First John Boehner shocked his colleagues by announcing his retirement from the Speakership of the U.S. House of Representatives, effective at the end of October. After much head scratching the remaining Republican leadership decided to select majority leader Kevin McCarthy of California to replace Boehner. McCarthy has a slim resume for such an important post, but he is an amiable fellow. But when he was interviewed by various reporters a serious disability became apparent. McCarthy can't speak the English language correctly. And a speaker should be able to, well, speak. But for every other sentence he utters in public a malapropism, or worse a neologism not to be found in any dictionary, is contained therein.

In general we tend to sympathize with those who stutter or have other speech defects. The motion picture "The King's Speech" describes such a situation. But unfortunately for McCarthy, the post of Speaker of the House of Representatives is not hereditary. So when the Republican Caucus assembled on Oct. 8 to select their candidate for the Speakership, McCarthy, the expected front runner had wisely withdrawn. They selected no one on Oct. 8.


Another rumor concerning McCarthy has arisen. It is alleged that he had a affair with a congresswoman and that the surfacing of this allegation might have influenced his withdrawal. In today's tawdry world one is guilty until proven otherwise. Unless and until there is evidence produced, I prefer to believe that this rumor was just a nasty political smear job.

There are a couple of reasonable candidates available. The improbably named Daniel Webster of Florida is available, and is conservative enough to pass muster with the far right faction of the Caucus. He has no trouble speaking.

Indeed during his time in the Florida Legislature (1980-2008), Webster served as the Speaker of the Florida House and Majority Leader in the Florida Senate. But Webster has been elected from a district that was the product of a gerrymandered electoral map. A court suit and a subsequent rearrangement of the map may well leave him in a majority Democratic District. So what happens if and probably when he fails to be reelected to the House of Representatives in 2016? Some have stated that the law does not require that the Speaker be a member of the body but that would be an awkward situation at best.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah has declared his candidacy and has no apparent fatal flaws but as of this writing hasn't garnered much support either. Recent Republican luck being what it is he may find a way to shoot himself in the foot.

By the time you read this the whole situation may have shifted. But the history of the current Congress rivals in ineffectiveness the one Harry Truman successfully ran against in 1948. Memorably he campaigned against the 80th "do-nothing" Congress.

More recently retired Democratic Congressman Barney Frank mentioned the novel "The Gang Who Couldn't Shoot Straight" and called this Republican-led Congress as it fumbles over the Speakership: "The gang who couldn't shoot each other straight."

Some in the press have floated this unlikely scenario: If the Republicans don't settle on a candidate by the end of the month, then in the real election, the one currently scheduled for Oct. 28, the House Democrats might throw their weight behind a more moderate and therefore less popular Republican. With just a few Republican votes to go with the Democratic bloc we could have a successful fusion candidate for speaker. That combination is how Speaker Boehner managed to get a temporary spending bill through recently.

Warm up the TV and lay in a supply of snacks. Thus far this whole debacle has been and probably will continue to be a comedy of errors.

John Culleton writes from Eldersburg. His column appears every second Tuesday. Email him at