the national interest

Republican ‘Evil Genius’ Departs, Washington Actually Now Even More Dangerous

A VIEW TO A KILL US / BR 1985 CHRISTOPHER WALKEN rear center. Date 1985.
Budget negotiations will be even more fraught this fall. Photo: Mary Evans/Eon Productions/Ronald Grant/Everett Collection

The reign of the House Republicans has not yet resulted in the crisis of a government shutdown or the calamity of a debt-ceiling failure. But the avoidance of disaster has created a false complacency, or so I’ve argued. Republicans have defused the bomb before by crafting last-second deals between Mitch McConnell and the White House and working around the anarchists of the House.

But, for one thing, the anarchists have grown increasingly angry at their marginalization, and increasingly determined to force their leaders not to cooperate. For another, McConnell is now facing a tea party challenger stoking conservative resentment over precisely this inside deal-maker role, which means McConnell probably can’t defy the anarchists anymore. If all that weren’t grim enough, Lori Montgomery reports an additional new danger — the small number of rational Republican staffers who cut those deals has cleared out.

John Boehner’s policy aide, Brett Loper, who cut the big budget deal with the White House in 2011 that the House GOP caucus blew up, is now a lobbyist. But the big departure, she reports, is Rohit Kumar, McConnell’s aide and the key Guy in the Room when the administration and the Senate Republicans defused the debt-ceiling bomb. Kumar is not what you’d call a moderate, but he does understand policy detail — an “evil genius,” one Obama adviser calls him:

If you have to do business with the dark side, it’s better to negotiate with an evil genius than with someone who only knows how to say no and doesn’t understand the details,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to offer a candid assessment.

Kumar is “negotiating on behalf of an irrational, unpredictable crowd, and he likes to run out the clock, which is a dangerous combination. But to his credit, he never wanted to let the clock strike midnight and the world to blow up,” the official said.

Things have gotten pretty bad when the departure of an evil genius actually makes the situation more dangerous. But the implication here is that other Republicans are evil non-geniuses, or possibly are so evil they actually want to blow up the world. Autumn in Washington is going to be fun.

‘Evil Genius’ Departs, Washington More Dangerous