Let me state right at the start that I don't have much interest in this "showdown" for the House Speakership. Representative Chaffetz (R-UT3) is about ten points more conservative than Representative McCarthy (R-CA23) on the ACU scale, but Chaffetz was also John Boehner's hatchetman when the outgoing Speaker ordered Mark Meadows (R-NC11) sacked from his House Government Reform & Oversight subcommittee chairmanship back during the Trade Promotion Authority scrum, so I'm not convinced that Tea Partiers are as enthusiastic about Chaffetz's candidacy as they're belatedly trying to let on. And, of course, being ten or so points more conservative than the House Majority Leader would make Chaffetz about as conservative as....John Boehner, whom TPers couldn't wait to get rid of in favor of....Kevin McCarthy. This is the kind of master strategizing that is deluding them into believing that either Chaffetz or the hapless Daniel Webster (R-FL10) has a prayer against McCarthy in the first place.
No, this is a backfilling way of addressing the kind of rapier PR acumen we can expect from the next House Speaker:
[McCarthy] drew fire from colleagues last week when he implied a Republican-led probe of 2012's Benghazi attack was aimed at hurting Democrat Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy. He said his words were misinterpreted.
And, indeed, they were. Which is what tends to happen when you compose your words so clumsily and stupidly. I know what McCarthy was trying to say - that Hillary Clinton is a criminal running an ongoing criminal conspiracy in blatant disregard for and defiance of federal law, wantonly endangering national security by subordinating it to her Nixonian veil of personal secrecy, and that cannot help but have a negative political impact on her presidential bid. And Trey Gowdy's House Select Committee on Benghazigate was the investigative entity that shook lose the pebbles that have become the Emailgate avalanche. All of that is simply straight-forward factual.
The problem is that none of this needed to be said, especially by the incoming House Speaker. In media interviews it is possible, even for Republicans, to "punt" without saying anything "soundbite-", much less "headline-", worthy. McCarthy's antennae should have perked right up at that question and he should have given the requisite non-answer in order to avoid taking the heat off of Mrs. Clinton, even for a single newscycle.
Instead, he blurted the above and breathed new life into the Empress's "vast rightwing conspiracy" rantings. It was a most decidedly unforced error, and one that hardly boosts confidence in the next holder of the Big Gavel.
But it's also not going to keep McCarthy from the Big Gavel, either. Something for which I hope Tea Partiers are prepared.
Especially since they will be more responsible for it than anybody other than John Boehner himself.