A top aide to House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy on Thursday suggested Republicans who have problems with the continuing resolution hitting the floor Thursday are committing a sin akin to Jane Fonda heading to Vietnam.
In an email to chiefs of staff sent Thursday morning, Pete Meachum, McCarthy's director of member services, forwarded a link to a Weekly Standard post praising the continuing resolution. Those who are using opposition to the resolution to better position themselves are hurting the fight, he implied.
"For the handwringers out there, buck up," Meachum wrote. "For those seeking other office please campaign at home, not on the backs of your colleagues."
Meachum linked the last four words to this website featuring photos of "Jane Fonda A.K.A. Hanoi Jane."
In a follow-up email sent an hour later, Meachum acknowledged he had crossed the line...."I sincerely apologize, my email was not approved by anyone in our office or Mr. McCarthy. Please speak to me personally if you'd like to discuss further," he wrote.
Our own Tim Carney has pointed out one fantanstic -- and unexpected -- result of the current ban on earmarks: McCarthy and other House leaders have very few tools with which to punish members for thinking independently. They have consciously weakened themselves -- for the good, I think -- and they must now adjust their style of leadership to this new reality.
Heavy-handed threats do not work, as the embarrassing leak of this email demonstrates.
UPDATE: McCarthy's office is clearly sensitive to this, as they emailed me within moments of this post going up: "This was a regrettable decision made by one of our staff members, who sent an email acting independently and without the approval of the office or Congressman McCarthy. He realized it was a mistake and immediately apologized."
We don't have to assign any blame to McCarthy personally to see how the leadership dynamic has changed on the Hill. The days of the old pre-2006 GOP majority, when conservative members received punishments for voting for spending cuts, are over. I think the new House leadership has basically adapted to this reality and acted accordingly so far. That's why this email really stands out.