Lauren Boebert: Ilhan Omar hung up on me


Normally I’m all for the two parties getting together to hash out their differences but this meeting of the minds should have been avoided, as it could only have ended badly. It’s like taking the biggest crank in a left-wing blog’s comment section and sitting her down with the biggest crank in a right-wing blog’s comment section. Not only will no understanding be reached, each will walk away focused on reassuring their compatriots that they didn’t back down and “won” the exchange.

It started with this, a nasty jab even by the standards of the MAGA-troll wing of the House GOP caucus. The more charitable read is that Boebert was accusing Omar of being a terrorist because she’s a Hamas apologist. The less charitable read is that she was accusing Omar of being a terrorist because she’s a Muslim.

Either way, it’s a vivid comment on the state of bipartisan comity that even the “charitable” read here involves one member of the House joking about another being a suicide bomber.

Omar didn’t take it lying down:

Normally that would be Boebert’s cue to prove that she’s a “fighter” by doubling down, refusing to apologize, maybe sending out a fundraising email about Omar wanting to “cancel” her. Instead she did something surprising. She apologized to Muslims who took her comments as a slight against their faith and promised to reach out to Omar:

Whether it was the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday season or Kevin McCarthy screaming at her behind the scenes not to create a distraction for the party, something led her to try to make amends. My guess is that it was McCarthy’s doing, as he reportedly phoned Steny Hoyer and asked him to help put the two women in contact. McCarthy’s had two major headaches from the troll caucus already this year, first with Marjorie Taylor Greene losing her committee assignments and then with Paul Gosar being censured earlier this month. He doesn’t want another round with Boebert, especially with Omar publicly calling on him and Pelosi to take “appropriate action.” McCarthy’s calculation, I think, was that if Boebert seemed contrite then Dems would have little choice but to accept her apology and let it go.

But Boebert was feeling pressure from the right too. Some populists grumbled at her on social media for apologizing, something a “fighter” never does even when they’re in the wrong:

Boebert didn’t apologize to Omar in her tweet, though, she apologized to “the Muslim community” and even then only to those who took offense. Which seemed like a carefully worded way to satisfy McCarthy while leaving her a little space to say that she never said “sorry” to Omar herself.

The promise to call her was a real surprise, though. And Boebert did keep that promise this afternoon. It went as well as you’d expect.

The one thing they agree on is that Omar hung up on her:

I’m not sure what McCarthy thought would happen. Politico reported this morning before the call that “a faction of Democrats is expected to push leadership to strip Boebert of her committee assignments or censure her” over the “backpack” remark of a few days ago, according to sources. If the phone call was designed to make that harder for Dems to justify, it sounds like it failed. Although maybe it has a benefit anyway, allowing Boebert (and McCarthy) to say that she tried to make amends and that Omar, not her, was the one uninterested in rapprochement. Pelosi and her team must be reluctant at this point to strip another Republican of their committee assignments, knowing that they’ve begun to normalize the practice and that it’ll be used against them once the GOP holds a majority. Boebert’s tweet might give Dems enough of a fig leaf to let this drop, especially after they just avenged the Squad’s honor by disciplining Gosar for his video about AOC.

There’s a subplot to all this that’s worth paying attention to. While the Boebert/Omar thing was blowing up, Marjorie Taylor Greene started getting chatty about McCarthy’s chances of becoming Speaker. Normally it’d be unthinkable for a freshman to threaten the caucus leader, especially a freshman whom most of the country views as a crank. But the GOP isn’t a normal party; it’s a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization and the chairman of that organization quite likes Greene, one of his most loyal sycophants. So McCarthy had no choice but to pay attention when Greene said recently, “We know that Kevin McCarthy has a problem in our conference. He doesn’t have the full support to be speaker. He doesn’t have the votes that are there, because there’s many of us that are very unhappy about the failure to hold Republicans accountable.”

Instead of reprimanding her, he called her up and apparently pandered to her:

Greene wants the 13 Republicans who voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill to be punished for their lack of purity, something McCarthy’s never going to do for fear of alienating centrist voters. So he’s tried to make it up to Greene and the MAGA-troll caucus in other ways, like by opposing any Democratic attempts to discipline them. I figure he’ll take the same line (publicly) on Boebert when he’s asked about her interaction with Omar. “She tried to atone,” he’ll say. “The problem is Ilhan Omar.”

Moderates in his caucus are watching with consternation as their leader is taken hostage by Trump loyalists, even issuing empty threats — anonymously, of course — that two can play at this game:

“He’s taking the middle of the conference for granted,” the GOP lawmaker told CNN, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal conference dynamics. “McCarthy could have a bigger math problem with the moderates.”…

The moderate GOP lawmaker warned the two wings of the party were headed for a “collision course,” and predicted other moderate lawmakers would start speaking out publicly if McCarthy doesn’t do more to rein in the fringe members in the party.

“Our side isn’t going to take this much longer,” the lawmaker said.

What are they going to do about it? Greene can flout McCarthy because he has no real authority within the party. Trump does. And if Trump wants McCarthy to be Speaker and the moderates try to foil that plan by keeping him from getting to 218 votes, Trump will threaten to primary them. What do they do then? Sink McCarthy and hope Trump forgets their affront in 2024 or keep their mouths shut and recognize who really calls the shots in the GOP?

Besides, who else is available to lead the caucus besides McCarthy? Anyone else — Scalise, Stefanik — will struggle the same way he does with trying to please centrists on the one hand and Trump and his MAGA courtiers on the other. Might as well stick with the guy who wants the job, for whatever strange reason.

I’ll leave you with Adam Kinzinger, amused by McCarthy having to “hug the skunk” to keep his Speakership dreams alive.





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