Not Running for Majority Leader Is Exactly What Frank Underwood Would Do

How America’s favorite antihero would navigate the Machiavellian plotting around House leadership roles.

Actor Kevin Spacey as Rep. Frank Underwood in the show House of Cards.
National Journal
Lucia Graves
Add to Briefcase
Lucia Graves
June 12, 2014, 12:01 p.m.

In the days after Eric Can­tor’s de­feat stunned Wash­ing­ton, talk on the Hill has pre­dict­ably turned not so much to which pro­fess­or at Ran­dolph-Ma­con Col­lege will re­place him in the House as to who will fill his lead­er­ship po­s­i­tion with­in the Re­pub­lic­an Party.

Top pro­spects already are back­ing away. Jeb Hensarling has an­nounced that he will in­stead be fo­cus­ing on his fam­ily, his dis­trict, and chair­ing the Fin­an­cial Ser­vices Com­mit­tee, while the de­cidedly am­bi­tious Paul Ry­an, an­oth­er fa­vor­ite for the post, has said he’s just not in­ter­ested in the po­s­i­tion. Funny, that’s ex­actly what the ruth­less prag­mat­ist of House of Cards, Frank Un­der­wood, would say.

People close to Ry­an have noted his de­sire to serve as chair­man of the tax-writ­ing Ways and Means Com­mit­tee. But per­haps more tellingly, he ran as vice pres­id­ent on the Re­pub­lic­an tick­et in 2012, and were he to ap­pear on the tick­et again in 2016, be­ing the party’s des­ig­nated ma­jor­ity lead­er might not be the most stra­tegic po­s­i­tion to be in.

House Ma­jor­ity Whip Kev­in Mc­Carthy has the over­whelm­ing sup­port of the party (though Pete Ses­sions is still in the run­ning), and were Ry­an to chal­lenge him for the po­s­i­tion, he’d risk los­ing the lead­er­ship race and ali­en­at­ing mem­bers whose good will could prove pre­cious to him down the road. What’s more, as Un­der­wood would surely note, ma­jor­ity lead­ers make a lot of en­emies do­ing all that horse trad­ing and deal cut­ting, par­tic­u­larly at a time when the GOP is go­ing through so many trans­form­a­tions and re­in­ven­tions.

The irony is that when act­or Kev­in Spacey, who plays Un­der­wood as House ma­jor­ity whip and later as pres­id­ent, was study­ing up for the role, he shad­owed Mc­Carthy on the Hill. Mc­Carthy was “very gen­er­ous” with him, Spacey later told ABC’s George Stephan­o­poulos, adding, “I don’t envy him the po­s­i­tion.”

Mc­Carthy may not have much in com­mon with Un­der­wood’s mer­ci­less per­son­al­ity. In­deed, Mc­Carthy is known for his con­geni­al­ity, and, as he once noted to Busi­ness In­sider, he and his col­leagues “don’t murder an­im­als or mem­bers or any­thing like that.” But it’s also true that if he’s chosen as lead­er, his rise on Cap­it­ol Hill would be un­pre­ced­en­ted. Sound fa­mil­i­ar?

Slate’s Dave Wei­gel re­cently re­marked that he’s grown to hate people say­ing, “It’s just like House of Cards!” whenev­er any­thing de­vi­ous hap­pens. It’s just like polit­ics! And some­times I agree: Art im­it­ates life. But also, as Oscar Wilde has ar­gued, life im­it­ates art far more.

What We're Following See More »
ONLY BROAD PRINCIPLES
Mulvaney: Tax Reform Details Won’t Be Released This Week
5 minutes ago
THE LATEST

Despite President Trump's announcement that his tax reform proposal would be released this week, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney now says it will be ready in June. This week's announcement will be limited to "specific governing principles."

Source:
OFFSHORE OIL AND GAS
Trump To Sign Order Calling For Expanded Drilling
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Donald Trump is expected Monday to sign an executive order which will mark his administration's first action on offshore oil and gas drilling. The order is expected to call for a "review of the locations available for offshore oil and gas exploration and of certain regulations governing offshore oil and gas exploration."

Source:
DOMESTIC PRIORITIES
Pence Cuts Asia Trip Short For Big Week
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

Vice President Mike Pence has cut his Asia trip short "to race back to Washington, where the Trump administration faces a critical week on tax reform and a funding plan to keep the government running, an aide said on Sunday." Pence will return to Washington on Tuesday morning instead of Wednesday. Trump has a busy week ahead, as he plans to roll out a tax reform on framework, sign a number of executive orders, and works to keep the government open past Friday.

Source:
24% GOOD ENOUGH FOR FIRST PLACE
Macron, Le Pen Lead French Elections
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Centrist Emmanuel Macron and far-right politician Marine Le Pen led the first round of voting in France’s presidential election, according to early projections, as voters redrew the political map, placing the European Union at the center of a new political divide. Projections by the Kantar-Sofres polling firm showed Mr. Macron on track to win the first round with about 24% of the vote, ahead of Ms. Le Pen with nearly 22%." The vote marks the end of the country's dominance by conservative and socialist parties. The top vote-getters head to a runoff on May 7.

Source:
MENDING FENCES?
Trump to Deliver Keynote for Holocaust Memorial Event
3 hours ago
THE DETAILS

President Trump will deliver the keynote address for at the National Holocaust Museum's National Day of Remembrance ceremony on Tuesday. He'll speak from the Capitol Rotunda. The move is likely an effort to try to mend fences with Jewish groups. In January, "the White House ignited controversy when it didn't mention Jews or anti-Semitism in a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day." And certain members of his inner circle are still suspected of harboring white supremacist or anti-Semitic views."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login