Rising star Mike Gallagher’s retirement from Congress shows the dysfunction in both parties

POLITICS: Rising star Mike Gallagher’s retirement from Congress shows the dysfunction in both parties

Only the good leave Congress young — and who can blame them?

Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.), the talented, sober chairman of the Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party, is leaving the legislative branch at the ripe old age of 39.

As that committee’s first chairman, Gallagher has done vital work to educate the public about the CCP’s sinister aims and lay the groundwork for thwarting them.

Even as most of his colleagues are distracted by domestic pseudo-events and sniping, Gallagher’s committee has remained laser-focused on this pressing threat to American security. 

Amidst the chaotic, combative hearings that dominate the news cycle, those Gallagher has presided over have stood out for their bipartisan cooperation and intellectual depth.

“Defending America from Chinese Communist Party aggression should not be a partisan thing,” insisted Gallagher in 2022 while previewing his chairmanship.

But after just over a year of leading the committee he helped establish, Gallagher is walking away.

“Trust me, Congress is no place to grow old,” he wrote in announcing his decision.

“I think that the institution is healthier when people serve for a period of time and then go home,” he added to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This could be true if you assume incoming members are as independent, knowledgeable and public-minded as those on their way out the door.

You know what they say about assumptions, though.

The sad truth is the bulk of Congress is not there to move the ball forward on important issues or advocate a broader, coherent worldview.

Perhaps many members initially run for and take office with lofty aspirations of serving their country and exercising their best judgment in the halls of power.

Yet most succumb to the temptation of sacrificing effectiveness within those halls to keep their spot there or position themselves for something even more alluring.

For their part, Republicans refuse to reward those in their party who go about the hard business of legislating.

To the contrary, they punish them. Just look at the way they treated Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) after he negotiated with Democrats on a bipartisan border bill.

Instead of acknowledging compromise is necessary and imperfection inevitable, Lankford’s colleagues have thrown him under the bus and then, as he put it, backed it up over him again.

There are good-faith arguments both for and against the deal Lankford brokered, but the immediacy and prejudice with which it was dismissed by so many in the GOP conference showed it was self-serving, not principled, objection.

Donald Trump, fearing its passage might hurt his chances of prevailing in November, declared that “only a fool, or a Radical Left Democrat would vote for it.”

Republican lawmakers, fearing for their own political futures lest they dissent from Trump, aped his language and rejected the bill in the harshest possible terms, leaving Lankford to twist in the wind as a falsely accused traitor.

Gallagher, one of only a few unbeholden free thinkers left in Congress, received similar pushback last week for opposing Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ impeachment.

While Gallagher strongly disapproves of Mayorkas’ job performance, he argued “creating a new, lower standard for impeachment, one without any clear limiting principle, wouldn’t secure the border” but “pry open the Pandora’s box of perpetual impeachment.”

Agree or disagree, the right-wing ecosphere’s anger at him was disproportionate. 

One Trump World grifter even suggested he might primary the congressman, whom he baselessly smeared as a RINO.

And while Republicans honor their showhorses — consider Sen. J.D. Vance’s and Rep. Elise Stefanik’s pole positioning in Trump’s veepstakes — only to upbraid their workhorses, Democrats remain utterly unserious about addressing the national-security issues Gallagher is most passionate about.

Although President Biden insisted during his 2020 campaign he would stand up to China, he’s adopted a submissive tack since moving into the Oval Office.

Instead of prioritizing deterrence, the Biden administration has sought a rapprochement with an adversary that will use the time American naïveté buys it to better position itself to secure the influence and even territory it desires.

If you want to understand the foolish disinterest pervading Democrats’ foreign-policy approach, note the Biden campaign has joined TikTok (Gallagher calls it “digital fentanyl”) despite the administration’s past consideration of an outright ban of it.

Mike Gallagher is a clear-eyed patriot whose first interest is protecting the United States and preserving its role as the preeminent global power.

He’s also a young, well-spoken combat veteran with impeccable conservative credentials and what should be a limitless ceiling in politics.

Still, his conclusion the best place to accomplish what he wants to isn’t Washington, DC, is almost certainly correct.

How’s that for a terrifying prospect?

Isaac Schorr is a staff writer at Mediaite.

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