Congressman Mark Meadows: Profile in Courage - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Congressman Mark Meadows: Profile in Courage

As the Gipper might say: Here we go again. Another petty campaign of retribution against a conservative who stands up for principle.

Once upon a time Ronald Reagan used to go through this kind of thing. The GOP Establishment of the day couldn’t abide him. They didn’t want him running for governor of California (he was too extreme to win, it was explained). And they certainly didn’t want him running for president — either in 1976 or 1980. Too extreme, explained Gerald Ford himself, to ever get elected. Right.

This time the target is Republican North Carolina Congressman Mark Meadows.

Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz has suddenly decided to distinguished his time as the new chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee by turning on — conservatives. Specifically, Mark Meadows.

During the weekend the story emerged over there at Breitbart that at the direction of Speaker John Boehner — who himself has turned his speakership into a centerpiece of the anti-Reagan, anti-conservative GOP Establishment — Chaffetz had dumped North Carolinian Meadows from his chairmanship of a subcommittee. Why? Reports Breitbart’s Robert Wilde: 

Meadows and more than thirty other Republicans voted against the rule that allowed for consideration of President Obama’s request for fast-track authority (TPA) to negotiate the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).


Suddenly, Mark Meadows becomes not just a conservative but a symbol. What began as discomfort with Boehner’s tendency to shy from standing up for GOP campaign promises has now morphed into a full blown House GOP Leadership war against the GOP base that in fact made Boehner’s speakership possible in the first place.

A word here about North Carolina’s Mr. Meadows. Meadows, who has a 96 percent rating from Conservative Review, has made a name for himself as a Reagan-style conservative fearless in standing up not only for conservative principle but in standing up to the Establishment Republican machine that today, as in Reagan’s day and in Reagan’s words, operates as a “fraternal order” rather than a political principle.

Whether the issue is defunding of Obamacare, the secrecy and parliamentary maneuvering surrounding Obamatrade, the refusal to take on executive amnesty or use the power of the purse and more, Boehner has not simply fled the field of battle — he has openly sided with the President. Raising the obvious question with the grass roots: why should the GOP have a House majority in the first place if they aren’t going to use it?

Meadows is one of those unfortunately rare GOP House members who has had the courage to stand up and be counted — who believes it is his job to represent his North Carolina constituents in Washington rather than represent the House GOP leadership to his constituents. And make no mistake, that is exactly why he is being punished by Chaffetz — who doubtless would be threatened with the loss of his own chairmanship if he didn’t do as instructed by Boehner.

There is, in the Washington vernacular, a saying called “going native.” It means that over time a congressman or senator stops representing their district and begins representing Washington — specifically the tangled web of powerful lobbyists whose sole objective is to keep moving the government left in a fashion that includes a big pay day for the lobbyists and another cycle of contributions to favored politicians. To stand up to this business is to inevitably draw the wrath of the “natives” — and like clockwork Mark Meadows has been targeted by a collection of the “natives ” precisely for standing up to all of this out-of-control slurping at the federal trough.

Case in point is that franchise of the Washington Cartel known as the American Action Network (AAN). (Note: by chance Senator Ted Cruz is set to address the topic of “The People vs. The Washington Cartel: Restoring Liberty in the Age of Cronyism”in a June 24th Heritage Foundation speech — so a hat tip. After learning of the treatment of Mark Meadows Senator Cruz tweeted, “What happened to @RepMarkMeadows is shameful. No one should be punished for voting his or her conscience.” Amen.) As seen here, a former Boehner chief of staff is tied to the AAN, and other players are all tied in to the Washington in-to-government-out-to-the lobbyist revolving door. Their income depends on defeating the conservative agenda with a Washington cronyism agenda — and in this case they chose to make an example of Congressman Meadows, who has the audacity to stand up and try to get the country out of this mess.

The Boehner/Chaffetz targeting of Meadows is a reminder that once upon a time another Republican Speaker of the House so overplayed his hand that he set in motion not only a rebellion inside the House GOP-controlled House but in the presidential election that followed.

The Speaker in question was Joseph G. (“Uncle Joe”) Cannon, he whose name adorns today’s Cannon House office building.

In the day (1910) Cannon had been ruling the House with the kind of iron fist that Boehner would love to have. Cannon’s “regulars” faced off against newer, younger (and liberal!) restless Republicans who could not abide his autocratic ways. Rebellion was plotted — a difficult task precisely because Cannon was so powerful and had spies everywhere. The plotters, “Insurgents” as they were called, combined with Democrats and while they failed in removing him they weakened Cannon’s grip inside the House by, in the words of one biographer, reducing “the stature of the Speaker more than a little.” The voters of 1910 provided the coup de grâce, removing the GOP from control of the House, period. The two actions together foreshadowed the split between Teddy Roosevelt and William Howard Taft in the 1912 GOP convention, followed by TR’s third party candidacy and the eventual election of Democrat Woodrow Wilson.

Which is another way of saying that the Boehner-run House is setting itself up to become not only an issue for House Republicans in 2016 but an issue in the GOP 2016 presidential race. Forcing Republican candidates to start taking sides in the kind of fight that has just zeroed in on Mark Meadows. And doing so precisely because Boehner has cast the GOP House as just one tool of the Washington Establishment status quo.

Decades ago a young Senator John F. Kennedy, then a rapidly rising star of the Democrats, won acclaim — and a Pulitzer Prize — by writing a book on political courage, aptly named Profiles in Courage. The book featured courageous United States Senators of both parties who had refused to bow to pressure and threats by constituents or special interests to violate their conscience. JFK concluded the book by saying that

….true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people — faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment — faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor and ultimately recognize right.…

To be courageous, these stories make clear, requires no exceptional qualifications, no magic formula, no special combination of time, place and circumstance. It is an opportunity that sooner or later is presented to us all. Politics merely furnishes one arena which imposes special tests of courage. In whatever arena of life one may meet the challenge of courage, whatever may be the sacrifices he faces if he follows his conscience — the loss of his friends, his fortune, his contentment, even the esteem of his fellow men — each man must decide for himself the course he will follow. The stories of past courage can define that ingredient — they can teach, they can offer hope, they can provide inspiration. But they cannot supply courage itself. For this each man must look into his own soul.

It is, in its own way, ironic. Mark Meadows has been targeted by a power-hungry Speaker in a move that will continue to damage the Speaker and now, along with it, the image of Jason Chaffetz, who had the opportunity to do so much better than this.

But in the end, the call to courage is an individual call. And in the case of Congressman Mark Meadows, when the call came he never flinched and stood up for principle, the loss of a subcommittee chairmanship be damned.

Which is exactly what makes Congressman Meadows a profile in courage.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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