since this current media hoopla is obviously designed to detract attention from the criminal behavior of the FBI under Obama, perhaps it would be good to spend some column on that as well?

Totryisnottobe

Faux news is an entertainment network. They spread propaganda. It is shame people have forgotten how to think critically.

REMUDA

"Bill O'Reilly and Hugh Hewitt" . . . ? Irrelevant Trump "support-tears" . . . ? Unmentionables . . . ! Trump likes "My Kevin" (OUR Kevin), as Kev's never denigrated Donald as Ryan has . . . ("Never Ryan" . . . "Never Again" . . . Bitching Mouse . . . Ditching House . . . !) Oh . . . & BTW, Clinton, "My Dubya" and "Barry" all initiated and signed this order . . . as Trump has attempted to modify it . . . "With Heart" . . . !

Bobby-boy, ole buddy, get real and see the 'forest' thru YOUR 'weeds' with what's up South of the Border with kidnapped kids as pawns in this game of "SANCTUARY INVASION" that even (double-tonguing, tw0-faced) Schumer opposed early on. Oh yeah . . . and remember Elian Gonzalez? Or are you really as lame & inane as your "reads" . . . !

Semper Fi . . . ! . . . ?

Sheebe

Perfectly stated

Churchillis1

Ah yes, the age old practice of blaming law enforcement for the crimes of the parents. Well played, Bakersfield Californian. Well played.

Opinions are not FACTS

Please tell me where it states that Amenesty is illegal? If you were seeking Amnesty would you not bring your own children if you have them? And please don't conflate illegal boarder crossings with seeking Amnesty.

Wim Laven

Seeking asylum is completely legal... your ignorance is what is timeless.

rprice Staff
rprice

Churchillis, my column makes no reference whatsoever to law enforcement. I’m sure border agents are doing their jobs, as directed, with excellent professionalism. The issue is the policy makers.

Churchillis1

I see you need a little education on our Constitutional government. We have three branches, Judicial, Legislative and Executive. The Legislative makes the law. The Executive executes such law. So, DHS and even the President is constitutionally bound to enforce the law (a lesson our former "Constitutional Professor" President seems to have missed). Amnesty seekers who do not come through a port of entry are illegally breaching our border. This is a criminal act and the Executive branch is constitutionally bound to enforce the law.
So, the appropriate question for McCarthy is "Would you like to change the law?" Asking him to comment on how existing law is enforced. as though he should merely demand the president continue to act as lawlessly as his predecessor, is a political game and we both know it.

Totryisnottobe

Entering the United States without proper documentation is a federal misdemeanor. Children should not be taken from their parents for committing a misdemeanor! The President simply wants funding for a US taxpayer funded wall that Mexico WILL NOT pay for. Remember that lie? The president barked about how Mexico was going to for a wall.

Other federal misdemeanors include transportation of water hyacinths, using the "Smokey Bear" name, mailing lottery tickets, injuring protected trees, false weather reports, failure to obtain honeybee licenses, failure of maintenance records by wool farmers, distributing small amounts of marijuana, and liquor sales to members of the Armed forces.

Keep the families together! Stop spending unnecessary tax payer money on building inhumane detaining facilities!

This is a racist and xenophobic policy. There is no law that requires the United States to separate families. This is a policy decision on part of nazi sympathizer Stephen Miller and klan sympathizer Jeff Sessions.

If Kevin has a soul in his decrepit body and any bit of morality left in his decaying mind, he will publicly denounce this inhumane and Nazi-style policy.

Churchillis1

"You know the definition of a racist? Any conservative winning an argument."
-Thomas Sowell

Citizen Kane

Stephen Miller is JEWISH you anti-semite! How DARE you call him a nazi you ignorant racist xenophobe jew-hating nazi punk! You are the Klan here xenohobe anti-semite! Shame on you!

Totryisnottobe

Maybe if your reading comprehension was beyond the tenth grade level, we could engage in civilized and meaningful communication. I did not call nazi sympathizer Stephen Miller a Nazi. The racist and xenophobic inspired policy was pushed by nazi sympathizer Stephen Miller and Klan supporter Jeff Sessions. That is a FACT!

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