Tuesday, March 08, 2011


In response to this Politico story about reaction of the House Republican leadership to Peter King's upcoming committee hearings on Muslims in America, Fox News posts the headline "Boehner Goes Soft on Radical Muslim Hearings." Steve Benen's headline is "King Hearings Quietly Cause GOP Divisions." But is there really friction? Is Boehner really failing to offer King support? Or is this just one more example of the party playing good cop/bad cop?

Politico reports:

The top two House Republican leaders are divided over how to handle the bubbling controversy surrounding Homeland Security Chairman Peter King’s hearing into "radicalization" in the American Muslim community.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the highest-ranking Jewish member of Congress, is squarely behind King as he takes shots from civil libertarians and religious groups over his decision to target one group in his investigation of the causes of terrorism....

But Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) are keeping their distance from King, perhaps trying to avoid letting this issue become a distraction for the GOP majority....

Yeah, perhaps Boehner and McCarthy are "trying to avoid letting this issue become a distraction for the GOP majority" -- or maybe they're just letting King conduct a dress rehearsal of possible GOP campaign themes for 2012, knowing that the hearings could rub the public the wrong way ... or could generate a very useful set of messages for the party. Maybe Boehner and McCarthy want deniability if the hearings seem to go badly, yet recognize the potential for success.

It's also possible that King's dog-and-pony show is intended to generate a niche product -- a set of outrage messages that won't appeal to most voters, but will really hit a nerve in a certain subset of the population. Maybe Boehner and McCarthy don't want to be linked to this sort of ugly stuff, yet want the rubes who like the ugly stuff to be well and truly motivated. So they're trying to seem wary of the whole process, while quietly hoping that it's effective. That would be my guess.

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