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Opinion | The Humbling of Marjorie Taylor Greene

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In our Trump-era politics, there’s always the question of how crazy is too crazy — how disruptive and extreme an elected official can get before becoming so embarrassing that members of her own team feel compelled to abandon her?

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene seems to have reached that outer limit. Again.

It’s not simply that Ms. Greene has taken such a Putin-pleasing approach to Russia’s war in Ukraine (Ukrainian Nazis? Really?) that the term “useful idiot” feels unavoidable. She has, in very little time, undermined the influence of her party’s entire right flank, driving less unhinged Republicans — most notably the House speaker, Mike Johnson — to brush back her and her ilk like the poo-flinging chaos monkeys they are.

Just look at what has come to pass in the House in the past several days: Mr. Johnson, a proud ultraconservative, pushed through a $95 billion foreign aid package, including $60 billion for Ukraine, with more Democratic votes than Republican ones. He is now counting on Democrats to save him from the Greene-led extremists’ plan to defenestrate him and install yet another Republican as speaker. There is much buzz about the emergence of a bipartisan governing coalition in the House, albeit one born of desperation. Squint hard, and Congress almost looks to be functioning as intended, with a majority of members coming together to advance vital legislation. With her special brand of MAGA extremism, Ms. Greene has shifted the House in a bipartisan direction (at least for now) in exactly the way her base loathes.

Can I get two cheers for the art of the possible?!

On a less high-minded note, how delicious was it to see Ms. Greene on the steps of the Capitol on Saturday, raving about Mr. Johnson’s various “betrayals” and proclaiming him “a lame duck,” even as she hemmed and hawed about when she would move to oust him? All in good time, she said, insisting she felt moved to let her colleagues first “go home and hear from their constituents” over this week’s House recess. “I said from the beginning I’m going to be responsible with this,” she said, in what may be her most laughable line in weeks — a high bar for the House member known for her keen insights on Jewish space lasers.

Seriously, how responsible did Ms. Greene look Sunday on Fox News, as she ducked Maria Bartiromo’s questions about her plans for ousting Mr. Johnson? (Short answer: She has no plan.) Ms. Bartiromo noted that Ms. Greene was drawing widespread criticism for “creating drama” and that there was concern she was making Republicans look like a bunch of squabbling incompetents unfit to run a neighborhood book club. (Those may not have been the host’s exact words.) Ms. Greene’s crackerjack defense was to insist, “The people criticizing me are not the American people.” The American people “are outraged, and what they’re saying is they don’t want to vote for Republicans anymore,” she asserted, adding that “the Republican Party in charge right now, it’s no different than the Democrat Party.”

I may be off base here, Marjo, but trashing your colleagues as no better than the other side in a high-stakes election year is not the best way to win them over to your kamikaze mission.

Because here’s the thing: Republicans already subjected themselves to painful mockery last fall by letting their right-wingers take down Speaker Kevin McCarthy without a succession plan in mind. It took them three failed candidates and three inglorious weeks to finally install Mr. Johnson. Precious few members are likely up for a second helping of humiliation this much closer to Election Day.

I mean, not even Donald Trump is throwing in with “Moscow Marjorie,” as she has been dubbed in some cheekier conservative corners. After an invigorating Monday spent in court, the former president reiterated his support and sympathy for Mr. Johnson in a chat with the conservative radio host John Fredericks. “Well, look, we have a majority of one, OK?” Mr. Trump noted. “It’s not like he can go and do whatever he wants to do.”

At this point, the most enthusiastic base of support for Ms. Greene’s shenanigans may be the Kremlin. More food for thought, congresswoman: When Russian propagandists start praising your politics and beauty, it’s time to rethink your life choices.

Could this show of spine by non-winger Republicans last more than a hot second? Maybe Mr. Johnson is recognizing that his responsibilities as the head of the people’s house go beyond serving his trolliest, most obstructionist members. And maybe, unlike Mr. McCarthy, who never exhibited signs of possessing a moral core, Mr. Johnson is serious about trying to do “the right thing” — by which he does not simply mean whatever Mr. Trump tells him to do.

Of course, if we really want to talk fantasy scenarios, I’d be thrilled if this speaker, having stiff-armed his wingers multiple times and lived to tell about it, feels liberated to keep nudging the House toward greater functionality. I mean, the guy has already blown his shot at being the ultimate MAGA speaker. Why not give being a genuine statesman a chance and do a deal on border security or the cost of prescription drugs?

Not that I’m holding my breath. In these MAGAtastic times, the humbled Ms. Greene could rebound faster than you can say “total presidential immunity.” But for now, her flapping and flailing are satisfying to behold.


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