The Bakersfield Californian
When can we stop our fighting and see each other?
My friends to the left may not appreciate this but sometimes you’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Not too long ago I chastised Speaker Kevin McCarthy in this space for not showing clear support for Ukraine in their war with the Russian invaders. Just a few weeks later, when a Russian journalist tried to get him to speak to his lack of support, Speaker of the House McCarthy veered away from the more radical right of his party and demonstrated the type of leadership needed.
As I was vocal in my criticism, I should be vocal in my praise.
It happened at a news conference in Israel on May 1. This Russian “journalist” tried to imply that due to McCarthy’s previous statements, Republicans in the House might not be supportive of continued funding for Ukraine. McCarthy took exception and said, “Did he say I don’t support aid to Ukraine? No, I voted for aid for Ukraine. I support aid for Ukraine. I do not support what your country has done to Ukraine. I do not support your killing of children either. And I think for one standpoint, you should pull out and I don’t think it’s right and we will continue to support because the rest of the world sees it just as it is.”
As I have been obsessed over Ukraine, reading articles and watching YouTube videos voraciously, I can tell you with some degree of insight what McCarthy’s statement did: It slammed the door shut on any Russian hopes that division in America’s current government might lead to cracks in our support for Ukraine.
As Russia is losing on the battlefield, their best hope is to exploit any division in Ukraine’s allies. That hope turned to despair with McCarthy’s remarks. Kudos to Kevin. A huge win for Ukraine, for America, and for our allies in Europe who see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a threat to them and as a threat to democracies and would-be democracies around the planet.
My left-leaning friends may see this praise as an act of betrayal in our political wars. Praising McCarthy is praising the enemy, they may think. But friends, can we lay down our bricks, see common ground, find the opportunity for bi-partisanship, and begin to heal as a society? We must.
I have not been a fan of Kevin McCarthy. He’s been part of the nation’s polarization — no question about that. But when does this stop? This constant fighting, this never-ending outrage toward each other? It can stop here, in Kern County, with us. The guy is the second most powerful person in the country. If he sees that his critics can praise him, maybe he can see it within himself to praise his political adversaries too.
Maybe here we implore our Speaker to keep the ball rolling: Speaker McCarthy: You shut down Russian hopes for division. You shushed Marjorie Taylor Greene during the State of the Union, you’ve presented a debt-ceiling proposal without the usual name-calling and ugliness (so far). Maybe here is where it all starts. Dialogue instead of dysfunction. Something instead of all-ornothing. Compromise and civility instead of outrage and shut-down.
Fight for the things your caucus believes in but do so with respect toward the other. Be willing to compromise in ways that are constructive. This infestation of ugliness does not need to continue, and it can start here in Kern County, with you, Speaker McCarthy. Be the leader for these times.
To my friends on the left and the right, caught up in these wars: What about you? When can we stop our fighting and see each other? We’re not enemies and our problems can be solved through respectful dialogue. When someone, especially media outlets, try to stir the pot, generate hatred, create division, do like Speaker McCarthy did with that Russian journalist and shut them down.
A recent POLITICO article (May 16) outlines a pathway for compromise and gives me further cause for hope. “A small group of moderate Democratic lawmakers has quietly reassured its House GOP counterparts that it can help protect McCarthy’s gavel if his right flank revolts over a debt agreement.” Speaker McCarthy doesn’t have to be held hostage by his fringe when Democrats state they will support him.
If he can compromise with Democrats, be clear on important matters related to Ukraine, Russia and China, and shush those who want to spout ugly rhetoric, maybe he is the leader for these times. History will tell. For now, thank you Speaker McCarthy, for slamming the door on Russian hopes to divide and conquer.
I’d like to think Speaker McCarthy read my recent Ukraine article urging him to unequivocally support Ukraine (April 9) and that he took note and acted upon that, but that’s just hubris. More importantly, for whatever reason, the Speaker has made several actions that give me cause for hope.
To my friends on the left and to my friends on the right, let’s take our small victories, those times when we do agree, and build the bridges we need toward a more united America and more congenial personal relationships.