Seldom has a political figure misunderstood his country and its challenges more comprehensively than McCarthy. This is not a time for balancing; it is a time for choosing. The main threat posed by Greene is not to the unity of the Republican Party; it is to the political culture of the country. A forced apology to her GOP colleagues, and a reprehensible non-apology to the nation, mean nothing. The outcome that would actually strengthen our constitutional system is for Greene to publicly, specifically and sincerely renounce her poisonous political views and urge her followers to do the same. Which she has not done, and clearly has no intention of doing.

A big political tent will always shelter a number of clowns. But that is different from welcoming violent thugs who gain strength from the appearance of legitimacy. To force another metaphor, the rise of radicalism confronts the GOP with a choice between drinking hemlock and not drinking hemlock. McCarthy’s brilliant compromise is to take a slightly smaller dose.

In the end, McCarthy described the House action to remove Greene from her committees as a “partisan power grab.” It is, in fact, a relatively mild display of moral sanity. The Republican sickness is a broad inability to make such rudimentary moral distinctions.