Even for these Republicans, making Mike Johnson speaker is a low point

Newly elected House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) is sworn in at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 25.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. Let’s look back at the week in Opinion.

On Tuesday, just after he won the speaker of the House nomination, Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.) was given his best chance to prove he’s something other than Commander Fred Waterford minus the beard. It didn’t go well: Asked by ABC News reporter Rachel Scott about his leading role in House Republicans’ effort to overturn the 2020 election, Johnson smirked and shook his head as his colleagues around him jeered and Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), standing to the speaker’s left, screamed, “Shut up.”

His response: “Next question.”

Right next to calculated contempt for democracy, put flippant contempt for journalism on the list of reasons to oppose Johnson.


And the list is quite long: He wants to ban abortions and make it harder to get a divorce — and he even once blamed access to both for school shootings. He has been openly hostile to LGBTQ+ rights. He rejects the science of climate change. Combine all this with his dearth of leadership experience, and you’d have a hard time imagining a less capable leader of the House. In fact, Johnson’s major selling point seems to be that no one knew enough about him in time to vote against him on Wednesday. As our columnist Jackie Calmes put it, Rep. Matt Gatez’s (R-Fla.) victory lap ought to say it all about the new speaker.

What stands above all that, of course, is Johnson’s willingness to overturn an election in service of Donald Trump. And, despite his conciliatory pledge to serve the American people after his swearing in, he evidently sees no need to address the concerns of citizens who simply want their votes to matter. His elevation to the speakership says nothing reassuring about the state of the Republican Party, and it risks inflicting grave injury on our constitutional order. As The Times’ editorial board put it:

“We hope that voters are paying close attention, particularly those in California. All 12 of the state’s Republican members of Congress lined up in favor of a guy who wanted to throw out the 2020 election results and hand the country over to Trump for four more years.

“Is this how the experiment in American democracy ends? We hope not. But that depends on whether Americans finally reject the extremists who have taken control of the Republican Party.”

The GOP is broken, and the nation is paying the price in House speaker turmoil. Just before Republicans elected Johnson and ended their three-week stretch without a speaker, our editorial board summed up the risk of going without a leader in the House: “The repeated failure of House Republicans to elect a speaker to succeed the defenestrated Kevin McCarthy is more than a political tragicomedy; it’s a threat to the national interest at a time of turmoil in Ukraine and the Middle East and another looming deadline for avoiding a government shutdown.”

Why isn’t more humanitarian aid reaching Gazans? Trade-offs are involved any time aid is delivered into a conflict zone. In the Gaza Strip’s case, the people desperately need fuel, food and medical supplies, and those delivering aid must deal with the possibility that some of it will be diverted by Hamas. Conversely, the U.S. must also sweeten its aid packages to Israel — whose citizens have a much higher quality of life than the Gazans — just to be allowed to deliver any help at all to the Palestinians, writes University of San Diego economic development professor Topher McDougal.


The Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell guilty pleas are so dire for Donald Trump. Things have to get pretty bad for something as earth-shattering as the criminal trial of a former president to start fading from public awareness, but here we are. In the Georgia election interference case, three of Trump’s former attorneys have pleaded guilty, including Chesebro and Powell. Former federal prosecutor Dennis Aftergut says this shows that the strategy used by Fani Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, Ga., is “unfolding precisely as designed — working up the ladder with testimony from the lesser participants to the top defendants in the alleged conspiracy.”

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When journalists are killed in Gaza, more lives are at stake. Columnist LZ Granderson cites the journalists killed while covering the Israeli siege and bombardment of Gaza as heroic examples of how our embattled profession tries to bring truth and accountability even in the most difficult circumstances: “The everyday work of reporters and photographers in the relative safety of the United States may not have the same stakes, but the framers knew it was a matter of life and death for the republic. At home and abroad, journalists can’t always be protected. However, times of war remind us that journalism needs to be.”

Sedona, an epicenter of spiritual energy and Arizona tourism mecca, has come to fear and loathe tourists. City residents, themselves largely transplants, have grown tired of the travelers seeking spiritual respite in a town dependent on tourism dollars. The mayor, who won reelection in 2022, declared that Sedona has “too many tourists. Period.” The actions taken by local government to discourage visitors, says Arizonan Tom Zoellner, reflect a desire to “yank back the welcome mat to the middle class.”

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