April 12, 2024

Dark Wolf’s need

Today’s Events in Historical Perspective                                                                     
America’s Longest-Running Column Founded 1932
A Dark Wolf’s need
By Douglas Cohn and Eleanor Clift         
          WASHINGTON — Everyone wants to be liked; some people need to be liked. It is a psychological need. They have no enemies because they follow the well-trod path of their type: They go along to get along. The question is whether or not newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., is one of them.
          He was not a household name, not even on Capitol Hill before being elected to a job with awesome responsibilities. First elected in 2016, he has never chaired a committee, much less met with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., with whom he will be working to advance Republican priorities in negotiations next month to keep the government funded, and to provide critical aid to America’s allies, Israel and Ukraine. The ultimate Dark Horse Speaker, he is also a wolf in sheep’s clothing – so, perhaps more accurately dubbed a Dark Wolf Speaker.
          Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who initiated the musical chairs by ousting McCarthy, crowned Johnson “MAGA Mike” and said his election was proof that former Pres. Donald Trump dominates the Republican Party and “MAGA is ascendant,” which is why Democrats warn against getting fooled by Johnson’s affable demeanor. He is just as hard Right as the others, but unlike former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and Representatives Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan and Tom Emmer, the failed contenders for the job, Johnson has no known enemies.
          He learned the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable. He is Jim Jordan without the bombast, but unlike the former Ohio State wrestling coach, Johnson puts a premium on likeability. It is a key to his character, and it gives the Democrats leverage to work with him.
          As Speaker, it is within his sole power to decide which bills to bring to the floor for a vote, and which bills to let die. His predecessor, Speaker McCarthy, was ousted for collaborating with Democrats and passing a CR (continuing resolution) to keep the government funded with more Democratic votes than Republican.
          Will Republicans give Mister Congeniality more running room to get critical legislation passed with the help of Democrats? Maybe.
          Meanwhile, step back and consider this man just installed as Speaker, second in line after the Vice President to become President should that terrible need arise. He was part of a broad effort to overturn the 2020 election. He echoed the Big Lie advanced by Trump, and he recruited more than 60 percent of the Republican conference to sign onto an amicus brief supporting a lawsuit filed in Texas to overturn the election in other states. The Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit for lack of standing.
          Behind Johnson’s pleasant exterior is a socially conservative lawyer with years of experience at age 51 with anti-gay rights and anti-abortion activism. The Right will expect him to bring a federal abortion ban to the House floor for a vote.
          However, he has gotten some blowback about remarks he made about the death of George Floyd in 2020 at the hands of police officers. Johnson called the horrific death murder and addressed the role of systemic racism based on personal experience having adopted a 14-year-old African American boy who is now in his thirties.
          Putting issues and past actions aside, we must return to the current issue that matters most: his need to be liked. That was easy enough to accomplish in his bright red Louisiana district and within the Republican House Conference. Now, as Speaker of the whole House, he must mollify House Democrats without offending Republicans. The easiest way to achieve this is to accede to Democratic demands to bring bipartisan legislation to the House floor for a vote even if the majority of House Republicans are in opposition. It would be the end of the informal Hastert Rule that only legislation supported by a majority of House Republicans can be brought to the floor.
          While performing this act of political treason he could vociferously side with the Republican Conference on an issue while explaining the moral need to allow up and down votes on bipartisan legislation. Tests are coming: funds for Ukraine, the CR, and others. This may all be fantasy, or it may be the result of one man’s psychological need, a need that would redound to the benefit of the nation.
          Eleanor Clift’s latest book Selecting a President, and Douglas Cohn’s latest books The President’s First Year: The Only School for Presidents Is the Presidency and World War 4: Nine Scenarios (endorsed by seven flag officers).
          Twitter:  @douglas_cohn
          © 2023 U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.
          Distributed by U.S. News Syndicate, Inc.

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