Something funny that’s making the rounds as the House gears up to strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments. You can understand why McCarthy would be at pains to feign ignorance here: Not only are Democrats eager to make Greene and QAnon the face of the GOP, Pelosi went so far as to refer to McCarthy’s party affiliation as “(Q-CA)” in a statement yesterday. McCarthy’s solution was to profess such total ignorance of the movement that he still didn’t have the name right.
But c’mon. He’s the Republican caucus leader. He knows he’s been asked about QAnon before on camera. And surely he’s consumed some of the endless media coverage of Q following that little incident at the Capitol, yes?
Predictably, the press has dug up the tapes of McCarthy somehow seeming to know more about QAnon months ago than he knows now.
JUST NOW: "I don't even know what it is."
That is what @GOPLeader says about QAnon.
— John Berman (@JohnBerman) February 4, 2021
It’s weird that his knowledge of the movement would shrink after a mob of QAnoners led by a guy called the “QAnon shaman” attacked his own workplace. Even more weird is the fact that he’d profess ignorance despite the fact that Greene and her conspiratorial beliefs have been a headache for him for many months, since before she was even elected to Congress. Axios reported last week how the entire House GOP leadership was eyeing her warily last summer, fearing — correctly — that she’d create a political problem for the caucus:
Cowan detailed a phone conversation he had with McCarthy in July, during which he warned him about wild opposition research they had against Greene.
“I said, ‘She’s bad for the party,'” Cowan told Axios during a 30-minute interview Thursday. “I said she has real problems and does not represent, at least what I think of as, someone who would be allowed even in a big-tented party. I mean, at some point, you have to say, ‘No shoes, no shirt, no service.'”…
Greene also came up repeatedly during McCarthy’s leadership meetings last summer, a source with direct knowledge told Axios…
[Mark] Walker, now running for North Carolina’s open Senate seat in 2022, strenuously argued they needed to do more to stop this “crazy” woman who threatened to bring down the party, according to a source with direct knowledge.
Greene and QAnon were on McCarthy’s radar long before they were on most everyone else’s, which makes it that much more baffling that he didn’t move quickly to support Greene’s primary opponent when he had the chance. That’s another way to tell that he knows exactly what QAnon is: He was taking jabs from (anonymous) Republicans in the media as far back as last August for not heading off Greene, precisely because her fondness for conspiracy theories was destined to be a liability for the party once she was elected. And now it is:
The Republican Party has a fundamental decision to make. Will it be a conservative party functioning within a democratic society? Or will it be an authoritarian party built upon the Big Lie, conspiracy theories and violence? It cannot be both.
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) February 1, 2021
McCarthy scrambling belatedly to distance the party from conspiracy theories reminds me of a passage from this NYT story a few days ago about the GOP establishment struggling to manage the crazies in their ranks. Ronna McDaniel has been a loyal soldier for Trump but she now acknowledges — again, belatedly — that the “stop the steal” campaign wasn’t great for the party’s image. Or, ah, for its legal team:
[S]he expressed regret about letting Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former president’s personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York, and Sidney Powell, another member of Mr. Trump’s legal team who spread conspiracy theories, hold a news conference at the R.N.C. headquarters in Washington.
“When I saw some of the things Sidney was saying, without proof, I certainly was concerned it was happening in my building,” she said. “There are a whole host of issues we had to deal with — what is the liability of the R.N.C., if these allegations are made and unfounded?”
She also called Greene’s past comments “atrocious” and “very dangerous” before remembering that defending Republicans is part of her job description. “She has said they’re not from her,” McDaniel note of the congresswoman’s old social media posts, calling for an investigation into the matter. Maybe Greene should try that defense: “Not only didn’t I write my own Facebook posts, I don’t even know what ‘Q-on’ is.”
Exit question: Will today’s vote on her committee role be pure party-line? Except for Adam Kinzinger, I mean.