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Editorial: Truth doesn’t matter to the GOP

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Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s obsequious relationship with Donald Trump was in its nascent stages as Trump prepared to assume the presidency in 2017. At a luncheon that January, Trump called McCarthy, the House Republican leader from Bakersfield, “My Kevin.” On inauguration day, McCarthy gave Trump a little pep talk during a quiet moment in the Capitol, just before he walked out to take the oath.

“You’re gonna do great,” McCarthy told Trump before snapping a quick selfie with him.

McCarthy’s fealty to Trump was distasteful but understandable at the time. Republicans had won the House, the Senate and the presidency. McCarthy saw himself as a unifier who could help the GOP make the most of its new power.

Five years, two impeachments and a deadly insurrection later, McCarthy’s continued allegiance to Trump shows his quest for power lacks a moral compass. Aiming to become the next speaker of the House, McCarthy is willing to ignore the truth that he publicly acknowledged last year — that Trump “bears responsibility” for whipping up the violent mobs that stormed the Capitol while Congress was certifying the election results on Jan. 6, 2021 — and lie about having said privately, in the days following the attack, that he would ask Trump to resign.

After the New York Times reported last week that McCarthy had told colleagues on a Jan. 10, 2021, phone call that he would ask Trump to step down, McCarthy issued a statement calling the reporting “totally false and wrong.” But it wasn’t. Reporters Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin released a recording of the phone call in which McCarthy told fellow House Republicans that he planned to call Trump, tell him he believed Congress would impeach him and say, “It would be my recommendation that you should resign.”

Once upon a time, being caught lying would have been a big deal, particularly about something as grave as how to proceed after a riot to block the peaceful transfer of power. No longer. On Saturday night, McCarthy was warmly received as the keynote speaker at the California Republican Party convention in Anaheim. Attendees were largely unaware of or unfazed by the revelation.

“I just spent four hours in a room with 980 delegates … and this was not a topic of conversation,” Jim Brulte, a former chairman of the California GOP, told an editorial board member on Sunday, adding that it was being covered only because of liberal bias in the media.

“Nobody cares.”

If McCarthy faces any consequences from Republican members of Congress who could keep him from becoming speaker, it will probably be because Martin and Burns’ growing cache of recordings show that in private he was insufficiently deferential to Trump — not because McCarthy lied. Even then, consequences seem unlikely. Far-right Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida threw a few daggers on social media, then went on Newsmax to say that McCarthy’s ability to raise huge sums of campaign money for Republicans will probably keep him in the good graces of his colleagues.

“Kevin delivers the goods,” Gaetz said. “He really gains his strength not by maintaining some great credibility of truth with people, but by ensuring that he will always be there with the checks.”

And that’s where the GOP is today — again rallying around a leader who lies with impunity and, when caught on tape, doubles down on his lies.

Voters decide how much truth matters. But how long can democracy stand when roughly half the voting population is willing to ignore falsehoods and reward political leaders for their dishonesty? Trump’s Big Lie that he won the 2020 election — despite numerous audits and lawsuits that turned up no credible evidence — didn’t come out of nowhere. It began with thousands of falsehoods he spewed during four years as president, and culminated in an attempted coup.

McCarthy recognized the danger posed by Trump and the Big Lie in the days after Jan. 6, which is why his retreat from truth is all the more appalling. Republican politicians who have kowtowed to Trump are thumbing their nose at the truth. Elected leaders and candidates who ignore or deny the facts are chipping away the foundation of our electoral democracy and they do not deserve your vote.





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