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GOP's Kevin McCarthy plays fast and loose with recent events

Last week, McCarthy conceded Trump "bears responsibility" for helping instigate the deadly insurrectionist attack. Today, he said largely the opposite.
Image: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at a news conference near the Capitol on March 13, 2019.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., at a news conference near the Capitol on March 13, 2019.Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images file

It's been 11 weeks since Election Day 2020, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) has struggled over this period, both with the politics and the reality of the results.

The trouble started almost immediately: the California Republican helped lead the partisan charge against the will of the voters, insisting that Donald Trump won the election he'd lost, endorsing efforts to nullify election results through the courts, and even voting against certification of President Joe Biden's electoral college victory.

This, naturally, infuriated McCarthy's Democratic colleagues, who expected someone in his leadership position to be more responsible (and more patriotic).

Last week, the House GOP leader helped lead the charge against Trump's impeachment, though he conceded that Trump "bears responsibility" for helping instigate the attack on the U.S. Capitol a week earlier. McCarthy, apparently trying to appear reasonable, added that Biden "won the election."

This, naturally, infuriated Trump, who expected someone in his leadership position to show absolute, genuflecting fealty.

Yesterday, McCarthy declared as part of the inaugural festivities, "As leaders, we are judged not by our words, but by our actions." That's true, though it wasn't helpful -- since McCarthy's actions of late have been cringe-worthy.

Today, they got just a little worse. Politico reported:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday he does not believe former President Donald Trump incited the riot at the Capitol earlier this month, pivoting away from comments he made last week that the president bore some responsibility for the assault. "I don't believe he provoked it if you listen to what he said at the rally," McCarthy (R-Calif.) told reporters.

First, we've all listened to what he said at the pre-riot gathering. It's one of the reasons last week's impeachment vote was the largest and most bipartisan in American history.

Second, McCarthy presumably listened to what Trump said at the rally because he's the one who said -- out loud, on camera, while on the House floor -- that Trump "bears responsibility" for helping instigate the deadly insurrectionist attack.

Evidently, we're supposed to see a meaningful distinction between a president "bearing responsibility" for a riot and "provoking" a riot, but it seems like a distinction without a difference.

For good measure, TPM reported that the House minority leader also said, "What I voted on wasn't to overturn an election — because it wouldn't. It would not overturn."

McCarthy was referring to Congress' vote to ratify the president's electoral victory. The Republican leader may see value in spinning his own anti-election efforts, but if he's expecting others to take his rhetoric seriously, he's likely to be disappointed.

Politico's Tim Alberta added yesterday, "[A] simple apology, an admission of wrongdoing, would go a long way toward moving this country forward. Without any hint of repentance, McCarthy's yuck-it-up routine is indecent and offensive."