Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bleaker Speaker

Fujiwara Michinaga (966-1027). Michinaga was so powerful that he never even needed to assume the highest positions in the government hierarchy. As the head of the Fujiwara clan, it was simply understood that he was the most powerful person in the government. Michinaga first came to power in 995, thanks to the efforts of his sister, the retired empress Akiko, who was perhaps the most powerful women in the Heian era, able to force the emperor to appoint her brother to a position of power. (Via Pennsylvania State University)
So the Congresscritters are trooping back into Washington, no doubt refreshed by their Indigenous Peoples Day holiday and the delightful crispness of the autumn weather and Senator Ted Cruz appearing on the Mr. Chuck Todd Show to inform the public that he declines to say whether Representative Ryan is a True Scotsman Conservative or not:
Alright. I wanna do two more things about this Washington. Is Paul Ryan a true conservative?
Oh, listen. I-- I-- I like Paul Ryan. He's a friend of mine. This is obviously a question that is wrapped up in the Speaker of the House-- deliberations. I have said consistently I'm gonna stay outta that....
So at a rally in Iowa last week (flanked by Charles Grassley and Steve King) Senator Cruz consistently demonstrated his intention of staying out of that by naming his own preferred candidate:
“I think the next speaker should be Mark Levin,” Cruz said, naming the conservative talk radio host who worked in the Reagan’s administration and was the chief of staff for former Attorney General Edwin Meese. (Sioux City Journal)
The National Review doesn't think this was a joke—
Don’t look for Cruz to devote significant time to drafting Levin — “it was just an off-the-cuff remark at a campaign event,” one campaign aide tells National Review — but the comment follows the logic of Cruz’s campaign through the summer, especially as he has worked to ensure a strong showing in the Iowa caucuses. For one thing, Levin has a lot of fans among the kind of highly-motivated conservatives most likely to turn out on a January day and spend hours caucusing
—but Chucky does.
[Radio fascist] Mark Levin who you joked should be-- you said, "I want Mark Levin as speaker. He"--
Mark Levin is definitely a true conservative.
But you can say that because Levin isn't really running for Speaker? Whereas Ryan, in contrast, isn't running for Speaker either? Or um what exactly?

Levin (a genuine nut who calls for the abolition of Social Security, the FDA, the FAA, and Medicare) has consistently demonstrated that he is not gonna stay out of that, by personally ordering Republican House members not to vote for Kevin McCarthy and denouncing Ryan as an "amnesty advocate along with his buddy" [Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.]. I don't know how much power Levin has to control the 40 lunatics of the House Freedom Caucus, as opposed to Senator Cruz, who actually has regular meetings with the chamber's most conservative members, planning strategy, and is sometimes thought to run the Freedom Caucus altogether. But the plot is thickening, or sickening, depending on your point of view.

What exactly is going to happen with the Speakership?

My own favorite outcome, which I have sort of been advocating in a semi-snarky way for almost three years, starts out from the premise that the Democrats have to nominate a Speaker candidate as well as the Republicans, so they'll have somebody to vote for as a caucus: Pelosi should designate a Republican for the job this year, some good old boy with some real seniority who's "conservative" in the traditional sense but understands politics well enough to recognize that it runs on pork and pandering for downhome votes instead of international energy and banking campaign contributions. My candidate, for instance, has been Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, a corrupt old skunk no doubt but known for being willing to defy the Tea Party, but I am sure there are other possibilities. Such a character might actually win the Speakership with a combination of votes from Republican members sick of being terrorized by the Freedom Caucus and Democrats holding their noses under Pelosi's orders, and might be able to run the House as the leader of a coalition, the kind of Caucus of Government that BooMan has been suggesting recently, for the rest of the Congress's term to 2017, getting the damn appropriations passed and the minimum work done without shutdowns or tantrums.

Another possibility, proposed by BooMan commenter Curtadams a couple of weeks ago, is that Boehner could stay speaker for the rest of the term. The basic threat used by the Freedom Caucus to paralyze him was that they would get him fired, and now that he's resigned and they can't agree on anybody to replace him...

"You can't fire me, I already quit!"

"But you're still on the job!"

"That's not my fault!"

Indeed, he might well have done it on purpose. Worthy of some 12th-century Japanese emperor, getting a grip on absolute power by retiring, but very Boehner-like (if he was one of the mutant X-Men his superpower would be hyperpassive aggression). Not as good an outcome as the Caucus of Government, but at least the government would limp along.

But I'm starting to wonder if the possibility of a Speaker Ted Cruz, which was floating around long before the present emergency, if mostly as snark, is starting to turn real, and signaled in some way by today's peculiar Meet the Press exercise, in which Cruz spent a lot more time talking about the House (and to a lesser extent Senate) leadership issue than he did about his own presidential campaign.

It's possible that Cruz could win the Republican nomination to the presidency, but never the office itself, if only because of his repellent personality, like that of an overheated lizard, and perhaps the old joke about making him non-member Speaker of the House appeals to him, as a way to real, prime ministerial, power. God I hope not. Stay tuned.

Cross-posted at No More Mister Nice Blog.

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