House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tends to go out of his way to agree with Donald Trump, even if it means publicly contradicting himself. When the Republican congressman does the opposite, as he did yesterday, it stands out. The Washington Post reported:
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) declined to echo Donald Trump’s praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a rare break by the top House Republican with the former president. “I do not think anything’s savvy or genius about Putin,” McCarthy told reporters at his weekly news conference when asked about Trump’s comments.
It was two weeks ago when the former American president praised Putin’s efforts in Ukraine as “genius” and “very savvy” in a podcast interview. Ever since, a variety of Republicans, including senators like Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, have been too afraid of Trump to criticize his rhetoric.
McCarthy was nevertheless willing to take a different position.
At the same press conference, a reporter asked the House minority leader whether he agreed with former Vice President Mike Pence, who said last week, “There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin.”
McCarthy replied yesterday, “Yeah.”
To be sure, the California congressman did not reference Trump by name. But his public comments were notable because of the larger context, which McCarthy surely understood: Trump used specific adjectives to praise the Russian leader, and the House GOP leader explicitly rejected those same words yesterday. Pence sent a rhetorical shot across Trump’s bow, and then McCarthy sided with the former vice president.
I’m not suggesting the minority leader should be nominated for a Profile in Courage Award, but in Republican politics in 2022, this represented a rare instance in which McCarthy was willing to be seen as publicly breaking with Trump’s script.
What the former president might do about it remains to be seen.
Let’s not forget that early last year, McCarthy found himself in Trump’s doghouse. It reached the point that the House GOP leader felt compelled to travel to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the proverbial ring in the hopes of remaining in the former president’s good graces.
Will McCarthy now have to make another trip?