Matt Gaetz, Mad Genius

AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack

It’s easy to dismiss Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz, with the perfectly coiffed hair, the beach tan, the made-for-TV theatrics, and what I assume must be veneers. It’s easy — but it’s wrong, as new (and newly chastened) House Speaker Kevin McCarthy learned last week.


Gaetz appears — and I stress the word “appears” — to be almost a caricature of the typical politician who cares about exactly one thing: publicity. Publicity and fundraising. Gaetz appears to be the kind of politician who cares about two things: Publicity, fundraising, and delivering the pork back home.

Among the things a typical politician cares about are…

…Sorry, I was unexpectedly possessed by the Spanish Inquisition for a moment there.

More seriously, don’t worry one bit about the circus that Gaetz and the House Freedom Caucus created last week. Sure, they forced McCarthy into the fifth-longest speaker vote ever. In fact, out of 54 Congresscritters to have served as speaker, only 14 required more than a single vote.

And, yes, it was a circus we saw last week, including a minor scuffle on the House floor, right before the 14th vote, between fellow Republicans Mike Rogers of Alabama and Gaetz, himself. Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) said of Rogers, who initiated the scuffle, “I would drop him like a bag of dirt.”

Gaetz had the vast majority of the GOP caucus outraged, including Illinois’ Mike Bost:


It’s more than fair to call last week’s festivities a circus. The thing about circuses is, they’re a lot like the cotton candy they serve: enjoyed in the moment and quickly forgotten.

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So what about the substance?

PJ Media’s own Paula Bolyard detailed that over the weekend, so you might have missed it. Here’s what Gaetz & Co. wrangled out of McCarthy:

  • A single member can move to “vacate the chair”
  • A hard line on the debt limit
  • Votes on term limits and border security
  • McCarthy’s leadership PAC will stay out of open primaries
  • “Open rules” on spending measures, and the ability to bring up stand-alone appropriation bills
  • Discretionary spending cap
  • A commitment to set up a committee on the “weaponization” of the government

My word, Gaetz forced McCarthy — who actually is one of those typical politicians I was deriding earlier in this column — to deliver the goods to us conservatives. Not more pork and power for the Swamp but real reform in the way the House is run.

It’s been more than 20 years since the House reflected the interests of the people who elect its members. The Speaker and the committee chairs have wielded such power that really only their interests are represented.


That appears to have all changed now, according to Paula’s report. McCarthy was so desperate to become Speaker that he finally did the right thing. Best of all, if McCarthy fails to follow through on his reforms, it only takes a single congresscritter — the name “Gaetz” comes to mind — to force a vote on keeping McCarthy as Speaker.

McCarthy won with only 217 votes. The sounds of the three-ring circus are never far from his ears. So either he keeps genuine conservatives happy or risks losing his gavel.

You’d have to be crazy to think you could accomplish all that just by making a circus out of a House vote that usually is as uneventful as a walk down the driveway to get the mail.

And that makes Matt Gaetz a mad genius.


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