Talking Points

Kevin McCarthy chooses sabotage

Republicans couldn't stop a congressional inquiry into the Jan. 6 insurrection. So now it looks like they're going to try to wreck it from the inside.

CNN reported Wednesday morning that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has given up on the notion of boycotting the select investigative committee created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: Instead, he plans to recommend some GOP members for the panel. But the idea isn't to help get to the bottom of what happened during the attack on Jan. 6 — it's to create a "counternarrative" so that Republicans don't get all the blame for a problem that we already know was created by a Republican president, Donald Trump, and enabled by GOP stalwarts like McCarthy himself. He reportedly hopes to pin some responsibility on Pelosi for failing to do more to secure the Capitol.

It is worth investigating why the Capitol wasn't better defended. But it's also true that McCarthy's strategy amounts to an ugly bit of victim blaming — an attempt to shift the onus of the crime away from the violent rioters who attacked Congress, and the reality-rejecting president who incited them. And that approach provides more evidence that Republicans don't see Jan. 6 as a crisis point for American democracy, but as just another political problem to be managed, mitigated and obscured, hopefully in a way that puts a dent in Democrats.

McCarthy, you'll remember, had a chance to help create a truly bipartisan commission — even delegating Rep. John Katko (R-N.Y.) to strike a deal with Democrats — but ended up opposing the effort. (The proposal was ultimately killed by Senate Republicans.) That only cleared the way for Pelosi to appoint the select committee, and that leaves McCarthy at a disadvantage: He can recommend GOP members, but Pelosi has made it clear she has veto power over potential bomb-throwers like, say, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

That means Republicans will be limited in the amount of trouble they can make for the investigation. Still, McCarthy's choices are sobering. The man who so desperately wants to be House Speaker could have been a full partner in protecting American democracy. Instead, he and his GOP colleagues have chosen to be pests.