A few days ago I speculated that one of the reasons there’d been such a pile-on of Cawthorn among House Republicans is because he isn’t a “made man.” That is, he doesn’t enjoy quite the same MAGA stature as a figure like Marjorie Taylor Greene, which meant there was less political risk to the average House GOPer in criticizing him. If you go after Greene you risk pissing off her sizable populist fan base and, more importantly, you risk pissing off Trump, the capo di tutti capi. That’s less of a risk with the 26-year-old Cawthorn.
If it weren’t, a Trump toady as dependable as Thom Tillis wouldn’t have dared to endorse Cawthorn’s primary opponent.
You remember “GoodFellas.” A “made man” is someone designated by the mafia leadership as a full member of the organization, which means he can’t be targeted by other members without the leadership’s approval. As a respected member of the family, he’s under their protection. Greene is under Trump’s protection, which is why Kevin McCarthy has been careful this past year not to be too hard on her for her endless controversies. Not so Cawthorn, whom he hauled into his office last week to demand an explanation for his comments about drug use and sex parties on Capitol Hill, among other things.
Cawthorn’s response, according to Politico, was to refuse to answer some of his questions and to lie to him when answering others.
Two Republicans familiar with what was discussed at the meeting, speaking candidly on condition of anonymity, said McCarthy didn’t limit his dressing-down of Cawthorn to the podcast interview behind the latest controversy. Among the Cawthorn statements and decisions McCarthy took issue with in private, according to one Republican, were the freshman’s false claim that McCarthy gave Cawthorn the green light to roll out his own “New Contract with America” legislation even as the full conference works on its own policy platform…
According to that Republican, Cawthorn clarified that multiple members were not involved in orgies but did maintain that one member of Congress invited him to a sex party with his wife. Despite McCarthy and others in the room pressing him to reveal a name, Cawthorn refused, this Republican said.
A third person familiar with the discussion said Cawthorn tried to claim he didn’t use the word “orgy,” upon which the GOP leaders in the room pointed to the tape where he in fact used the word.
No wonder McCarthy was angry afterward when he spoke to reporters. To be jerked around that way as caucus leader by a freshman who’s barely an adult and who spends 99 percent of his time grandstanding is insulting.
But that’s the last time McCarthy will publicly take Cawthorn to task, I’m guessing. Because, as of this afternoon, he’s a made man.
Trump announces Madison Cawthorn will be at his rally in North Carolina on April 9th. pic.twitter.com/zk84eHpG5n
— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) April 1, 2022
Trump adores Cawthorn and has told ppl he regrets not endorsing Cawthorn in his primary for his initial election bid — and Trump’s love for Cawthorn is one of the reasons some Rs are nervous about trying to take him out in a primary. https://t.co/VmYGZI9k23
— Melanie Zanona (@MZanona) April 1, 2022
It’s not news to House Republicans that Trump is fond of Cawthorn. Cawthorn’s a remorseless sycophant of his; of course Trump likes him. I think they assumed, though, that the “cocaine and orgies” episode was sufficiently humiliating that Trump wouldn’t want to associate with Cawthorn in the near aftermath. Loyalty usually runs only one way in MAGAworld, after all. Ask Mo Brooks.
But no, to everyone’s surprise, the capo is going to throw Cawthorn a lifeline at a moment when most of North Carolina’s Republican establishment is mobilizing to primary him. It’s not just Cawthorn’s rhetorical antics that have annoyed them, it was his attempt to switch districts when he thought the new redistricting map would be unfavorable to him and then to switch back once he realized it wouldn’t be. Even professional politicians found that embarrassingly cynical:
Last November, Cawthorn announced he would switch congressional districts and run in a newly drawn district where it would be easier for him to win reelection. The Republican House speaker in the state Legislature, Tim Moore, had planned on running for Congress in that district. Cawthorn, in an implicit dig at Moore, explained his switch by saying he wanted to make sure an “establishment, go-along-to-get-along Republican” did not win that seat…
The congressman angered the top Republican power brokers in the state by announcing his intention to move. When he switched back, he irritated grassroots activists, said one person working to oust him…
“If you have clowns in office who aren’t serious about what they’re doing, you can’t get somewhere,” Moore, who is now running for reelection to the state House, told local reporters. “I’m just kind of without the words to describe what congressman Cawthorn is doing and saying. I mean, some of these ridiculous recent comments that continue to build on one another.”
I’m sure Cawthorn begged Trump to let him speak at his upcoming rally in the state, knowing that a public show of solidarity from the man who owns the party would back off McCarthy, the state’s GOP power brokers, and everyone else who’s been scrambling lately to take him down. I bet Tillis wouldn’t even have endorsed Cawthorn’s Republican primary opponent if he knew Trump was preparing to make him a made man by having him speak at a MAGA event despite his “orgies” comment. Ousting Cawthorn in a primary was always going to be difficult but Trump’s renewed endorsement might make it impossible, which means the party will be gifted with another embarrassing candidate holding office when it would have done better if Trump had simply stayed out of congressional races.
But credit him for consistency. From the beginning, Trump has always believed that there’s no behavior so terrible or embarrassing that it can’t be overlooked provided that the culprit is sufficiently obsequious. This is a guy who supported Roy Moore after the Alabama Senate primary in 2017 and who’s reportedly been thinking of endorsing Eric Greitens, for cripes sake. Kiss his ass enough — and indulge him his conspiracy theories about the election — and you’re in contention for his support no matter what else you might have said or done.
I’ll leave you with this exemplar of that point, a famous smear merchant and proud Trump ally.
Roger Stone told Alex Jones the RINOs “have something to hide” and that’s why they are trying to discredit Madison Cawthorn for his cocaine / orgy comments. pic.twitter.com/YYbb6WNzOh
— PatriotTakes 🇺🇸 (@patriottakes) April 1, 2022