Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Vanishing Courage of Mike Gallagher

Wisconsin congressman took a stand against Republican lies and then turned chicken.

By - May 11th, 2021 04:22 pm
Mike Gallagher. Photo is in the Public Domain.

Mike Gallagher. Photo is in the Public Domain.

There was an Errol Flynn-like swashbuckler feel to Republican congressman Mike Gallagher’s description of his actions during the January 6 Capitol riot. The former Marine officer, who completed two tours of duty in Iraq, recalled that as the rioters busted into the Capitol building and began calling for Vice President Mike Pence to be hung, he grabbed his ceremonial Marine sword. “I took my sword from its display case on the wall of my congressional office, it seemed like the most practical weapon with which I could defend myself.”

Gallagher and his staff “covered up my nameplate marking our office door, took down the Wisconsin flag in order to use its pole as another weapon, and barricaded the doors with desks. We left a window open as a decoy,” the congressman recalls. 

Gallagher was the only member of Wisconsin’s Republican delegation who did not support the effort to overturn the legal election of Democrat Joe Biden. “I had not slept much at all in the days leading up to Jan. 6,” he recalled in an Op Ed he wrote. “I knew many people, including close friends and family, were angry at me. I had opposed the efforts to object to swing state electors on Jan. 6 not only on Constitutional grounds, but also as a practical matter. The objectors were giving millions of people false hope that somehow Congress or Vice President Mike Pence could change the outcome of the election. This was, of course, a lie.”

Gallagher condemned the Capitol riot, saying “This is insane, I have not seen anything like this since I deployed to Iraq in 2007 and 2008.” And he blamed President Donald Trump for the problem, saying “The president needs to call it off…. It’s over. The election’s over, and the objectors need to stop meddling with the primal forces of our democracy here.”

Gallagher had always fashioned himself as less ideological than many Republicans. The most recent ranking by the all-important American Conservative Union Foundation found Gallagher agreed with their position on the issues 64% of the time, compared to 81% for Bryan Steil, 85% for Glenn Grothman and 90% for F. James Sensenbrenner, the longtime dean of Wisconsin’s congressional delegation, who was replaced this year by arch-conservative Scott Fitzgerald.

Yes, Gallagher stood out as the state’s only GOP profile in courage. Until he didn’t. 

He fell on his sword just a week later, joining every other member of the state’s Republican congressional delegation to vote against the second impeachment of Trump. His speech was a head-spinning feat of contradictory rhetoric that both condemned and mollified Trump. “First, let’s be candid,” Gallagher declared. “President Donald Trump bears responsibility for the tragic events of Jan. 6. He lied to his supporters, insisted that his ‘sacred landslide’ election was stolen, and suggested that Vice President Mike Pence should or even could reverse the outcome. He then dithered for hours as the vice president, the Congress and its employees were in mortal danger, castigating Pence as a coward.”

And yet this riot that left people in mortal danger did not justify an impeachment. Nay, “a swift and strong censure from Congress is the most prudent path forward,” Gallagher declared, while condemning “House Democrats” “who refused our good-faith offer of censure.” Perhaps they thought Gallagher really meant his words assailing Trump. 

By then, just one week after the riot, it was clear that the Republican establishment was afraid to cross Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had made a pilgrimage to Mar-a-Logo to bow down to Trump. 

And Wisconsin was clearly still on the Trump bandwagon. Of 100 state legislators nationally who wrote Vice-President Pence asking they he refuse to certify Biden’s election 15 of them were from Wisconsin. Wisconsin also had two Congressmen, Tom Tiffany and Fitzgerald, who voted to challenge the election results, even after the Trump mob broke into the Capitol.

There was speculation among Wisconsin Republicans that Gallagher might face a primary opponent. Meanwhile, a trial balloon by Reince Priebus, that he was considering running for governor seemed to fall flat, because the state’s Republican faithful felt Priebus, who served faithfully as Trump’s chef of staff before he was rudely dumped, was insufficiently loyal to the president. 

And so Gallagher has made sure to get back on the Republican crazy train, joining the state’s entire congressional delegation in voting against stripping Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of her committee assignments, even after she threatened violence against other House members. Gallagher is also expected to vote for the removal of Rep. Liz Cheney as the House Republican Conference Chair, the number three House leader, for her sin of continuing to blame Trump for the Capitol Riot — something Gallagher and McCarthy both did. Until they didn’t. 

In saner times, Gallagher would be a rock star and obvious spokesperson for his party, both in Wisconsin and nationally. Young, good looking, articulate and highly educated, with two masters degrees and a PhD from top universities, the military veteran checks all the boxes. He also has a wife, Anne Horak Gallagher, who has performed in about three dozen stage productions, many on Broadway, and in movies and TV shows. They make a kind of golden couple who would be great advertising for the GOP. 

But not for today’s version of the party. McCarthy’s most recent move was to hire a new political director, Brian Jack, who previously served as Trump’s political director. This is a man who helped plan the January 6 riot that helped put the lives of House and Senate members in danger. And now he is overseeing McCarthy’s political strategy. 

All of which leaves Gallagher still vaguely suspect for his sin of once criticizing Trump. Which means he dare not vote against the removal of Cheney. 

As CNN columnist Chris Cillizza has written, the fall of Cheney offers a clear warning to every Republican politician: “The message? This is Trump’s party and anyone — ANYONE — who doesn’t get in line behind him at all times no matter what will be severely punished.”

More about the 2020 General Election

Read more about 2020 General Election here

More about the Chaos at the Capitol

Read more about Chaos at the Capitol here

2 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Vanishing Courage of Mike Gallagher”

  1. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    This tool will say anything if it helps his personal fortunes. Now he’s dropping Q-Anon conspiracies about COVID after portraying himself as “sensible” for the previous 4 years.

    I’d guess Gallagher has gotten the word that RoJo isn’t going to run in 2022, and he thinks the best way to win a statewide GOP primary is to say and do stupid stuff, which shows how stupid he thinks those voters are.

    There is not a core belief in this guy beyond getting power and serving his paymasters. Just say No, folks.

  2. Mingus says:

    I think Gallagher is getting ready to run for Rojo’s Senate seat and decided to drink the Trump Kool Aide compromising all of his values and ethical positions. As Bruce Murphy pointed out, he has the profile and credentials to become a prominent member of the Republican Party and is now just another one of Trump’s lemmings. Reid Ribble, who held this seat before Gallagher, is part of a group of Republicans looking at starting another political party because of Trump.l

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