This is an excerpt from Outtakes, a Globe Opinion newsletter from columnist Renée Graham. Sign up to get this in your inbox a day early.
After starting 2023 with an ugly five-day, 15-round cage match with the House Republicans’ “Chaos Caucus,” Kevin McCarthy bartered away the desiccated remains of his soul to become House speaker. Nine months later, he’s a speaker without a voice — except to parrot whatever partisan tantrum his party’s extremists have scripted for him. McCarthy isn’t a leader. He’s a stooge who’s down for anything because he has the shiny toy he always wanted even if he holds nothing more than a hollowed out title in his undeserving hands.
That now includes an impeachment inquiry of President Biden. Never mind that there’s no evidence whatsoever that there’s any reason for an impeachment inquiry of the president. But guided by Donald Trump, his Mar-a-Lago puppet master, as well as constant threats of being ousted from the speakership by extremists, McCarthy unilaterally announced Tuesday an investigation that he knows has no merit beyond temporarily staving off the GOP’s insatiable wolves by tossing them the red meat they crave.
This is the same McCarthy who, in 2019, tweeted that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi couldn’t “decide on impeachment unilaterally. It requires a full vote of the House of Representatives.” At the time, Pelosi was considering an impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump after he pressured President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine during an infamous phone call to launch a phony investigation linking Biden, then a Democratic presidential candidate, to his son Hunter’s business dealings abroad.
In that case, there was clear evidence of wrongdoing by Trump. McCarthy has none against Biden. But facing Republican threats of a government shutdown and a warning from extremist ringleader Republican Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida who chastised the speaker for “being out of compliance with the agreement that allowed you to assume this role,” McCarthy did what he claimed less than two weeks ago that he wouldn’t do — order an impeachment inquiry without a floor vote. Even some Republicans are openly grousing about an investigation that still doesn’t have any factual basis to justify it.
On the site formerly known as Twitter, Democratic Representative Adam Schiff of California summed it up this way in a post: “McCarthy’s reading of the Impeachment Clause: The President shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or … when the Speaker, lacking moral authority or control over his members, can’t remain speaker or fund the government without it.”
Of course, McCarthy also lacks the moral authority to defy Trump, who’s been working the phones and pushing Republicans to impeach Biden. “They did it to us,” Trump posted on his little social media site last month. (“Us” means him, as in he was impeached. Twice. With lots of evidence.)
So as the nation faces serious issues, like the destructive impact of human-driven climate catastrophes, we’ll have to endure this rightwing-driven dog and pony show to slake Trump’s need for vengeance and McCarthy’s selfish ambitions.
Don’t call McCarthy a hostage. Hostages are unwilling captives who want to be free. To become speaker, McCarthy negotiated with his party’s terrorists, surrendered his autonomy, walked into a cell shaped like the speaker’s chair, and tossed the only key to those who now control him. Instead, call this craven man what he is — a servile accomplice in this nation’s relentless unmooring from democracy.