The headline at Fox News read this way:
Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw blasts anti-McCarthy Republicans: ‘tired of your stupid platitudes’
House Republicans flailed through a second day of fruitless balloting, unable to elect McCarthy as House Speaker or come up with a new strategy
The story reported this of the Texas Republican congressman as the Kevin-McCarthy-for-speaker brouhaha unfolded, bold print for emphasis supplied:
“I’m tired of your stupid platitudes that some consultant told you to say on the campaign trail, alright,” Crenshaw said of the 20 Republican defectors, according to the Washington Post’s Dylan Wells. ‘Behind closed doors tell us what you actually want, or shut the f— up.”…
Crenshaw said [that] the holdouts, “need to be men and adults and say what they want, instead of playing these little games, that’s what we’re asking.”
‘That’s what I’ve asked of them. Some of them are my friends. Stop saying platitudes like, ‘Washington is broken. We can’t do the status quo,’ he said. ‘They want to pull the pins on the grenades and lock the doors.’”
Well now. I’ve met the congressman exactly once at an American Spectator dinner. He is a very impressive guy as a stand-alone, and that’s before you get to the decided business of being a genuine American hero. A Navy Seal, he doesn’t wear that black eyepatch for no reason. He has been awarded Bronze Star medals and served not one, not two, but five tours of duty in the Middle East. His third deployment in Afghanistan resulted in losing his eye to an IED explosion. Suffice it to say, this is one very courageous American of whom his fellow Americans can have nothing but the highest respect.
So it pains to disagree, but, respectfully, his criticism of his McCarthy hold-out colleagues must be answered.
The other day in this space, I specifically addressed the work of my own congressman, Pennsylvania’s Scott Perry. Perry has been explicit in saying exactly what Crenshaw is criticizing.
“Stop saying platitudes like, ‘Washington is broken. We can’t do the status quo.”
Here is Perry on the subject:
It cannot be a surprise that expressions of vague hopes reflected in far too many of the crucial points still under debate are insufficient. This is especially true with respect to Mr. McCarthy’s candidacy for speaker because the times call for radical departure from the status quo — not a continuation of past, and ongoing, Republican failures.
No surprise here, but Perry is dead-on correct and, sadly, Crenshaw is decidedly wrong.
One wonders if Crenshaw has already been so taken in by Washington that he cannot see what is decidedly broken and what is decidedly the status quo.
In my column on Perry, I cited the late (great!) British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher thusly:
After noting that the British Labour Party “gloried in planning, regulation, controls, and subsidies,” she said this about some members of her own Tory Party:
“The Tory Party was more ambivalent. At the level of principle, rhetorically and in Opposition, it opposed these doctrines and preached the gospel of free enterprise with very little qualification. Almost every post-war Tory victory had been won on slogans such as ‘Britain Strong and Free’ or ‘Set the People Free’. But in the fine print of policy, and especially in government, the Tory Party merely pitched camp in the long march to the left. It never tried seriously to reverse it. Privatization? The Carlisle State Pubs were sold off. Taxation? Regulation? Subsidies? If these were cut down at the start of a Tory government, they gradually crept up again as its life ebbed away. The welfare state? We boasted of spending more money than Labour, not of restoring people to independence and self-reliance. The result of this style of accommodationist politics, as my colleague Keith Joseph complained, was that post-war politics became a ‘socialist ratchet’ — Labour moved Britain towards more statism; the Tories stood pat; and the next Labour Government moved the country a little further left. The Tories loosened the corset of socialism; they never removed it.”
Crenshaw appears to have fallen into precisely the accommodationist trap that Thatcher described. And all he has to do to understand that Washington is broken and that saying there is a serious problem with the status quo is seriously observant is to just take himself on a tour of Washington. As someone who lived and worked there for almost four decades, with stints on Capitol Hill, in the White House, and in a Cabinet department, let me help.
If Crenshaw would leave his office and take a good look at the physical buildings that house the U.S. Department of Education or the U.S. Department of Energy, he would see a spectacular example in the architecture of the “status quo” in Washington, D.C.
Those buildings are filled with thousands of unionized employees whose dues go to support largely one political party — the Democrats — at the very same time those employees are making it their business to regulate American education and American energy. Never mind that education is a local responsibility, tended to by thousands of American school districts and school boards. Never mind that American energy has been historically in the hands of seriously competent private energy companies.
No, both departments — which came into being in the Jimmy Carter administration — are now bureaucratic behemoths making it their business to interfere in the respective fields of education and energy.
In fact, all of Washington runs on this decidedly broken and status-quo pattern. If a congressman gets up in the morning to find his 5-year-old child with a runny nose, he will head to Capitol Hill and have his staff write legislation creating a Department of Children With Runny Noses. The legislation gets enthusiastically passed, and construction begins on another towering concrete and glass monstrosity whose massive building is filled with thousands of union federal employees.
Quickly it becomes the target of every “pro-child” lobbyist out there. Followed by more fancy restaurants and watering holes to cater to the department employees and all the new lobbyists.
And Crenshaw sees nothing wrong — make that crazy — with all of this.
As a matter of fact, while the news was out there of Crenshaw’s criticism, there was another story in the news. The headline:
Biden, McConnell, governors trumpet bipartisan funding for Ohio River bridge
And in typical “bipartisan” fashion, the photo images showed President Joe Biden with the Democratic governor of Kentucky, the Democratic senator from Ohio, the Republican governor of Ohio, the Republican senator from Ohio, and, but of course, a smiling Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
To be clear, using federal funds for infrastructure is fine. In fact, Republicans have been supporting this since, literally, they wrote their first political platform in 1856. It said:
Resolved, That a railroad to the Pacific Ocean by the most central and practicable route is imperatively demanded by the interests of the whole country, and that the Federal Government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction, and as an auxiliary thereto, to the immediate construction of an emigrant road on the line of the railroad.
Resolved, That appropriations by Congress for the improvement of rivers and harbors, of a national character, required for the accommodation and security of our existing commerce, are authorized by the Constitution, and justified by the obligation of the Government to protect the lives and property of its citizens.
But, of course, that Kentucky–Ohio bridge was not a stand-alone in a bill to finance infrastructure. It was a minute part of Biden’s almost $1.7 trillion — say again, trillion — spending bill that plunged a zillion things into the bill that had zero to do with building bridges and roads. Zero. Thus plunging the nation into even deeper debt than it already was.
That is the status quo. That is yet another quite visible sign that Washington is broken.
Yet here is Crenshaw calling out the McCarthy skeptics because they have the temerity — the nerve! — to use the speaker fight to try and make even the smallest of repairs to a broken Washington by installing a speaker who will not go along with the same-old, same-old Washington status quo.
As this is written, the headline at Fox says this:
McCarthy on track to lose 7th vote for House speaker as GOP stalemate drags into third day
By the time this is posted, events will have moved on one way or another.
But if there is one seriously good thing to come out of this fight over a Republican speaker, it should be the recognition that Scott Perry is dead-on correct when he says there is a serious problem with the status quo in a broken Washington.
And Crenshaw is seriously wrong to say these are “stupid platitudes.”
They are not — and all that Crenshaw has to do is look around the city in which he works to both see the reality and become part of the solution to do something about it.
Let the work begin.