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Bill Straub: Massie’s messy rise to GOP mainstream leaves questions about his role in party’s future

Rep. Thomas Massie, the renowned Kentucky Whiz Kid, is proving that the mountain can, indeed, come to Muhammed.

It wasn’t all that long ago that our boy Massie, R-SomewhereorotherLewisCounty, was a leper in his own party, derided by former President Donald J. Trump who referred to him as a “disaster for America.” Like a yapping Yorkshire terrier, Massie nipped at the heels of GOP House Speakers John Boehner and Paul Ryan, two party leaders who couldn’t stand the sight of him. He was generally regarded by colleagues as a crank and grandstander for delaying votes on vital legislation and opposing some of the most innocuous bills Congress had to offer – like one honoring golfer Jack Nicklaus.

Massie’s deluded voting record is long and substantial. He has opposed the nation’s support for Ukraine in its unprovoked war with Russia, including a measure that simply expressed support for Ukrainian sovereignty. He was the lower chamber’s leading voice in various efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He has consistently opposed disaster relief for regions hit by hurricanes, floods or other natural catastrophes. He opposed infrastructure legislation even though it is expected to result in construction of a new interstate bridge over the Ohio River connecting Covington and Cincinnati – in his district.

That’s just the beginning. Last year the House voted 429-1 on a resolution calling on the federal government to protect Jewish folks and organizations, combat Holocaust denialism, and defend the rights of all Americans to practice their faith without fear of violence.

Guess who was the only lawmaker to vote against it.

Massie’s political philosophy can be unearthed in a little ditty offered by Groucho Marx as Professor Quincy Adams Wagstaff in Horse Feathers:

Your proposition may be good

But let’s have one thing understood:

Whatever it is, I’m against it

And even when you’ve changed it or condensed it

I’m against it.

The NKyTribune’s Washington columnist Bill Straub served 11 years as the Frankfort Bureau chief for The Kentucky Post. He also is the former White House/political correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service. A member of the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame, he currently resides in Silver Spring, Maryland, and writes frequently about the federal government and politics. Email him at williamgstraub@gmail.com

Some people may call this nihilism.

Anyway, you get the picture. The scorn directed at him by colleagues was well-earned. He has performed with an arrogance that was outrageous even by the off-the-charts standard usually found in the district. Massie, the Wonder Boy, was so offputtingly crazy right-wing that other crazy right-wingers adjudged him, to put it mildly, out of bounds.

But, as the old saying goes, that was then, this is now. Suddenly and inexplicably, Massie has emerged as, in the words of a recent New York Times piece, a conservative “cult hero lawmaker.”

Massie finds himself a trusted advisor to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA. He serves as chair of the House Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust, a panel that carries a large stick within the GOP delegation. He was awarded a seat on the prestigious House Judiciary Committee and earned a slot on the Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, which is probing the ridiculous fantasy that, somehow, the so-called “deep state” is colluding against brave-hearted conservatives.

But the real coup de gras here was McCarthy’s decision to hand Massie a slot on the House Rules Committee, a panel whose title is generally proceeded by the word “powerful” since its job is to determine how legislation is handled on the floor. Those serving are the lawmakers who earned the trust of the speaker, placing Massie in a very select group.

All of this is to say that Northern Kentucky’s own Thomas Harold Massie, disparaged for years by members of his own caucus, is now right smackdab in the middle of the Republican mainstream.

What’s remarkable about this turn of events is that Massie has essentially done nothing to attain mainstream status. He remains the same senseless gadfly he’s always been – recently declaring the national economy is “on the road to hell,” for instance. Instead, congressional Republicans, hat in hand, have shuffled toward him.

Before there was Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga, and Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-CO, or any of the other crazies whose presence has shifted the already conservative Republican caucus to the extreme edge of the earth, there was Thomas Massie.

Now he’s the party’s ideal. Move over, Robert Taft. Fuhgetaboutit, Ronald Reagan. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new Mr. Republican.

This kumbaya moment comes as a result of the MAGA Revolution within the Republican Party, a conservative populist revolt led by the Lord of Mar-a-Lago whose idea to make America great again is to present himself as the golden calf, punching down on the vulnerable and the poor while rousing his supporters to reject the results of the 2020 election. Trump’s anti-Washington rhetoric, likening the capital to a swamp that needed to be cleaned up, fell right into Massie’s wheelhouse.

The Trump phenomenon that has devoured the Republican Party worked to Massie’s advantage even though he’s not really of it. It brought a bunch of right-wing firebrands to Washington and there’s little question they gravitated toward Massie and his oddball views, brightening his star.

And now the Whiz Kid appears ready to expand his horizons and leave his indelible mark on the national stage. Massie is an early and active supporter of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his uphill fight to gain the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, asserting that the Sunshine State book-banner and “don’t say gay” advocate who is getting his butt handed to him on a platter by the Disney Corp. is “a leader who is decisive, respects the Constitution, understands policy, puts family first, and leads by inspiring.”

In making the endorsement of DeSantis, a former House colleague, Massie snubbed the party’s frontrunner, Trump, the lord of Mar-a-Lago, who is making his third try at the White House having lost, regardless of what he said, in 2020.

After characteristically calling him all sorts of names for endeavoring to block a COVID relief package in 2020 and threatening to drum him out of the party, Trump nonetheless endorsed Massie for re-election in 2022. Massie expressed his gratitude during an appearance with Laura Ingraham on Fox News by saying DeSantis “could be the future of our party” and that he will vote for Trump “enthusiastically” if he wins the nomination.

It’s reasonable at this premature stage to wonder what role Massie might play in a DeSantis administration, although the chances of that happening are looking to be about as likely as the cow jumping over the moon if Trump can stay out of prison. You can lay odds that Wonder Boy won’t serve as education secretary since he has offered legislation more than once to abolish the department.

Despite his new mainstream status and the budding relationship with new BFF Kevin McCarthy, Massie still has a tendency to occasionally go off script, although he is pretty much forgiven since most of his new found amigos view his votes against orthodoxy as what the late, lamented Al McGuire used to refer to as French pastry – showy but of little consequence.

On Thursday, for instance, he was the lone Republican vote against a bipartisan measure initiated by the GOP to address the scourge of fentanyl, designating the powerful synthetic opioid as a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which could result in major prison time for dealers.

It passed 289-133 with one Republican no vote – the Whiz Kid, Thomas Harold Massie, who explained “one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentences are unwise, and this bill increases the number of defendants subject to them” and that the federal government should instead expend more resources to secure the border.

Oh well. Some old habits are hard to break.

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  1. Ellen Ziegler says:

    You just ruined my appetite Bill. I have always known that’s Massie is an attention seeking twerp who loves to be oppositional, and had read that he is supporting the off the wall DeSantis, but to see him actually gain power and status is pretty terrifying as is this whole election cycle. Say it isn’t so. I pray every day that sensible people get out and vote to save the country. I remember the hope we felt when Obama was elected. How could things go so haywire so quickly?

  2. John Scales says:

    You sir must know that you can’t compare your intelligence to Massie’s. You are part of the problem in the news media. Massie is a smart man who reads the bills and represents me and listens to the people he represents.

  3. W. Jamie Ruehl says:

    Massie represents KY well and his constituents (I’m one) continue to elect him because he does his job as promised: Smaller federal government and less spending.

    Massie’s positioning hasn’t changed but a loud segment of the Dems party certainly has People like you bemoan Massie and claim he is “extreme”, when in fact it is you who have sprinted to the far Left.

  4. Dan Burgess says:

    Massive is a s##t stain on America. An ignorant , aggressive fool who is totally clueless. How he has been elected baffles me, except to say the Repubs where I live are too stupid to be allowed to vote. God help us all.

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