The puppet now running the House Skip to content

The puppet now running the House

In the end, Matt Gaetz and his buds told McCarthy to jump, and he asked “How high?”

2 min read
(left) Charlie McCarthy and Edgar Bergen; (right) Kevin McCarthy and Matt Gaetz (McCarthy-Bergen photo [public domain] via Wikimedia Commons; faces in derived photo on the right taken from official photos [publc domain])

Kevin McCarthy is the new Charlie McCarthy.

Unless you’re 50ish or older, you might not know Charlie was famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen’s beloved dummy. Speaker McCarthy is all set to play the same role for the House Coup Caucus, which the Lincoln Project’s Tara Setmayer described on MSNBC as “democracy deniers” and enablers of “the malignancy of Trumpism.”

To get the gavel, McCarthy evidently caved on most, if not all, of their demands, including one that makes it easier to dump a speaker.

He “eagerly ... fired his spine into outer space to become Speaker of the House,” wrote Esquire’s Charles P. Pierce.

Bergen and Charlie enjoyed a long, celebrated career in vaudeville, radio, TV, and the movies. I remember seeing them on The Ed Sullivan Show.

After Bergen died in 1978, Charlie went to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. He’s on display in his familiar formal attire, including a monocle and top hat.

If the Coup Caucus judges McCarthy insufficiently spineless and ousts him, his fate won’t be as happy as Charlie’s. He'll likely be vilified as a RINO and primaried in 2024.

Anyway, before McCarthy eked out a win on the 15th ballot, The New York Times’s Michelle Goldberg wrote that by “bowing first to Trump and then to [Coup Caucus star Majorie Taylor] Greene, all McCarthy has done is show other Republicans how much there is to gain from pushing him around.”

In her piece headlined, “Leopards Eat Kevin McCarthy's Face,”  Goldberg warned that “almost no one who has sold his or her soul to Trump has come out ahead. (The jury is still out on Republican conference chair Elise Stefanik.) The reason these deals with the devil always go bad, I suspect, isn’t metaphysical. It’s simply that Trump sycophants are ultimately undermined by their weak and flabby character.”

She concluded that “McCarthy's Republican opponents are right in surmising that he believes in nothing and will yield under pressure; the evidence is his inability to stand up to them. His mistake was convincing himself that a party obsessed with dominance would reward submission.”

The Coup Caucus did reward McCarthy for his submission. He’ll be fine as long as he plays Charlie McCarthy. Just as Charlie’s words were Bergen’s words, Kevin’s words better be those of the Coup Caucus, a.k.a. “the Angry Children’s Brigade,” according to Pierce.

McCarthy's first big test as speaker comes today when the whole House votes on the rules package, which is chock full of McCarthy’s concessions to the Coup Caucus/Angry Children's Brigade.

In a Jan. 3 New Yorker article headlined “BEHIND THE HUMILIATION OF KEVIN McCARTHY,” John Cassidy provided a good hint about what we’re likely to see in the new Republican-majority House: “Over the past few decades, the G.O.P. has gone from being a ruthless and disciplined party of limited government and trickle-down economics to a party of anti-government protest to, now, a party of performative verbiage – in which the likes of Gaetz and Boebert (and, of course, Trump) are far more interested in boosting their follower count, raising money, and appearing on ‘The Sean Hannity Show’ or Newsmax than they are in governance.”

Charlie — er, Kevin — will fit right in.


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY