Is this the leadership America deserves? Seriously?

“I think there’s some reason to doubt whether or not Matt Gaetz is serious,” said Rep. Dusty Johnson, Republican from South Dakota.

Talk about an understatement. When a member of your own party verbally spanks you, and another characterizes your immediate fundraising following Tuesday’s congressional chaos as “disgusting,” as Rep. Garret Graves of Louisiana made a point of doing, self-reflection might be a logical reaction.

But that is not what drives Gaetz, the Florida Republican who definitely got what he wanted — time in the spotlight and, yes, the ouster of now former Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy.

What do Americans think, the people who don’t much care about the latest congressional preening, not when they came so very close to losing needed food aid, veteran counseling, education funding, access to parks and museums and all the meaningful and essential things in jeopardy when the government shuts down?

Well, of course some of those with worries about everything from the economy to the border who gave the GOP their current majority, albeit a sliver of one, might be pleased with the mess — as long as Gaetz and his tiny cohort disrupt. But what about those who wanted change, but not the drama of representatives such as Gaetz — and Majorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., George Santos, R-N.Y., and Lauren Boebert, R-Colo?

Greene made sure to insert an amendment in a Defense spending bill that would cut the salary of Secretary Lloyd Austin to $1, her petty posturing slamming the first African American to hold that position no coincidence. Fabulist Santos emerges from his corner from time to time, just to remind everyone that he’s a congressman and you’re not. Boebert? Enough said.

Don’t weep for the unfortunate McCarthy, though, considering the only thing he seemed serious about was becoming speaker. He didn’t even realize that if you want a few Democrats to throw you a lifeline, perhaps you shouldn’t break your pledge on opening an impeachment inquiry without a vote. And blaming the opposing party for dysfunction you clearly own is definitely not a good idea.

When he bargained away the store, giving far-right members the power to take it all away with one vote, when he grinned and bore it when Gaetz marked “present,” instead of affirming his leadership nine short months ago, McCarthy was cooked.

But there’s a reason so many Republicans are furious with Gaetz. And no, former Speaker Newt Gingrich, who called out Gaetz in The Washington Post, doesn’t get a cookie. The man so many in both parties blame for poisoning any semblance of bipartisanship as speaker in the 1990s has more in common with the Florida firebrand than he has the self-awareness to admit.

This week’s food fight is the latest move that exposes the endgame of today’s GOP — power with a heavy dose of trolling. Being serious leaders of a country in need of leadership was never in the plan.

It makes sense that Donald Trump is the Republican Party. Ever on brand, the former president and current front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination couldn’t let the Washington GOP contingent get all the buzz.

So, this week he showed up and showed out at his trial on fraud charges in New York City.

It wasn’t the least bit amusing.

Trump’s performances curdled a long time ago, if they ever worked, at least for those on the receiving end of his bile. What he does, what his party does with rhetoric and action that riles up the base, hurts real people. His targeting of an American public servant is nothing new; this time, lies on social media about the New York judge’s clerk earned Trump a gag order.

From New York and Washington, the events of this week resembled a reality show that would tank in the ratings: “White Men Behaving Badly.”

The short-term funding deal keeping the government running is on track to expire in time for the holidays, while House Republicans are embroiled in what is sure to be a contentious battle over who will become the next permanent (ha!) speaker.

Who would want the job, knowing what happened to the last one — and previous GOP House speakers Paul D. Ryan and John A. Boehner?

Power, though, draws candidates like rotten meat draws flies, especially if you don’t intend to do the job. Rep. Jim Jordan has thrown his hat into the ring and possibly donned a jacket for a chance to bang that gavel. As Judiciary chair, the Ohio Republican has already proven to be an expert troller.

Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas has said he will file paperwork to nominate Trump, and why not?

One of the first actions of the guy holding the spot for now, Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, proves that he has a qualification his party seems to love. In an act of vindictive cruelty, McHenry ordered former Speaker Nancy Pelosi to vacate her Capitol hideaway office — while the Democrat was in California for the funeral of her longtime friend, Sen. Dianne Feinstein.


In a statement, Pelosi said: “Office space doesn’t matter to me, but it seems to be important to them. Now that the new Republican leadership has settled this important matter, let’s hope they get to work on what’s truly important for the American people.”

Remember the lack of drama that marked Pelosi’s time as speaker, operating with a majority nearly as tight as McCarthy’s?

The GOP might take a leadership lesson from Pelosi, who put politics aside when she remained calm, and reached out with concern to her GOP colleagues when the Capitol was under attack from rioters some Republicans now characterize as “patriots.”

The current House minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries of New York, is learning fast. Jeffries kept his caucus together this week, and wound up looking like the grown-up, in contrast to an opposing party eating its young.

Turns out diversity really is our strength.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. She is host of the CQ Roll Call “Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis” podcast. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

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