Les Francis, far left, sits with Representative Don Edwards, President Jimmy Carter and Representative Norm Mineta aboard Air Force One. Courtesy photo

Congratulations to Speaker Kevin McFaust  

by Les Francis  

As a fellow graduate of the California State University system, I can only assume that the newly elected speaker of the House studied a bit of philosophy. I did because it was required.

If the new speaker took similar courses, he must have missed the lecture on Faust, the infamous German legend wherein the protagonist consciously trades personal character values for material gain (including power or wealth). Or maybe he did read about Faust, but simply chose to ignore the lesson.

According to the legend, Faust strikes a deal with the devil, agreeing to eternal damnation after he dies. Kevin McCarthy won’t have to wait that long. He will experience hell here on earth every day of his tenure in the speaker’s chair in the personages of Lauren Boebert, Matt Gaetz, the ironically named Bob Good, and the other extremists who helped him gain the necessary majority to win the speakership.

We don’t yet know the exact nature of the deal, but we can be sure that Lucifer had a hand in putting it together. The funny thing is, no one who has paid close attention to McCarthy’s career – in Sacramento as a state legislator or in Washington, D.C. as a member of Congress, is surprised by how things evolved.

Many longtime denizens of the State Capitol told me, long before last week’s pathetic self-humiliation, that McCarthy has no core political beliefs. He is without a governing philosophy. He has no civic compass.

McCarthy’s acquisition of the speaker’s gavel is only part of the ugly story that unfolded last week on the House floor. The other part of the story is how he managed it, and who helped him.

One Capitol Hill veteran noted that among McCarthy’s allies is a guy implicated in a sex abuse scandal involving a wrestling team (Jim Jordan of Ohio). And the one who put him over the top in the 15th  ballot by voting “Present” and thus reducing the number required to gain a majority is someone being investigated by the FBI for sex trafficking. That would be the aforementioned Matt Gaetz.

In addition, to win the speakership, Kevin McCarthy needed the support, or at least the quiet acquiescence, of at least 20 Republicans who are certified election deniers, four of whom may well have engaged in a sketchy conspiracy against the Constitution they swore to defend.

It is not clear who first made the observation (Goethe and Cervantes are among those given credit), but it certainly applies here: “Show me who your friends are, and I will tell you who you are.”

As one pal put it to me, “The issue for the GOP conference is a lot bigger than who is speaker.”

But all Americans, not just Republicans, are jeopardized by the Republicans’ perfidy. Take the debt ceiling, for example (which too few policy makers, let alone ordinary citizens, understand). Congress must vote to extend the debt ceiling – what America already owes for previous expenditures – lest our country go into default. It is not complicated.

If that were to occur, shock waves would travel throughout the global economy, which is dependent on the American dollar as the currency of record. Who might benefit from such a collapse? Vladimir Putin, for one. Imagine trying to sustain allied support for Ukraine if the international marketplace is in freefall.

Kevin McCarthy has already failed multiple leadership tests on his way to grasping the speaker’s gavel. We can only imagine – and dread – the failures to come.


Les Francis served as Rep. Norman Mineta’s first congressional chief of staff before moving to Jimmy Carter’s White House as deputy assistant to the president and eventually deputy White House chief of staff. He remained active in national politics and public affairs from offices in Washington, D.C., for four decades before returning to his native California in 2016.