It took four days and 15 votes, as well as a near-altercation, but Kevin McCarthy did it: He got elected Speaker of the House. His reward? He had to sit behind Joe Biden, a president deeply unpopular amongst the GOP, during his second State of the Unio. He had a tough job to do: He had to never, ever, ever applaud or smile or make any facial expressions whatsoever when Biden touted the many good things that have happened in America under his watch. And so he spent 80 minutes looking like a miserable robot.
Kevin McCarthy truly looks like the most miserable person alive, like this is the first moment he’s had to contemplate all the bits of his soul he sold off to become Speaker and it’s not sitting well pic.twitter.com/sMvQ9vSu3w
— James Slattery (@jcslattery) February 8, 2023
It began upbeat. Biden and McCarthy, who have had meetings about the debt ceiling that McCarthy has said have gone well, shared a clearly jovial rapport after Biden congratulated him on the new gig. “I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you,” Biden cracked. McCarthy laughed.
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Biden begins SOTU with a gracious congratulations for Kevin McCarthy. He jokes that, “I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you.” pic.twitter.com/TFatI2F2xW
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 8, 2023
But as soon as Biden moved onto things like low unemployment, McCarthy knew he had to shut down and hold as blank an expression as possible, lest some Fox News dork wanted to make a molehill out of him applauding, lets’s say, affordable insulin.
In fact, there were a lot of times when McCarthy didn’t applaud objectively good things.
Kevin McCarthy can’t clap for “our democracy remains unbroken?”
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— Tim Miller (@Timodc) February 8, 2023
The fact that McCarthy didn’t stand when President Biden announced 12 million new jobs and lauded the survival of Democracy is all you need to know about today’s Republican Party.
— Rob Reiner (@robreiner) February 8, 2023
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Rather than pay sole attention to Biden’s speech, people started scanning McCarthy’s face, to see if they could scan moments when he was wondering when he should applaud and how much that would enrage his easy-enraged base.
you can see McCarthy,
line by line, weighing the risk of applauding
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) February 8, 2023
McCarthy’s resting misery face reminded a lot of people of a recent awards show look.
There were other jokes.
Biden: We must give hate and violence no safe harbor.
McCarthy: [face morphs into a harbor]
— Elie Mystal (@ElieNYC) February 8, 2023
For the record, he did appear to shush the many GOP hecklers (possibly Marjorie Taylor Greene that time) during one of her many, many outbursts that evening.
In short, McCarthy spent the entire 80 minutes of Biden’s speech looking like he was zoning out, doing absolutely nothing while on live television, beamed to millions of TVs across the nation. And yet he somehow found time to tweet.
One hour into this speech, and President Biden hasn’t mentioned China or our border once. But he’s proposed raising taxes three times.
Tells you where his priorities lie.
— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) February 8, 2023
“One hour into this speech, and President Biden hasn’t mentioned China or our border once,” he “wrote.” Of course, it was his social media team, who were tweeting out his thoughts while he was literally doing nothing, in front of the entire country. Did they think GOP voters wouldn’t notice?
Is anybody else wondering how @SpeakerMcCarthy is tweeting while watching the SOTU LIVE clearly NOT using his phone 🤣
— CaptAmerica17 (@capt_america17) February 8, 2023
What’s more, they tweeted it just as Biden had talked about the border.
This tweet sent by your aides went live a few minutes AFTER Biden talked about the importance of securing the border
— Marcus Baram (@mbaram) February 8, 2023
Did McCarthy even listen to Biden’s speech? Maybe he can catch up on it later, after he finds out that one of his new minions appeared to get into it with a GOP senator.