Collins, solo

Mr. Nocera is off today, so Ms. Collins has the place to herself.  In “House Speaker Chaos Crisis Inferno” she says John Boehner’s leaving, theories abound on why Kevin McCarthy no longer wants the job, and why isn’t there a campaign to give Tom Hanks the gavel?  Here she is:

The Republican majority in the House of Representatives can’t pick a new speaker. It’s hell! Double-disaster! If things don’t get resolved the whole party could fragment, possibly creating an opportunity for the long-awaited resurrection of the Whigs.

The current debacle began when Kevin McCarthy, who was supposed to succeed Speaker John Boehner, announced “we need a new face” and suddenly bowed out. Since no one in Washington really believes we need new faces, particularly when the physiognomy in question is their own, there are other possible reasons for McCarthy’s departure:

1) Donald Trump made him quit. We have only one source for this theory, which is Guess Who. (“They’re giving me a lot of credit for that because I said you really need somebody very, very tough and very smart.”)

Jeb Bush, for what it’s worth, expressed surprised — nay, near-astonishment — about McCarthy’s announcement. The son and brother of former presidents then added that Washington “seems so removed from everyday life. It’s just — they talk about things that — they talk in language with all the acronyms and stuff that doesn’t make any sense.” People, didn’t you think these candidates would be better by now? Or gone?

2) Conservatives threatened to blow the whistle on some kind of sex scandal. All we know for sure is that Representative Walter Jones of North Carolina — the guy who made his name by demanding that French fries in the House cafeteria be renamed “freedom fries” — sent a letter to what’s left of the party leadership, saying nobody should run for speaker “if there are any misdeeds he has committed since joining Congress that will embarrass himself … if they become public.”

We will now stop to estimate what percentage of the members of Congress have done something in private that they would not like the world to know. No wonder nobody wants the job.

3) The Freedom Caucus is screwing everything up. This is a group of about 40 conservative Republicans, including some who are so stone-cold crazy that you have probably heard of them even though they are otherwise totally unproductive lawmakers from states other than your own. Their candidate for speaker is Representative Daniel Webster. He is not the Daniel Webster who was a leader of the Whig Party in the 19th century, although I believe I speak for many in saying that Daniel Webster would be a breath of fresh air. This Daniel Webster, who has been in Congress for a whopping five years, is a former speaker of the House in Florida.

Question: Wait a minute! Wasn’t Senator Marco Rubio speaker of the House in Florida?

Answer: Yes. Florida has a super-strict term limits law and practically everybody in the state is a former speaker of the House.

Personally, I hope that if we have to have a new leader from the Freedom Caucus, it’s Representative Raúl Labrador of Idaho. Just because … Speaker Labrador.

But there are other options — like Newt Gingrich! It turns out you don’t have to actually be in Congress to be elected speaker of the House. AndNewt said in a radio interview that if the Republicans came and begged for his leadership, it would be like “when George Washington came out of retirement, because there are moments you can’t avoid.”

Coming soon: Gingrich Crossing the Delaware.

The speaker of the House can be anybody. The Republicans could just pick a popular celebrity. Think how much more pleasant it would be hearing that the government had just shut down if Tom Hanks was the one breaking the news.

The one person Republicans are begging to run for speaker is Representative Paul Ryan. Everyone seems to feel he could bring the party together. It’s true he did once work out a bipartisan budget deal with Senator Patty Murray of Washington, but that was Patty Murray. You try pulling it off with Raúl Labrador.

Ryan said he was unable to accept the most impossible and politically poisonous job in the country because he wants to spend quality time with his children. This is a commendable position, although we would be more impressed if he were using it to turn down a job as, say, chairman of Goldman Sachs or ambassador to France.

If the Republicans can’t find a new speaker, John Boehner will probably hang around. He could make a deal with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to raise the debt ceiling and pass a budget before he leaves. The Freedom Caucus would be like maddened, blood-crazed zombies, but Boehner wouldn’t care because he’d be on his way to Florida to play golf and get … tan.

Good old John Boehner. Who knew? There was a time when we tended to snigger when his name came up, but no more, no more. In this Washington, the man is a veritable Pericles of Athens.

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