All of these things were allowed to fly in today’s GOP. Often, the party leaders’ initial unease gives way to powerlessness or an unwillingness to respond – or even buy-in to provocations, in the name of owning the libs.
But for once, a Republican member of Congress seems to have stumbled upon a hard line: allowing people to believe that some members of his party might be sexually promiscuous or use drugs.
McCarthy reported that he gave his colleague a lengthy bashing. He said Cawthorn admitted the stories weren’t strictly true. He also indicated that Cawthorn needed to rethink his life choices and straighten himself out. And he even hinted at the potential consequences if it didn’t happen.
“There are a lot of different things that can happen,” McCarthy said. “But I just told him he lost my trust. He will have to win it back. I mean, it has a lot of very upset members.
The No. 2 House Republican, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), was also fairly candid about the consequences that could arise.
Whip Steve Scalise of their meeting with Cawthorn says, “We’ve expressed real concern with some of the things he’s been doing recently. And obviously the balls in his court in terms of response, but we were very clear about the concerns we had – and many other members too.
— Olivia Beavers (@Olivia_Beavers) March 30, 2022
It is likely that Cawthorn’s other recent comments – when he called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky a “thug” – contributed to this. But McCarthy’s reaction is a pretty stark contrast to the way he recently treated his caucus members at a white nationalist conference.
Yes, McCarthy berated Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul A. Gosar (R-Arizona), calling their decision “appalling” and “unacceptable” — comments that were, by McCarthy’s standards. , quite severe. But as he publicly detailed his talks with Cawthorn on Wednesday, he repeatedly refused to press the issue so openly, or so forcefully, with Greene and Gosar.
After a meeting with Greene, there was no mention of loss of trust or redress. Pretty much all McCarthy would say about it was that Greene would no longer be attending the conference. He refused to discuss the consequences. He even repeated that Greene and Gosar, who had previously been kicked out of their committees by Democrats, would be allowed to join the committees if Republicans won a majority in Congress.
The reasons for these divergent approaches are quite obvious.
Although Cawthorn has some sort of constituency in the GOP, he hasn’t rallied Trump’s base in much the same way Greene has. Trying to knock him down in line is less likely to backfire on McCarthy – who constantly pays attention to his right flank.
But perhaps the main reason is that – unlike attending a white nationalist conference, apparently – it’s something McCarthy members really did not like. No one wants their constituents back home to believe the “House of Cards” cartoon (which was the starting point for Cawthorn’s comments) – that there are a bunch of deviants representing them in Washington. His comments may not have referenced any of them individually, but they have to be careful of their collective reputation.
“You should have to name names if you’re going to make these kind of brushstroke accusations and attack the character of people in this institution or… anyone else in this town,” an unnamed Republican said. at Politico.
We were also talking about more serious consequences.
“He’ll have to be careful because he’ll end up being judged,” Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.) said.
Womack even hinted at wanting to take Cawthorn out: “If it’s, ‘Hey, don’t do that, again,’ we’ve been there. Frankly, if western North Carolina doesn’t solve the problem, the leaders will have to do it.
They have indeed “been there”. It’s just that the sense of urgency to fix the problem – and the enforcement mechanisms – are quite different this time around.