On Sept. 20, 2005, Lt. Gen. Russel L. Honoré, answered reporters' questions during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Honoré focused on steps being taken to prevent future storms. Reporters kept drawing him back to planning prior to Hurricane Katrina hitting.
"You're asking last storm questions for people who are concerned about the future storm. Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters," Honoré said, coining a phrase. The General concluded, "You are part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don't understand, maybe you'll confuse it to the people."
Republicans in Washington are confused and stuck on stupid after the hurricane that blew through Virginia's seventh congressional district. For the first time in American history, someone beat the House Majority Leader in a primary. In this case, Dave Brat, a Ph.D. in Economics, beat Congressman Eric Cantor in a Republican primary. Cantor spent more on steakhouse dinners than Brat spent on his entire campaign.
Voters are fed up with Washington. Cantor spent his time campaigning to be the next Speaker of the House and forgot he was a congressman. In 2008, many conservatives embraced Cantor as a fighter fighting for them. At RedState.com, where I serve as Editor, the front-page writers collectively called for John McCain to nominate Cantor as his Vice Presidential running mate. By the end of 2008 and the battle over TARP, the kind words began disappearing.
Since 2010, when Republicans took back the House of Representatives, conservatives have felt Cantor led a series of betrayals and all-out assaults against conservative positions and principles. By 2014, conservatives were at open war with Cantor and his very-high-handed staff. After heralding him as one of them, post-Obama conservatives viewed Cantor and his senior staff as untrustworthy, too Machiavellian and too unprincipled. Cantor seemed coziest with lobbyists and donors, not his Virginia constituents or conservatives who make up the voting base of the Republican Party.
In Virginia, local tea party activists helped Dave Brat. They went door to door. They made the case that Cantor was out of touch with the district and too far in the pocket of Wall Street. They pointed to all the prior disappointments and betrayals and made the convincing case that Cantor could not be trusted on immigration. Immigration may not have been the sole reason Cantor lost, but it became the capstone on top of every other concern.
With Cantor's defeat, House Republicans could have chosen to go a different direction and work toward some level of truce with their voters. Instead, truly stuck on stupid and not understanding what had happened, they have coalesced around the idea that Cantor's defeat was an anomaly. Cantor was just an absentee ruler from his ungrateful fiefdom whose consultants mishandled the race for him.
House leaders quickly moved to lay the groundwork for Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), presently the No. 3 Republican in the House to take Cantor's place. They rapidly set an internal election date, giving conservatives little time to mount opposition to McCarthy. But McCarthy has an even worse voting record and is a far more liberal stooge of special interests than Eric Cantor.
Heritage Action for America, which produces the most accurate scorecard of conservativeness in congress, ranks Eric Cantor with a 53 percent grade. Kevin McCarthy has a 42 percent grade. News reports surfaced earlier this year that Kevin McCarthy would be attending a retreat of the Main Street Partnership.
That organization has worked tirelessly to defeat conservatives, undermine the conservative agenda in congress and has actively opposed sitting Republican congressman for being conservative.
Kevin McCarthy voted for the massive food stamp and farm bill opposed by conservatives. In fact, a majority of Republicans rejected it, but McCarthy aligned himself with Democrats to try to get it passed. He even voted to give Barack Obama a blank check to raise the debt ceiling.
Republicans in the House of Representatives had an opportunity to do better than Cantor. Instead, they've chosen to stay stuck on stupid and keep the internal fighting alive and well.