Speaker Trick, no Treat

Well, forgiving readers, it looks like I struck out again. Or did I? *Vampiric laughing.* Muawahahahahaha!

Wait, Halloween is over? Okay then. How about a shrill tom turkey gobble? Harghargharghargharg!

Either way, I’m still guffawing because, as in most of my punditry, I’m half-right. House Republicans finally elected a brand, non-spanking new (sorry, Denny Hastert!) Speaker of the House. The lucky victi…er…winner: Mike Johnson!

Yeah… I have no idea who he is either. Three cheers for the rumpled suit with a two-dollar haircut!

Despite being promoted to the most powerful plush seat in the House, and being two fatal strokes away from the presidency, Speaker Johnson has had little exposure to the wrangling ways of Washington. No glittering Axios profiles, no standing “Meet the Press” hit, no viral C-SPAN stunts, no yanking the fire alarm to stop a vote and skating on misdemeanor charges. He’s reportedly the “least experienced House speaker in 140 years.” Rep. Johnson also has it lacking in the leadership department. Only four terms into his congressional career, he hasn’t headed any major committees, and his only claim to power heretofore was vice chair of the House Republican Conference, which, after the past three weeks, was akin to mucking out diarrheic horse stables.

To your average Politico reader, that light resume is a warning sign. Johnson hasn’t kissed enough rings, shined enough shoes, slobbered enough lickspittle, or fluffed enough millionaires to be Speaker! How dare he jump station without obliterating his bowels ingesting hundreds of airline-quality dinners in the Capitol Hill Club basement!

But to everyone outside the 495 loop, Johnson’s dearth of swamp smarminess leaves him relatively unslimed. And he got the top job in the most American way possible: by simply showing up consistently, quietly doing what he was asked, not ruffling any feathers, and being the least objectionable choice possible.

Liel Leibovitz said the United States was not, contrary to popular myth, a “land of meritocracy,” but rather a “mediocracy.” We excel at “mass production of reasonably acceptable and always accessible goods, services, people, and ideas.” Sure, the Quarter Pounder isn’t a Wagyu burger on artisan brioche, but it still fills you up. And Speaker Mike Johnson isn’t a Machiavellian Brad Pitt hard knuckling his caucus for votes, but an average looking guy in the right place at the right time. One and a half cheers for mediocrity!

On the face of it, and on his actual mug, the new speaker hardly seems a threat to the old-world order. One writer suggested he bears a resemblance to the “pale casseroles ubiquitous to Baptist fellowship halls across the American South.” I rather think he’s a dupe of The Dud from Mystery Date. Or a blatant stock image of “annoying office manager” scrapped off the internet. Whatever the case, shown his Ballotpedia profile a week before his ascension, I’d have said Mike Johnson needs a swirlie, not a gavel. But here we are: J.C. had it right.

With his preteen fizzog and sparse track record, Speaker Johnson may seem like an awe-shucks, Jimmy Stewarty, pure-hearted man just wantin’ to do what’s right by his people. The left isn’t fooled. To Team Blue, Johnson is a Republican, which is code for a crypto-fascist who tried to stage a coup to establish Trumptocracy within America. Oh wait. The Daily Beast informs me he’s actually “more dangerous than Donald Trump.” So zweimal hurra for Hitler 2.0?!

House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries accused his new superior of being an “extreme right-wing ideologue,” which, for the first time in living memory, may not be typical leftist hyperbole. Johnson holds what passes for extreme conservative beliefs in 2023: his views on same-sex marriage and weed legalization match that of ‘08-era Barack Obama. In a town that reads Punchbowl News more than the Synoptic Gospels, the new House director is a groin-scratching, flea-eating Cro-Mangum.

Johnson indeed has the indignity of assisting in President Trump’s cockamamie scheme to invalidate the 2020 election by, in effect, declaring “nuh uh” to Electoral College certification. And to the utter horror of Beltway bloviators, he’s voted against the various arms-provisions packages for Ukraine.

The backtracking started on cue–probably to keep the Fulton County RICO dragnet at bay. America-Firsters’ brief blip of hope was popped in the Speaker’s first interview with Fox News’ star hairpiece, Sean Hannity. Flush with power, Johnson announced he does support more military aid to the beleaguered Ukrainian forces. Then he went further, or backwards to W. Bush, denouncing the “new Axis of Evil” of Russia, China, and Iran.

It took only two days for “MAGA Mike” to ditch his hard-nosed beliefs and adopt the patois of Washington respectability. His speakership has all the makings of a marionette prime for string-pulling. With little know-how of DC’s behind-the-scenes machine, Johnson will be reliant on Hill operatives who have no intention of blowing up the system in a fit to appease the man in Mar-a-Lago. As speaker, the responsibility of cajoling millions for his colleagues’ re-election bids rests in his hands. If rubber chicken and takeout pizza wasn’t a stable part of his diet, Johnson better invest in the next size of Dockers.

Maybe we are going to get Speaker auto-pilot after all. So good news for Ukraine: another sixty-billion-dollar munitions bill is all but guaranteed to pass now.

The Blob stays undefeated. Somewhere in Ohio John Boehner is croaking madly over a Camel Blue.

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Taylor Lewis

Taylor Lewis writes from Virginia.

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